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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cliff Lee: He's baaaaack

I've refrained from adding any commentary relating to free agent signings thus far but "The Decision 2010"--wait, someone already used that? Fine. But Cliff Lee choosing Philadelphia's offer over the Yankees offer, which would have made him ridiculously filthy rich, was a bit surprising.

First, the contract details. Cliff Lee will earn $120 million in guaranteed money through 2015. He receives a partial no-trade clause as well as a $27.5 million vesting option for 2017 if he hits certain benchmarks along the way (no truth to the rumor of him earning an additional $500,000 if he can grow a better mustache than Carl Pavano).  Lee said he chose to return to Philadelphia because he and his wife loved the city and and because of the clubhouse atmosphere. Good for him.  It's refreshing to see a player choose to go somewhere he feels more comfortable instead of going to the highest bidder.  I think it's also safe to say Lee felt OK being just filthy rich or ridiculously rich (new poll!).

So, what does this all mean? First it means the Phillies' rotation is really, really good.  Combine that with good team defense and what will likely be a very good offense and you're looking at a team that will probably win 100 games next year.  Needless to say they're going to be the favorites to win the National League.  So for the short term things are looking sunny in Philadelphia.

In the long term though, there are reasons to be concerned.  The Phillies have several large contracts tied up into players over the age of 30 (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and again RYAN HOWARD).  When those players begin to decline and their salaries escalate, the team may very well divebomb essentially becoming the New York Mets.  All of that could be avoided if the minor league system spits out a few more gems like the aforementioned players but there do not appear to be any on the horizon now that Dominic Brown is ready.

Lee the pitcher doesn't come without a couple of red flags either. He has a history of back issues as recently as last season.  He's 32 years old so it's unlikely neither his performance nor the back problems will improve.  Also, just three seasons ago he finished the season with a 6.29 ERA and had to make 10 starts in the minors because he was so bad. Although I think that red flag is in the past, it's something that cannot be totally dismissed.

So, now that the dust has settled, the only question that I have for GM Ruben Amaro is, "Why did you trade him in the first place?!"
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