Dec 132010
 
Free Agent ace Cliff Lee

Could the Phillies really re-sign Cliff Lee?

By Justin Adkins:

Today, Twitter was buzzing with rumors that a “mystery” team was pursuing free agent ace Cliff Lee.  It was then reported that this so-called team was offering less years, but it was a place that Lee “loved”.

It wasn’t a stretch to speculate that this meant the team going after Lee was the Phillies.

Now, foxsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal is confirming that the Phillies are  in pursuit of their former left handed star.  Rosenthal cites a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations that the Phillies are indeed in the bidding for Lee.

For his part, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. wouldn’t even discuss it.  “If I were in or out, I wouldn’t be commenting at all, on or off the record,” Amaro said.

The Phillies have already committed more than $146 million to 2011’s payroll, so at face value it seems the idea of signing Lee would be a massive stretch.  But if the Phillies can find a taker for Joe Blanton’s $8.5 million per year salary over the next two years, valuable space would be opened in a budget currently operating with very little flexibility.

And the idea of adding yet another ace to an already ridiculously good starting rotation may allow the Phillies front office to loosen the notoriously tight purse strings for this type of rare opportunity.

And moving forward after this year, the Phillies will gain some much needed budgetary wiggle room due to the expiring contracts of left fielder Raul Ibanez, closer Brad Lidge, and shortstop Jimmy Rollins.  Ibanez is as close to a 100% lock to be gone as you can get, and Brad Lidge’s inconsistency puts him closer to unlikely than likely to be brought back.  That said, it would be a huge shock if Rollins doesn’t work out an extension before the season ends, maybe even before it begins.

And then there’s Roy Oswalt, who could walk after this season if he declines his end of a player/club option in his contract.  But that option also means the Phillies could choose to walk away instead of paying Oswalt the $16 million salary he’d be owed in 2012. 

For 2011, a starting rotation of Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels is pretty much inconceivable in its level of sheer dominance.

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