By Barry Jeffrey Jr.:
Five days after the World Series is over, the feeding frenzy known as Free Agency begins. Phillie Jayson Werth, Tampa’s Carl Crawford, and former Phillie and current Ranger Cliff Lee will be the surf and turf at the buffet this off season. Ted Lilly was to be another big name starter but he looks to be on the way to resigning with the Dodgers for the next 3 years.
Most people expect Lee to immediately sign with the Yankees. To many it is a forgone conclusion since the Yankees always have tremendous amounts of cash to blow. The Yankees also do not worry about offering years over the norm to top flight free agents. They also have Cliff Lee’s close friend CC Sabathia pitching in their rotation. Yes the Yankees do look to be in great position to land the best pitcher on the market.
However, another team will be contacting Cliff Lee’s agent as well. The Philadelphia Phillies. What do the Phillies have to offer? Well, before he was dumped on the Mariners, Lee enjoyed his time in Philly. He enjoyed the fans and their support. He also said he enjoyed the clubhouse more than any other place he has played. Yes, the Phillies sent him out of town after acquiring Roy Halladay, a move Ruben Amaro has all but admitted was a mistake. Yes, the Phillies have both Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in their rotation and pitching of the starting variety seems to be a place where they have no need to upgrade at all. Of course yes, Lee seems to be all but Yankee bound.
This is not a Lee will definitely be signing with the Phillies article however. What this is, is a Phillies will be contacting Lee and feeling him out to see what his agent and he will be asking for. It is also what might happen IF, it the signing took place. I can all but guarantee the Phillies will be doing their due diligence on just how much Lee loved Philly. Will they be able to match the Yankees dollars? No the Phillies can not. Nor can they match 7 years if the Yankees throw that many at the southpaw. However, the Phillies would be negligent if they did not make an effort at feeling out Lee. Especially with the offense losing a big part in Jayson Werth. When you lose a big piece (pardon me, Ryan Howard) to your offense and have no guaranteed way of replacing it (with all due respect to Dom Brown), improving your pitching may be a good idea.
If Lee was reacquired, it would demand some changes to the Phillies. Joe Blanton would almost assuredly be gone, as would any attempts to retain Jayson Werth, Jamie Moyer, or most of the soon to be free agent bullpen pitchers like Chad Durbin, J C Romero, and Jose Contreras. With the bullpen the Phillies already have been preparing to use more of the younger and cheaper pitchers in their system to fill in the holes. Players like Michael Schwimer, Michael Stutes, Yohan Flande, Vance Worley, and Scott Mathieson are all names that may be very much in the Phillies bullpen picture for 2011. The Phillies also think Antonio Bastardo is ready to step up and contribute as the main lefthander in bullpen. Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee were very impressed by Bastardo’s work since his recall from the Iron Pigs. David Herndon is another option even though the Phils feel the Rule 5 pick up would be better served with some time at AAA. Mike Zagurski and Sergio Escalona are more afterthoughts at this point and might not even be in the organization come next April. The Phils have said that they do want to resign Chad Durbin. His status along with the rest may be determined on just how much money they are asking. Danys Baez is still here, though most Phillie fans wish he were elsewhere.
What would the irony be if after signing Lee, the Phillies then dealt Blanton to the Yankees for their rotation. The Yankees would probably be one of the bigger suitors for Blanton, with Vasquez gone and Burnett, Pettite, and Hughes as question marks due to health, age, or possibly retiring. Blanton would not be a world stopper like Lee, but he would give the Yanks innings, stability, and he has postseason experience. He is also usually very reliable down the stretch. Another factor being, he would be cost effective as the Phillies would not be asking for blue chip prospects or name players for him. Detroit would be another team who might have some interest in Big Joe. Of course Seattle is ALWAYS a team linked to the hip with the Phillies via the trade wire. What would the Phillies get, salary relief, possibly a bullpen arm, but nothing much.
So while it is not probable that Lee will sign here, it is certainly going to be investigated. One thing is for sure, Cliff Lee sure generates a lot of table talk and will continue to do so until he signs in New York, unless of course he proves to everyone just how much he really did love Philly.
Barry Jeffrey Jr. writes “The Crow’s Nest” column for PSC.
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