No, this has nothing to do with the Orioles on the face of it, but given the circumstances around the American League and the unprecedented move by Cliff Lee, I thought it deserves a mention. And it may have more to do with the Orioles than you think. Cliff Lee has agreed to a 5-year, $120 million deal to return to the Philadelphia Phillies, clearly holding no resentment for being traded after the acquisition of Roy Halladay just a season ago. In doing so he eschewed an extra 2 years and at least an extra $30 million being offered by the Yankees, and an extra 2 year and the chance to play close to home by the Texas Rangers (oh yea, and $40 million). For once, we may have just witnessed a player going where he is most comfortable, rather than the biggest paycheck- and the impact could be massive.
Generally, players like to say after the fact that they went where they were most comfortable, where the environment “fit”. It’s funny how the environment always seems to fit where there is the most money. A player will say he doesn’t want to DH (Adam Dunn) or he wants to play on the West Coast (Carl Crawford) but wind up wherever the biggest contract comes from. And you know, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A little honesty is refreshing, but to expect an individual- any individual- to pass up more money is ridiculous. I assume most of our readers are in the Maryland/Virginia area. What if someone offered you a massive raise to live in Cleveland? Or, to take a shot at where I live, Detroit? I am sure most people would head out. Let me be clear- there is nothing wrong with this system, though it is downright comical when a player talks about “feeding my family” to be a bit melodramatic with unfathomable amounts of money being thrown around.
But back to Lee. He bucked the system, and the man who all (including myself) was just looking to break the bank was actually looking for a place he felt right in. He doesn’t mind getting in the number 2 slot behind Roy Halladay, and doesn’t mind pitching on the East Coast. For whatever reason, Lee chose the Phils. In doing so, he got out of not only the AL East but the American League as a whole. Given the fact that the Orioles will not play the Phillies in interleague play this season, that is one more star pitcher Baltimore will get to avoid. Had he gone to New York or even Texas, it would just be another example of the rich getting richer. Not that the Phillies are poor to be able to afford Halladay, Lee, and Roy Oswalt at the same time, but you get the idea.
As for the Rangers, I think they may have lucked out. Look at it this way: with the money they have left over, they can sign Adrian Beltre to play third and have a massive stable of young prospects the Royals would salivate over for Zach Greinke. Texas can very likely swing a deal for the Kansas City ace and accelerate Kansas City’s timetable for a return to winning (they already have arguably the strongest farm system in the majors). They can also then trade Michael Young to make up for one or two of those prospects, having Beltre already on board. Moreover, they may actually then have the funds to negotiate some extensions for their young stars down the line, like Elvis Andrus and Julio Borbon. Oh yea, and then there’s that whole issue of Josh Hamilton’s contract coming up. The money they will save by not signing Cliff Lee may help keep this team together over the next 5 years.
The Yankees are in a whole other situation. Their backup plan for Cliff Lee just signed with Boston over the Winter Meetings, and most of the notable free agents have already signed elsewhere. Their need for Andy Pettitte to forego retirement for just one more year just became a critical need, and aside from CC Sabathia, there are no sure winners on that rotation. It’s funny how much all that money can get you. That said, this team, without Cliff Lee, still made the playoffs this past season. With Boston only marginally upgraded (Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre are only slight downgrades from Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, especially when you consider that catcher may become a black hole for offensive production), and the Rays hit hard with free agent departures, New York will still be in a strong position to compete.
As for me, I’m just happy that for once, they didn’t get their man.