Late Monday Night, Cliff Lee surprised many by not signing a contract with either the Texas Rangers, the team he was on that went to the 2010 World Series, nor the New York Yankees, the team many expected to land the free agent.
Instead, Cliff Lee is heading back to Philadelphia, signing a five year, $120 million contract with the Phillies. It’s a contract that was less, both in years and in money, than what both the Yankees and Rangers were offering. However, Lee, who was already familiar with the Phillies, decided to go join a pitching rotation that looks to be one of the strongest in baseball.
This signing will have a significant impact on both the rest of the offseason as well as the 2011 season. Quite a few teams are glad Cliff Lee is on the Phillies while others are not. Here are some winners and losers from this signing.
Winner – The Philadelphia Phillies
Obviously the Phillies are a winner as they were the ones to acquire Lee, and at a relative discount compared to what Lee could have gotten with either Texas or New York. Lee joins a rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Halladay is fresh off a 2010 season that included a perfect game, a postseason no hitter, and the NL Cy Young award. Oswalt found a groove with the Phillies after stagnating in Houston, and Cole Hamels revived his career in 2010 after a terrible 2009 campaign. These three alongside Lee could create one of the strongest rotations in recent memory, at least on paper.
Loser – The New York Yankees
It’s not often that the Yankees lose out on a free agency despite offering more money than the winning team, but that was the case here. With Boston getting stronger in a hurry, the Yankees need to do something to at least give a perception that they are keeping up. Losing out on Lee doesn’t mean the end for the Yankees’ offseason plans, but it surely has put a dent in them.
Winner – The Boston Red Sox and the rest of the AL East
Boston in particular must be ecstatic. They’ve just acquired Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego, one of baseball’s more underappreciated sluggers, and signed speedster Carl Crawford to a long term deal as well. Knowing that they do not have to face a pinstriped Lee multiple times a season must have sent sighs of relief all throughout Boston. The same is true for the other teams in the AL East, as Toronto and Baltimore are making strides toward improvement and Tampa Bay is still looking to compete despite losing Crawford among others.
Loser – The Texas Rangers
It did seem like in recent days that it was more and more likely Lee would sign with the Rangers instead of the Yankees. Their deal, which was for six years and $138 million, was very comparable to the Yankees. In addition, Lee was also familiar with the Rangers’ organization, having just helped pitch them to the World Series. As such, Lee leaving for the Phillies must sting the Rangers more than it does the Yankees. What’s more, now they’ll have to find an alternative on the market in an attempt to replace Lee and with the Yankees looking alongside them, things aren’t going to be easy for Texas.
Winner – The Kansas City Royals
It’s not very commonplace to see the Royals and “Winner” next to one another, but with Lee finally signed, the Royals can go ahead with their plans to shop their former Cy Young in Zack Greinke around. While its being reported that it’s not very likely either the Rangers or Yankees will get Greinke for various reasons, the Royals can use both teams’ supposed interest as a bargaining chip to get more from another potential suitor, such as the Nationals or Blue Jays who both have interest in Greinke.
Loser – the NL East
The other four teams of the NL East – the Braves, Marlins, Nationals and Mets – had it hard enough to overtake the Phillies for the division title. They couldn’t do it in 2008 when the Phillies had a top-notch Cole Hamels and a steady Jamie Moyer. They couldn’t do it in 2009 when the Phillies added Cliff Lee halfway through. They couldn’t do it in 2010 when the Phillies replaced Lee with Roy Halladay, got Roy Oswalt from Houston and Cole Hamels returned to form as well. Now they have to contend with Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels and Lee? All the other teams in this division are going to be going through transitional phases of some sort in 2011, it’s really difficult to see any of them beating out the Phillies for the division even though Philly’s offense did downgrade a bit.
Unmoved – The San Francisco Giants
Why should the Giants care about this? They already handled Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt in the 2010 NLCS and completely dominated Cliff Lee in the World Series. Their pitching rotation, led by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, was one of the best in the league last year and will still be a top tier rotation this upcoming season even with Lee going to Philadelphia. It is very possible that the Giants and Phillies could meet again in the postseason, and knowing what they were able to do to Philadelphia and Lee in 2010, there’s no reason for the Giants to break a sweat. Their pitchers are more than prepared to remind everyone which team really does have the best rotation in baseball.