Cliff Lee stunned the baseball world this evening by signing a five year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. The deal is worth approximately $100 million and comes in $50 million and two years below the deal offered by the New York Yankees. Although it's still a ton of money, this definitely goes to show that it wasn't all about the benjamins. The Phillies reportedly came in late in the winter meetings and went on a crazy offensive over the weekend. Next thing we all know, they've signed Cliff Lee and now boast a pitching rotation of Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
Although there will be numerous other deals made in the coming days, weeks, and months, Cliff Lee was the last major piece of the puzzle. Adrian Beltre and Vladimir Guerrero are still out there, but they do not reach the level of ink that Cliff has had. The repercussions of the Cliff Lee-Phillies deal will be felt across the league and our two Bay Area baseball teams are two such teams. The Oakland Athletics will benefit greatly in the AL West, while the San Francisco Giants road to a repeat just got a little tougher.
San Francisco Giants
As the Giants are the current defending World Series champions (continue enjoying that one Giants fans!), we'll start with the impact on them. This somewhat unexpected decision just made the National League playoff chase a lot more difficult for everybody outside of Philadelphia. One could argue that the Phillies have decided to take a further page out of the Giants playbook and beef up their pitching even further. It's not quite the value the Giants have (outside of Zito), but it's a lights out 1-4 that could arguably be considered one of the best foursomes of all time.
Greatest of all time gets thrown around a lot, but the Phillies rotation is filthy no matter who they go with at the fifth spot. It sounds like they might move Joe Blanton for salary purposes (how in the heck are they adding this kind of salary to their budget?!) but as with the Miami Heat upon adding LeBron and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade, they'll worry about filling in the hole later.
But as for the Giants, they handled their business with the Phillies in solid fashion. They defeated Philly in six games with three of the games decided by one run. Of course, adding Cliff Lee would not have guaranteed greater success in the 2010 NLCS. After all, the Giants owned Cliff Lee in the World Series for the most part. It might have just been a blip on the radar for him, but the Giants could have a slight mental edge when they face Lee in 2011.
I suppose the Giants aren't all that concerned at this point. They've brought back most of their World Series championship roster and only have to face Lee a limited number of times. The Giants showed that anything can happen in a five or seven game series. A rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner has shown it can hang with the best in the league. I do have to say that I'd love to see another NLCS showdown between the Giants and Phillies. While the Phillies improved their rotation with a big signing, the Giants can expect improvement from a full year of Madison Bumgarner and further development of Jonathan Sanchez.
Aside from the Phillies, the real winners in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes result would have to include the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (such a ridiculous name) and to a lesser extent the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners are rebuilding so we'll ignore them. We hate the Angels and their benefit is similar to the A's so we'll ignore them as well.
Which leaves us with the Oakland A's (Editor's Note: They're my favorite baseball team so take my comments with a minor grain of salt). With the A's scheduled to announce the signing of DH Hideki Matsui, they have had a solid offseason that saw them improve their offense and create some competition for their fifth pitching spot. The team acquired David DeJesus in a trade and now are likely adding Matsui to the lineup. They announced the signing of Brandon McCarthy to compete for the fifth spot in what was a very solid rotation in 2010.
While the A's remain somewhere in the Adrian Beltre sweepstakes, they've potentially made enough roster moves to improve on last year's 81-81 record. The departure of Lee leaves a hole in the Rangers rotation. Lee wasn't spectacular with the Rangers, but a full season with Texas would likely have led to some good things for them. They received impressive 2010 seasons from C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter, but it remains to be seen if they can do that on a consistent level.
The Rangers loss is the A's gain. It won't guarantee them a single thing if they don't execute in 2011, but it certainly can't be a negative to get Cliff Lee out of the AL West and the American League as a whole. I'd imagine A's, Angels and Mariners fans are all just a little bit happier tonight.