And so the Cliff Lee saga is over and in a surprise ending, the Phillies offered him less time but landed the pitcher to add to their collection. Lee joins Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels as baseball's version of the Dream Team. Most are writing about how the Rangers and Yankees have lost out. Yankee writers are calling this the worst off season ever. That's not the opinion here. The Fan has said all along that whichever team signs Lee, they will live to regret it. The terms were simply too long and the money too high for a 32 year old pitcher who has too many down sides to consider for that length of time. Now the Yankees and Rangers can commit that money to younger players that can help thm in the short term and long term.
The Phillies are taking a gigantic gamble. Hamels is the only one of their fab four that is under 30. The rest are signed for a long time (well, not Oswalt) and the risk is what those pitchers will look like on the back end of these deals. Their big three were supposed to push them into the World Series last year and that didn't quite work out as anything can happen in a seven game series. The Giants went on to defeat the Phillies and win the World Series. The Phillies are already favorites in the NL East and Lee will no doubt help solidify their odds. Lee is certainly going to help them short term. It was always the long term consequences that bothered this observer.
The Rangers are just coming out of a bankruptcy sale with new owners and new optimism. They did not get a gigantic contribution from Lee down the stretch who was only a .500 pitcher for Texas. There is no reason the Rangers can't continue to build themselves as the new AL West power without Lee. And now they won't have the heavy burden of Lee's contract around their necks. Anyone who thought the A-Rod deal was a killer for Texas would have thought the same thing in spades in a few years with Lee. A team like the Rangers needs financial flexibility and now they will have it.
The Yankees are having trouble signing free agents all of the sudden. One has to wonder if their strategy is different now that George Steinbrenner isn't running the team. Perhaps his sons are not as gifted in the art of persuasion as the old man. Perhaps the Yankees have too many people making too many public statements. Whatever the case, this will make Brian Cashman look bad, but the reality is that he dodged a major bullet. Think Barry Zito and Kevin Brown. The Yankees' past is littered with the signing of old free agents to long term deals that didn't work out. That was what killed them in the early part of the 2000s. This writer likes the way they have been developing from below. That's the smartest way to go along with signing or trading for short term help and fixes. Besides, if the Yankees signed Lee, there would have been just one more backlash about how they can buy whatever they want and there would be more blogs out there about salary caps.
Lee is going to help the Phillies this year and next and perhaps into a third year just like he would have helped the Yankees and the Rangers. Now the Yankees should pursue another lefty like Buehrle or someone like that. The only thing that hurts about this deal is that an extra lefty in the rotation against the lefty-heavy Red Sox would have been great. But there are others out there if the Yankees are creative.
The Rangers will survive. They are on the right path and the Angels, Athletics and Mariners have not improved significantly enough to rival what the Rangers already have. The Rangers should still win the AL West and the Yankees are still a 90 to 95 win team. As for the Phillies? Perhaps now someone will point to them as the big, bad money team on the East Coast and point to them as the team that is trying to buy the pennant.