Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Widespread Impact of the Cliff Lee Signing

At this point, Cliff Lee is the second
best pitcher on his team. However, 
he's also the second best pitcher
in baseball.
With Cliff Lee being traded to the Phillies, the attention now turns to the impact the deal will have around the league.

Before we launch into that, one has to ask the question.....How in the world does Ruben Amaro, the Phillies' GM, pull of heists like this and the Halladay deal and turn around and make horrendous moves like trading Lee in the first place for a bunch of nothing, signing Howard to one of the worst deals in baseball history, and the Ibanez signing? Given his tendency to strike out while also hitting some huge HRs, Amaro should now be known as the Mark Reynolds of Major League GMs.

Now, into the range of impacts....

First, how does the trade affect the Phillies? Obviously their starting rotation goes from one of the best in baseball to possibly the best of all time, but this team is flawed beyond the rotation. A team that faced a massive struggle to score runs throughout the year at times, especially in the postseason, has now lost its best hitter from last year and has become lefty heavy. Teams with dominant left-handed pitching will be able to exploit that weakness extremely effectively. Losing their only power bat from the right side could have a huge impact on an opposing manager's bullpen strategy. Combine that with the fact that the lineup is getting old in a hurry, and you have to wonder just how much of a window is left. An interesting point from Keith Law this morning was whether the Phillies should trade Hamels for a right handed bat for the middle of the order. That deal makes a good bit of sense when you consider that having a dominant fourth starter in the playoffs is almost a waste given how few games that pitcher would start. A big right-handed bat could offset much of the offensive worries that have to be trailing the Phillies front office right now.

If they decide to keep the four starters, the Phillies must focus their attention on clearing up some payroll for the hefty contract that Lee has added to the books. It is being reported that they are close to a deal that would send Blanton to the Red Sox (Did the Red Sox offer to take him last night in order to keep Lee from the Yankees?), and if they can somehow get a team to take Ibanez, that would be ideal. If not, they have some big contracts coming off the book next year. Ibanez is gone, and we will probably be seeing the last of Rollins in a Phillies uniform this year. It will be interesting to see how they handle the next few days, and how they groom the replacements for their aging pieces.

The biggest loser in the deal has to be the Yankees. They have watched the Red Sox make two major moves and vastly improve their team, all the while thinking they were going to counter with Cliff Lee. There will probably be a sense of desperation in the Yankees front office as they search for some rotation help. Would Zack Greinke fit the bill? It would cost them their best prospect and much more, but I wouldn't put it past them. You have to think that the Marlins would at least entertain offers for Josh Johnson since it would be foolish not to at least listen.

The Rangers may have actually dodged a bullet by not signing Lee. For a franchise that once offered A-Rod 250 million, they have to have been at least a little gun shy about offering a 31 year old pitcher 160 million over seven years. Now that Lee is leaving, they get the Phillies' first round pick, and some payroll flexibility should the right deal drop in their lap.

All in all, this will be a fun few weeks as we watch the puzzle pieces fall into place.

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