The Philadelphia Phillies surprised the baseball world, and perhaps even themselves, when they snatched Cliff Lee on the free agent market a couple weeks ago.
Not only did the signing seemingly come out of nowhere due to the stealth negotiations, but they undercut the New York Yankees in the process. Ever since Lee appeared headed to test the market, the big money has been on the Yankees to land him for the same reason— big money.
The Yankees have deep pockets and a long history of paying top dollar to get the players they desire the most. A-Rod, Mark Texeira, CC Sabathia, Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Dave Winfield, Goose Gossage, and Andy Pettite are just some of the big name, big dollar signings.
And, if the Bronx Bombers couldn't entice Sabathia's ex-Cleveland Indians buddy to sign, the Texas Rangers were poised to offer up the necessary dollars and years to keep the hurler that led them to their first World Series in October. Additionally, Lee loved his brief tenure with the Rangers, the team possessed the talent to win, and Arlington was relatively close to his home.
Just days earlier, the Phillies lost their own free agent, Jayson Werth, to the Washington Nationals and a monster contract.
Although they hated to see him go, the Phillies already possessed a payroll that stretched way beyond the limits most would imagine just a year or two ago. They seemed to be in a holding pattern with their salary budget, still trying to get comfortable with what they already had on the books.
Then, suddenly, word crept out that the Phillies might be a mystery team in the hunt for Lee's services. In the coming hours, speculation turned to rumor and then to news.
The Phillies had reached an agreement with Lee pending the customary physical examination as well as the requisite dotting of the i's and crossing of the t's.
With the move, the Phillies had assembled a starting rotation of historic proportions and suddenly went from top contender to the favorites for 2011.
It was a leap that most long-term Phillies fans could have never imagined.
Heck, just a year ago, the team dealt Lee away when they acquired Roy Halladay— and even if they wanted to replenish the farm system, most everyone knew the key driver was economics.
The Lee signing also sent a bright signal that the Phillies have officially become a "big market" team after operating as a "small market" team for virtually all of its 127-year existence.
The Phillies have ascended to the level of the Yankees and Boston Red Sox- two teams that annually set their sights on winning a championship and make the financial commitment to support that goal.
And, like those teams, the Phillies appear poised to remain in that stratosphere for the foreseeable future.
Some could view the situation as a temporary phenomenon that will change as high priced players start to roll-off the payroll, but here are five reasons that the Phils are here to stay for awhile.