Cliff Lee Signs with Phillies

Texas Rangers beat writer T.R. Sullivan is reporting that the Phillies have signed free agent left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News is reporting that it is a five-year deal. Joel Sherman says it is “in the 5 yr, $100M range”.

In the wake of losing Jayson Werth to the Washington Nationals, the Phillies could have done nothing and been fine heading into 2011, but GM Ruben Amaro made sure that the Phillies would continue to be among the premier teams in Major League Baseball.

The Phillies already have nearly $147 million committed to 18 players with three arbitration cases left to settle. Assuming Lee will earn around $20 million in 2011, that brings the Phillies’ payroll up to $167 million, a 21 percent increase from last year’s Opening Day payroll. Presumably, this leaves them little flexibility to round out the rest of the roster and thus will be doing so with cheaper options, mostly in-house. Between now and spring training, Amaro will try to unload the hefty contracts of Raul Ibanez and/or Joe Blanton.

According to Baseball Reference, Werth was a four-win player on average over the last three years while Lee has been a 5.5-win player. On that exchange, in a vacuum, the Phillies made a slight upgrade but do have some risk to account for with an outfield that will include some variation of Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Domonic Brown, and Ben Francisco.

Phillies fans are extremely enthusiastic, and for good reason: a rotation of Roy Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels may rank among the best in baseball history.