Cliff Lee to Phillies, Yankees Distraught


The off-season of the Boston Red Sox continues. First, the Sox bring in Adrian Gonzalez via a trade with the San Diego Padres to create a big splash and solidify their 2011 infield. Then, the Sox sign one of the best 5-tool players in baseball, Carl Crawford, to strength and fill-out the outfield. The final piece of the puzzle doesn’t even directly involve the Sox, but last night, Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Lee to the Phillies deal is significant in so many ways, including a direct shot at the New York Yankees, since he took over $20 million and 1 year less to take his services to the city of brotherly love and not the big apple. With Andy Pettite unsure if he will return, the Yankees rotation has an ace in C.C. Sabathia and then a mixed bag of middle-of-the-road guys to follow. What a great day to be a Red Sox fan.

In no way is the off-season over and there is still plenty of time for the Yankees to make a move, but all we heard since November was that the Yanks wanted Lee as their top choice and nothing else mattered. Cashman mentioned it when the Sox signed Crawford and made it clear that although they threw offers at other big names, Lee was the guy and that was going to be their big splash this December. Instead, their big splash is a big wad of nothing at this point. With all the major free agents snatched up, if the Yanks are going to make a big move this off-season, it will have to come by trade and with the recent market values rising, it isn’t going to come cheap. I don’t mean cheap in the dollar sense, because the Yanks have money to burn, I mean cheap in the prospects/players category. If teams are going to deal a big-time pitcher, then need to receive high-level prospects and/or major-league caliber young talent.  It must be a weird feeling for the Yanks to finally be the loser in a true bidding war, because in recent memory, every bidding war the Yankees were serious about, they won.

It will be interesting to see what Brian Cashman decides to do going forward with his starting rotation. If they want to contend in 2011, they need to add an arm or two. Their offense is as always dominate, but if Sergio Mitre is their #3 or #4 starter, they are going to need a herculean number of runs each game to collect 95 W’s. The Lee deal also hurts the Yankees and their match-up with the Red Sox. Being a lefty, Lee would have been brutal on the Sox lefty-heavy lineup, creating match-up problems up and down the batting order, but now, the Yankees may not only lose Lee, but their lefty workhorse Andy Pettitte, who is up in the air about returning in 2011. There was a sense that if Lee arrived, he would return, but he has expressed concern with his groin injury from last year and now that he is over-40, the question is can his body handle a full season. If he chooses to retire, don’t be surprised to see Cashman pull a Roger Clemens and try and bring Pettitte in for the 2nd half of the season to make a playoff push.

Theo Epstein has to love the way the past 4 weeks have turned out. He has made the Sox batting order one of the best in baseball and now, side-by-side, the Sox rotation looks pretty damn strong against their biggest AL East rival. There have been very few years in which the Red Sox look stronger than the Yankees across the board, but so far in the 2010 off-season, the Sox look stronger. The Sox lineup may not have as much power as the Yanks, but they are balanced and pack quite a punch. Could this be the year that the Sox win the division? On paper they appear to be the favorites, but as Sox fans know all too well, anything can happen in a 162-game season. Injuries and unforeseen events can de-rail a team faster than C.C. Sabathia running to get food at the Sizzler, so cautious optimism is in order.

Even though they lost out on the Lee sweepstakes, Cashman and the Yankees likely still have a few tricks up their sleeve. The positive side of that…the tricks won’t be Cliff Lee