The Phillies landed the prize of the 2010 free agents. But will this lead to long term success in Philadelphia?

On Monday night, Cliff Lee made the decision that would change his life forever.  This was the day he had been waiting for and talking about for the last two years.  So much to the chagrin of the smug NY media and Yankee fans, not only have the Yanks missed out on Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, but now their unlimited supply of cash couldn’t even bring in Cliff Lee.  Instead, Lee took less money and years to sign with the Phillies.  This came as a huge shock to everyone.  But don’t worry Yankees fans, Russell Martin has signed!!!!

All we kept hearing about was the 7 year $147 million deal the Yankees were offering, and the 6 year $136 million deal from the Rangers.  But who would have thought that the Phillies, who already have $146 million in salary committed in 2011, would be able to jump in and land Lee?

Lee ultimately agreed to a five-year, guaranteed $120 million contract with the Phillies, sources told’s Jerry Crasnick. The deal includes a $27.5 million option in the sixth year based on performance.  So if he meets all the incentives, he’ll have a 6 year deal, averaging $24.58 million per season.  This is for a guy who has had arm problems in the past and will be 32 on opening day.  What I don’t understand is that for a guy who has had one season with a sub-3.00 ERA, and has only won 18 + games twice, he’s commanding this type of money.  Maybe it’s his 7-2 post season record.  But to me he’s just not worth that kind of money.

As a Mets fan, you would expect me to be crushed by the news that Lee will be joining Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels.  Sure, for the 2011 season, the Phils will have one of the best rotations in my lifetime on paper.  But as everyone knows, the games are played on the field.

When I think about this deal, there can only be one reason that the Phils pulled the trigger.  They are trying to win in 2011 and they are mortgaging everything they have for it.  God forbid they don’t win the World Series this year, take a look at the kind of money they will have locked up in 2012.

  2012 Age   Salary in Millions  
SP 33 Cliff Lee 24  
SP 35 Roy Halladay 20  
1B 32.5 Ryan Howard 20  
2B 33 Chase Utley 15.286  
SP 28 Cole Hamels 13 Final arbitration year.  Assuming $13 mil
SS 33.5 Jimmy Rollins 10 FA after 2011.  Assuming he re-signs
SP 31.5 Joe Blanton 10.5  
CF 31.5 Shane Victorino 9.5  
3B 36.5 Placido Polanco 6.5  
C 33 Carlos Ruiz 3.7  
  32.75 Average Age    

So heading into the 2012 season, the Phils will have over $132 million committed to only 10 players, whose average age is just under 33 years old.  That is a complete recipe for disaster.  The most alarming thing about this scenario is that they still need to sign another 15 players to make up a full major league roster.  You would imagine that at this point that there would be a few top rookies or 2nd year players that would be making a very low salary (Dominic Brown for one), and playing major roles.  But this will not be the case.  In acquiring Lee the 1st time, they delt away 3 of their top prospects, and they also did the same with the trade for Roy Halladay.  So the only player they have left in their system that is projected to have any impact is Brown.

For a recap, the 2012 Phillies will be in the market for a 5th starter, a corner outfielder, a closer, 5 bench players and an entire bullpen.  Since when do the Phillies generate enough revenue to sustain a payroll that will be in excess of $150 mil?  In listening to new Mets GM  Sandy Alderson lay out a plan for the next few years, he keeps stressing that long-term deals to older players can cause a team to go into a dead period for 3 or 4 years.  God forbid one of these players gets hurt, your team can be crippled because of the lack of payroll flexability.

I give the Phillies tons of credit with their scouting department.  They have had the same core for about 4 years now and have gone on a great run.  But as all good things must come to an end, 2011 may as well be the final chapter in the Phillies run.