The Philadelphia Phillies came out of nowhere last night to sign the top free-agent in baseball, Cliff Lee. With the addition, they now arguably sport one of the best starting rotations of all-time as Lee joins Roy Halladay (NL Cy Young), Roy Oswalt (NL Leader in WHIP), and Cole Hamles (9.1 K/9 in 2010)… here I thought Washington was the city for old white men.
I can’t imagine how this could have gone worse for the Nationals form a competitive stand point. The club wants to put their losing ways behind them and become relevant on the field, as evidenced by their ultra-aggressiveness this offseason. However a .500 season, or even, dare I say it, a wild-card birth is made increasingly harder now that the Phillies have gone from one of the most dangerous teams in baseball to a juggernaut.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that the Nationals aren’t competing for a World Series in 2011, far from it. But I do believe that if the club gets that front-line starter they’re looking for, they have the bats and the athletes to surprise a lot of people this year. The biggest problem though is that the cut they took out of the Phillies talent gap in the NL East when they pried Jayson Werth from them with an overpriced contract was more than filled in when the Fightin’s answered back with a below market contract for Cliff Lee.
If we were Pedro Martinez, the Phillies just made us their daddies.
In the end the most frustrating part of this deal is that now the Yankees and the Rangers, the two teams who seemed to be the front runners for Lee are left without that top arm they were battling for. That means they’ve inserted themselves right into the market the Nationals are in, trying to trade for Zack Greinke or Matt Garza.
This will only drive the bidding up for the two pitchers, meaning the Nationals are on the outside looking in…again. While as a fan I’d like to see the club add one of those starters, but when two teams competing for a World Series are bidding for a player they are much more likely to give up the farm than a team like the Nationals…and rightfully so.
The silver lining in this however is, as I mentioned at the start of this post, that the Phillies are old. Lee, Halladay, and Oswalt are all on the wrong side of 30, as is Howard, Lidge, Rollins, Polanco and Utley. How much longer can they keep it up? No idea, but it hasn’t seemed to slow the Yankees down as they just reload each year…let’s hope the Phillies aren’t the same way.