Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Reasons CC Sabathia Will Join Cliff Lee in 2012

Kevin BogerContributor IIFebruary 16, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Reasons CC Sabathia Will Join Cliff Lee in 2012

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    Just when you thought the offseason couldn't get any worse for the New York Yankees, there is now talk of CC Sabathia possibly opting out of his contract after the 2011 season.

    Considering Andy Pettitte's retirement last week, that would be very, very bad news for Yankees fans with AJ Burnett projected as the team's ace in 2012 were CC to leave.

    Sabathia originally signed a seven-year $161 million contract with New York prior to the 2009 MLB Season. The contract includes an opt-out clause after the third year (2011) which would allow the lefty to become a free agent again or pursue an even better extension with the Yankees.

    In October during the team's playoff run, CC Sabathia told reporters that he had no intentions of opting out of his contract. Now on Monday in Tampa, FLA with a new season looming, Sabathia is changing his tune.

    When asked if he would opt out of his contract, Sabathia replied,"I have no idea. It's still in my contract, anything can happen."

    It is possible that Sabathia truly doesn't know what he will do following the 2011 MLB Season, it is also possible that his agent instructed him to say that in order to get the New York Yankees thinking about life without CC and what they would do not to lose him.

    I think he knows exactly what he intends to do next season. Like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh scheming to join the Miami Heat in 2010, it is my best guess that CC Sabathia intends to partner with friend and former Cleveland Indian teammate Cliff Lee and join the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012.

    It might seem unlikely, but did you ever think Lee would be going to Philadelphia instead of New York or Texas? I didn't think so.

     

5. Expiring Contracts

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    The Philadelphia Phillies have a team payroll of just over $160 million entering the 2011 MLB Season. That's a lot of cheese steaks!

    But, being that Philadelphia is the sixth most valuable franchise in baseball according to Forbes.com and one of the larger markets in the league, money hasn't proven to be a problem in recent years.

    That number looks to decrease following the season with the contracts of Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez expiring after 2011. It is unlikely that Philadelphia would resign Raul Ibanez being that he will 40 years old at season's end and Jimmy Rollins has not been the same player since winning the NL MVP in 2007.

    If neither were resigned, it would free up somewhere close to $19.5 million which would allow a little breathing room to squeeze in what would likely be a rather large contract for CC Sabathia.

    There is always the potential that Sabathia, like Cliff Lee, would take a pay cut in order to be a part of what should be the best rotation in baseball today if not one of the best in the history of the sport.

4. Roy Oswalt

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    There have recently been rumors as to whether or not Roy Oswalt will retire after this season.

    The longtime Houston Astro will be 34 years old when the season comes to an end and has indicated that he could possibly hang up his spurs at that time.

    That might come as a shock to some, but I'm sure Ruben Amaro Jr. and the team are already taking it into consideration.

    There is no telling as to what Amaro Jr. could be working on after he pulled of the Lee deal this season and sent the baseball world into shock. Don't be surprised if he has already made phone calls to Sabathia's agent regarding the opt-out clause in his contract.

    Oswalt has a $16 million mutual option following the season that Philadelphia could clear from their payroll if he called it a career or if the team chose to decline the option.

    If Roy Oswalt did choose to retire, or if the Philadelphia Phillies chose to decline the option, not only would there be a spot in the rotation open for CC Sabathia but it would also loosen up the payroll a bit to give Ruben Amaro Jr. a little flexibility in the offseason.

    The pieces are all falling together.

     

3. History In The Making

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    One of the key reasons Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies this past offseason was to join the already impressive rotation comprised of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton.

    Almost every baseball pundit and fan agrees that the Phillies' rotation is the very best entering the 2011 MLB Season. The question is where it ranks amongst the best pitching staffs of all time.

    Were CC Sabathia to join Lee, Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels in the rotation, any remaining doubt as to the best staff in the history of baseball would be vanquished.

    In fact, there might not even be a question as to who would win the World Series. The trophy might just presented on the day the pitchers and catchers report for the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Even if Roy Oswalt were to retire, the staff would still undoubtedly be the best in baseball. Here is the combined stat line for Sabathia, Halladay, Hamels and Blanton in 2010:

    W: 77 K: 946 ERA: 3.33 WHIP: 1.16

     

2. Winning Is Everything

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    The Philadelphia Phillies have won the NL East now every year since 2007 and are expected to do so again in 2011.

    In that time they have appeared in the World Series twice and won once ... and are expected to do so again in 2011.

    The New York Yankees are certainly a team capable of winning and did not long ago when they beat the Phillies in the World Series in 2009 and Sabathia earned his first ring, however, year in and year out they have much more going against them.

    The AL East is far and away the toughest division in baseball. Not only do they Yankees have to compete with the Boston Red Sox every year but now Tampa Bay has become a consistent contender while both Toronto and Baltimore are making strides in the right direction.

    It is entirely possible that all five teams in the AL East finish with a .500 record or better in 2011.

    The NL East, on other hand, is the Philadelphia Phillies to lose. While the Atlanta Braves should field a good team in 2011 it doesn't compare to the Phillies and on paper, neither the Washington Nationals nor the Florida Marlins are even in the same league as Philadelphia.

    Were CC Sabathia to join the team he would have a much easier route to the playoffs and the World Series for the remainder of his career.

1. Cliff Lee

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    Everyone expected that the New York Yankees would offer Cliff Lee a contract he couldn't refuse and that he would be in pinstripes in 2011 and the remainder of his career.

    It seemed as though he and Sabathia's reunion was destined to occur in New York, but why not Philadelphia?

    Lee flipped the script when he instead chose less money to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies, a team he truly enjoyed his time with during the second half of the 2009 season.

    Could Cliff Lee potentially screw the Yankees twice within one year by convincing Sabathia to join forces with him in city of brotherly love?

    The two are longtime friends since their time together on the Cleveland Indians. Is it impossible to think that Cliff and CC are in constant communication and that perhaps Lee has p the Philadelphia Phillies in such a good light that now Sabathia would want in on the action?

    After all, the team is in a large enough market to offer a reasonable contract and is in a position to compete for the next several years. CC and his family already have a home in New Jersey ...

    Don't look now, but I think I see the Philly Phanatic dancing a jig!

    It could be worse, Yankees fans. It could be the Red Sox.