BY: ANTHONY BARATTA
December 14th, 2010
“Start spreading the news….
I’m leaving today….
I want to be a part of it….
“The stars at night…
Are big and bright…
Deep in the heart of?? PHILLY??”
By now everyone’s heard it. In a surprise move, Cliff Lee, has snubbed his Pinstriped and Lone Star suitors, in favor of his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies. Reports surfaced last night, that the Yankees deal had bottomed out (Hard to believe huh? The Yankees not getting a big name player they coveted in the off-season… since when?).
The deal, worth $120 million over five years, is a sharp decline from the lucrative 7 year offers from Texas and New York, which were thought enough to land the hot-commodity left-hander.
Bringing Lee to Philadelphia sets up one of the most dominating rotations in the history of Major League Baseball. Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt, on paper, certainly look to be enough to land the Phillies back in the World Series after they were derailed by the white hot San Francisco Giants last year.
That is, at least on paper.
The baseball season is still approximately two months away, and there are still names out on the market to be signed. Obviously, none of them compare to the names already signed/traded (Gonzalez, Crawford, and now Lee), but it should be interesting to see how the rest of the offseason shapes up.
Yankees and Rangers fans, dismayed at losing out on Lee, now are looking to their respective front offices for a swift maneuver to somehow counteract losing Lee. Looking at both teams, plenty of questions arise after losing out on such a big name.
They seem to have a lot more to be concerned with than Texas now that they have fallen out of the Lee chase. More than likely, their first move will be to try convincing Andy Pettitte to come back for one more season.
Obviously after Pettitte, the pitching cupboard is pretty bare in free agency. Even so, assuming Pettitte returns for one last year in Pinstripes, expect the Yankees to look into the trade market for another starter.
The question though, is who? Zack Greinke? Josh Johnson? Mark Buehrle? Felix Hernandez? Carlos Zambrano?
Out of those four, it seems likely Zambrano or Buehrle could be headed for the Bronx if the price is right for the Yankees. Greinke, Johnson, and Hernandez all would command a hefty price for the Yankees one that General Manager Brian Cashman would be unwilling to pay.
If, in fact the Yankees cannot find a trade partner, they will turn to AJ Burnett and Phil Hughes to put in the best years of their careers in 2011. Both starters are enigmas, so can they really be trusted? Only time will tell, but don’t expect the Yankees to have to answer that question, because I’m fairly certain they will make a trade in the coming weeks.
The addition of Lee last season propelled this team into the post season. Lee gave them the ace they desired for so many years.
Now, the subtraction of Lee gives them SLIGHTLY less to worry about than the Yankees. I say slightly because, unlike the Yankees, the Rangers are a younger team. However, without Lee's return, the Rangers are left to ponder many questions as well.
Can C.J. Wilson step into the shoes of an ace and fill them out as the organization expects him to?
Will the youngsters, Tommy Hunter, and Derek Holland, be able to repeat strong 2010 campaigns?
Will Neftali Feliz continue to dominate in the closer role?
Can Colby Lewis slide in behind Wilson and maintain his attempt at career resurgence?
All of these are valid questions that Ranger fans are sure to be asking.
One pitcher who is likely to find his way to Arlington now that Lee has left is Carl Pavano. Pavano has also found a fresh start to his career after suffering multiple injuries during his stint with the New York Yankees.
Winning 17 games last season, and 14 in 2009, Pavano looks to get a solid contract from teams searching for decent starting pitching. Expect the Rangers to jump at him and even sign him away from the Twins by January. That should give the Rangers at least a decent shot at repeating as AL West champs.
The answers to all these questions and more will begin to unfold more clearly as the off-season comes to a close. The story of the 2011 Major League Baseball season begins to be written. As it stands right now, the Phillies are holding the pen.