Cliff Lee has signed with the Philadelphia Phillies one year after they traded him to the Seattle Mariners. The Phillies are the favorite to win the National League and World Series, right?
After the 2009 World Series, the Phillies set their sights on fixing their holes and begin prepared for the 2010 World Series. Philadelphia fell short, dropping the NLCS in six games to the San Francisco Giants, despite adding Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt.
The earlier-than-expected exit from the postseason had many Phillies fans questioning where they would go from there.
Jimmy Rollins was entering his option year. It was also a foregone conclusion Jayson Werth set to make big time money elsewhere.
Then, on Monday night, they net the biggest pitching fish on the market in Lee.
It seemed the Phillies push all their chips in last year and, now, the Lee deal looks more out of desperation. Come the winter of 2011, Oswalt, Hamels, Rollins, Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson are all free agents.
Keep this in mind: The defending World Series champion Giants defeated Lee twice in the Fall Classic. Not to mention, they defeated Hamels, Halladay and Oswalt in the NLCS.
Their biggest concern going into this season should have been replacing Jayson Werth. As of right now, his replacement is Dominic Brown.
Who will win the National League?
The predominantly left-handed lineup of the Phillies will have a much more difficult time balancing the scorecard. This could spell bad news when they play teams with strong left-handed pitching (i.e.: Braves, Giants, Cardinals).
The Phillies lineup will look like this: Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Rollins, Brown, Carlos Ruiz. The bench is also very thin. If the injuries of last year recur, it could be a long season for the Philadelphia offense.
Their biggest challenge will, once again, be the Giants.
San Francisco still has the best young staff in baseball and they should only get better. Tim Lincecum (26), Matt Cain (26), Jonathan Sanchez (28) and Madison Bumgarner (21) all return for 2011.
As this group proved, no lineup is a match for this fearsome foursome. They carried a 2.47 ERA while limiting opponents to a .196 batting average in the postseason.
The Giants key loss of the offseason was Juan Uribe, whom the Giants replaced with Miguel Tejada. Tejada has always been a better overall hitter than Uribe.
Pablo Sandoval's weight concerns are being hashed out this winter.
San Francisco won it all with their pitching and timely hitting. Most of the said hitters return and their defense looks to have improved from a year ago.
The Giants are also awaiting the Major League arrival of top prospect Brandon Belt. He is a more polished hitter and defender at this point than reigning NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey was.
Belt, 22, has given Giants management much confidence for the future.
The health of versatile Mark DeRosa will give the Giants more options with their lineup.
To hand the National League Championship trophy to the Phillies would be premature. I mean, didn't everyone do that last season?
Yankees and Phillies in the World Series, remember? Oh, wait, never mind.