Assorted Thoughts On Cliff Lee Joining The Phillies

It's perfect, really. It's the perfect twist ending. It's the twist ending no one ever expected, and it's the twist ending that upsets both fans of a direct rival and fans of a less direct rival that most people hate way more. The only thing I thought wasn't perfect was the timing, as I was bothered that the Cliff Lee news broke right as I sat down to dinner, but then, I sat down to dinner around 9pm in Oregon, which meant it was 11pm in Dallas and midnight in New York. How many Rangers fans didn't know? How many Yankees fans didn't know? How many Yankees fans are going to wake up in the morning and spit out their breakfast?

At first, I was aggravated by the timing. But then I thought about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I concluded the timing, like everything else, was perfect. I feel bad lumping Rangers fans in with Yankees fans because the former aren't at all like the latter in terms of their collective sense of entitlement, but rivals are rivals, and if there's no news to make fans of the team you like happy, then you can always fall back on news that makes fans of teams you don't like sad. Them bitches are going to wake up and have their whole Tuesdays ruined, if they haven't been ruined already.

Nothing about this isn't delightful.

  • I don't even hate the Yankees in the way that baseball fans are supposed to hate the Yankees. I used to, but then I got bored of it, because it wasn't interesting, and besides, greater enemies had emerged. But at the same time, I've never liked the Yankees, and it brings me great joy that now they'll have to scramble for a fallback plan. Zack Greinke and his anxiety problems aren't a fit. The Rays won't trade Matt Garza within the division. The Yankees won't want Carl Pavano back. Carl Crawford's already gone. Jayson Werth's already gone. Adrian Beltre's blocked. And so on, and so forth.

    You know what the Yankees have done this offseason? They've re-signed 77 combined years of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. They lost Javier Vazquez, which might be a plus, but they also might've lost Andy Pettitte. And the one guy they had their hearts set on - the one guy who was born to be a Yankee, the one guy with proven playoff experience, the one guy who'd never wilt under the bright lights of the big city - got away. He got away to go re-join the team the Yankees beat in the Series two years ago.

    In most everyone's mind, Cliff Lee has been destined to be a Yankee for the past 12 months, and I have to imagine the Yankees felt the same way, just as the Angels did about Crawford. And the way it's always been written is that, when the Yankees want a guy, they get him. So this is an unfamiliar circumstance. Brian Cashman will, of course, say all the right things, and they're still going to return a team that was very very good in 2010, but there has to be some panic. The consolation after the Yankees lost to the Rangers was that at least they'd sign the guy who beat them.

    They didn't.

    I don't think the Yankees are lost. I do think the Yankees are somewhere they didn't think they'd be. It's cold out, and we don't have a fireplace in our apartment, but tonight I don't need one.

  • It's only been a few hours since the news broke, but a popular storyline so far has been that Lee left a lot of money on the table to sign with a team for which he badly wanted to play. And that sounded great until the figures came out. Here are the details of the best contracts offered:

    Phillies: Five years for $107.5m, with a $12.5m sixth-year buyout and a $27.5m sixth-year vesting option

    Rangers: Six years for $138m, with a $23m seventh-year vesting option

    Yankees: Six years for $132m, with a $16m seventh-year vesting option

    All of those contracts promised Lee between $22-24m over the next several years, with vesting options at the end. Lee wound up taking the shortest, sacrificing one season, but in terms of average annual value lost, he didn't lose much. Assuming all options vest, he'll make a bit less than he would've with Texas, but well more than he would've with New York.

    It's fine to say that Lee made a sacrifice by choosing Philadelphia, because that one season isn't negligible. But let's not make him out to be some kind of saint, and let's not make him out to be a guy who isn't interested in the money. He's going to make at least one hundred and twenty million dollars over the next five years. Lee's getting his money. It's been said that Lee followed his heart, but following one's heart is only an achievement when one's head raises an objection, and Philadelphia offered the best blend of money and odds of winning.

    I know that Lee has openly discussed how much he enjoyed his three months in Philadelphia. I know there are reports out there that he's the one who initiated the talks that led to this agreement. I do not think an agreement would have been reached if the Phillies didn't offer what they did, and if they weren't as good as they are.

  • I don't know if the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies will feature the best starting rotation of all time, but I do know that the Nationals are going to contact Carl Pavano's agent to tell him "forget it".

  • I also know that the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies are in line to be the overwhelming favorite to represent the National League in the World Series. With that in mind, I will be the hundredth person to point out the following two things:

    -the Phillies have gained Lee but lost Jayson Werth and, presumably, Joe Blanton
    -the Giants went 5-2 against Lee, Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt in the playoffs last year

    The Phillies will deserve to be favorites, because they have put together an unbelievable rotation that forms much of the core of a really good team, but as we repeat every October, amazing shit can happen in a short series, and nothing is guaranteed. The Giants still have those same four arms.

  • In Spring Training, Charlie Manuel's going to talk about the importance of the competition for the last spot in the bullpen, and everyone's going to laugh.

  • After going over their schedule - if the Phillies wanted to, and if they skipped their fifth starter whenever an offday allowed, they could give 135 starts to their top four starters.

  • There is, of course, a very strong argument to be made that the Rangers lucked out here. Lee is, after all, a 32 year old who depends on pinpoint command and whose game has little margin of error. Giving that guy six or seven years could end in disappointment for all parties involved, much like a night with your mother, and now the Rangers don't have to take such a risk.

    On the other hand, the Rangers also don't have Cliff Lee. They probably won't have Adrian Beltre, either, unless they find someone dumb enough to take Michael Young, and while they're players for Greinke or Garza, those guys will take quality prospects to fetch.

    It's always hard to properly weight the short-term and the long-term consequences of a big contract simultaneously. The risk inherent in the last few years of a long deal tends to be downplayed, as so much of the future is unpredictable. So we tend to focus on what's nearer, and the impression we're all left with today is that, hey, the Rangers don't have Cliff Lee anymore, all right. And that is good news for us. Just bear in mind that it could end up being good news for them, too.

  • Assistant: Hey Ruben, so I've been crunching the numbers, and I think I have a few ideas.
    Amaro: Mm hmm?
    Assistant: Obviously, given the payroll situation, there's only limited flexibility, but there are a few avenues. The bench, for example, could stand to be upgraded, and there are guys out there like Jorge Cantu and Jerry Hairston Jr. and Bill Hall - guys who could play a lot of parts.
    Assistant: Additionally some payroll space could be cleared, and while I know there's been trouble finding a taker for Joe Blanton, you have to figure that Ryan Madson would get some bites, and he's due four and a half million before he goes to the market.
    Assistant: Deal Madson and you get a little more wiggle room. A little more space, either to go second-tier or spread around. Plus you also get what Madson brings back, which would probably be of value given his terrific numbers. Maybe that money can be held into the year for a midseason upgrade, since you never know when you'll have to find a spare part.
    Amaro: I think I'm going to sign Cliff Lee.
    Assistant: That doesn't really - no, no, that can't be done.
    Amaro: Yeah, but I think I want to, so I'm gonna.

  • The only thing that could make this deal more awesome is if the Rangers or Yankees trade for Joe Blanton and help the Phillies clear space.
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