The Phillies' recent acquisition of Cliff Lee is drawing the attention of baseball writers all over the country. Many of them commend GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and his bold decision to acquire the lefty, but others are not quite as generous.
Although Cliff Lee left money on the table, it still took Philadelphia a boat load of money to bring him back into red pinstripes. So much money actually, that the Phillies are even being compared to the New York Yankees who are infamous for purchasing the top free agents on the market without any financial limitations.
Now I must confess, I am a die-hard Philadelphia Phillies fan, but it does not take a genius to see that the Phillies are by no means like the Yankees. Here are some reasons (they are in no specific order):
1. The Phillies Payroll Is a Lot Smaller Than the Yankees'
I am not saying the Phillies and Yankees are not comparable. They both have very high payrolls, they both purchase and trade for stellar players and they both have comparable lineups. However, the Phillies payroll is around $50 million smaller than the Yankees payroll.
$50 million is a lot of money! To put that in perspective, the 2009 payroll of the Florida Marlins was smaller than $50 million. With the big names in free agency this season and an extra $50 million, the Phillies could have re-signed Jayson Werth, still have inked Cliff Lee, signed free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford, acquired the top left-handed reliever on the market in Scott Downs and they could use the remaining money to upgrade the bullpen even further. Now that team would be "Yankee comparable."
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The Phillies have also publicized their interest in getting rid of starting pitcher Joe Blanton to help reduce the large number that is the Phillies payroll. They have acknowledged that a large sum of money was spent and they are planning on loosening the payroll with a trade. If they do not get this done however, they have many contracts ending after the 2011 season, and they will eat Blanton's salary until they lose players to free agency like Raul Ibanez, and possibly Jimmy Rollins and Brad Lidge. Needless to say, after losing those hefty salaries, they will have more money to spend on other players.
2. Cliff Lee Was Once a Phillie
In July of 2009, the Philadelphia Phillies were looking to ink a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher to assist them in their quest to their second straight World Series. Roy Halladay was their prime target, but J.P Ricciardi's asking price was far too high, so they settled for Cliff Lee. Lee instantly became a fan favorite in Philadelphia leading them to their second straight World Series.
Before the 2010 season began, the Phils were looking to re-attempt to acquire right-handed pitcher Roy Halladay. Philadelphia fans had already made shirts that said "Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee," but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. felt that the Phillies needed to replenish their farm system, so he sent Cliff Lee away to Seattle for prospects that turned out to be quite mediocre.
This move was very unpopular in Philadelphia, and at the next trade deadline, Ruben Amaro redeemed himself with the acquisition of right-handed starting pitcher Roy Oswalt. This had already given the Phillies one of the top rotations in all of the majors, but it was not enough as the Phillies fell to the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS.
Now, one could compare the Phillies to the Yankees, accusing them of stealing the No. 1 free agent on the market, but as poor as the excuse may sound, Cliff Lee is an exception.
Amaro had earlier stated before the signing that the Phillies payroll is very tight and it would take only a rare exception to expand the payroll any further. Although Cliff Lee was the top free agent in the free agency pool this year, the Phillies would not have spent that money on Carl Crawford; not once did the Phillies even mention that they were attempting to sign the top outfielder on the free-agent market.
Letting Cliff Lee go in the first place was a mistake—Amaro knew Cliff Lee wanted to be in Philadelphia. Opportunities, like getting the top pitcher on the free-agent market for much less money, rarely ever occur. Cliff Lee had a connection with Philadelphia and it is not much of a surprise that they got him; if his name was "Liff Cee" and he never played for the Phillies, they probably would not have tried to get him.
If you want to compare the Phillies to the Yankees, do not start comparing them after the signing of Cliff Lee, because, although it is improving the team's already-stellar rotation, Cliff Lee has a connection with Philadelphia.
3. Most Phillies Have Been on the Team Since Drafted
Philadelphia's core lineup and the majority of their team consists of players that were drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies or players that came into the majors from the Phillies farm system. Some of their best players—Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Shane Victorino, and Cole Hamels emerged from the Phillies farm system and became the highly regarded players that they are today.
The Phillies' large payroll is merely a result of retaining their Philadelphia products. The New York Yankees have six players that they once drafted and 3 of them shape their core: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, and Phil Hughes. It may seem that they have a lot of homegrown talent, but they have acquired more of their players through trade and free agency and those names like C.C Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, A.J Burnett, and Javier Vasquez are some of the Yankees bigger contributors. Now it is true that the Yankees have a lot of young talent currently in their systems, but trades do occur and some of those players will be on different clubs in the future.
So as you can see, the Philadelphia Phillies may be comparable to the New York Yankees, but in terms of accusations towards the Phillies for purchasing the top players on the market, the Phillies are very different. Let me know what you think. Thanks!