Is that God moving in South Philadelphia, or is it only Ruben Amaro Jr.?
Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro's coup in signing premier free agent pitcher Cliff Lee has sent shock and awe resounding through the baseball world. In fact outside my window at this very moment, the afternoon is darkening, thunder is rolling, and lightning is splitting the sky.
It's true. I guess it really is a big deal.
For Phillies fans though, the biggest thing is that Cliff Lee turned out to love us as much we loved him in his half a season with the club in 2009. Local fans were apoplectic when Amaro traded Lee to Seattle a year ago this Friday, and only the fact that the GM had just obtained Roy Halladay from Toronto kept the furor from escalating into a full-fledged fan mutiny.
Now, rather than hold the trade against the team, Lee has given the Phillies what appears to be a fifteen to thirty million dollar discount against what he could have squeezed out of either the Rangers or the Yankees.
On paper, this signing gives the Phillies one of the best pitching staffs in baseball history and many scribes are opining that the Phillies are now in the position of the Yankees: that is, needing to win the World Series for 2011 to be considered a successful season.
In my opinion however, these writers are missing the point.
As far as Phillies' fans were concerned, the team was supposed to win it all this year and last year too. That they didn't, has -- slightly -- lessened local pressure for a guaranteed World Series win.
My sense is that Phillies fans are just reveling in the moment, and acting ... well, uncharacteristically grown up about the whole thing. It's difficult to quantify but you can't help feeling that the Lee signing means something special to the Phillies beyond just getting a great pitcher.
The Phillies and maybe even, Philadelphia, are now a destination. This is the kind of thing that only happens once in a long while; when a team becomes truly emblematic of a city and we owe this moment to ... Cliff Lee: Bottoms up.
Before we raise out glasses however, I don't think Ruben June is done dealing yet. Jayson Werth's signing with the Washington Nationals has not only left the Phillies without a Right Fielder, but also without an everyday, right handed power hitter to protect Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
Everyone is talking about the Phillies trading Joe Blanton to dump salary, but right now, the trade that makes the most sense for them is something along the lines of Right-handed pitching ace Roy Oswalt to the Chicago White Sox for Right Fielder Carlos Quentin with a prospect thrown in on either side.
This trade may or may not be makeable. For one thing, Oswalt has a no trade clause in his contract and probably would demand that the White Sox, at the very least, guarantee his sixteen million dollar option for 2012. For another thing, although the White Sox could certainly use Oswalt, who along with Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, John Danks and Gavin Floyd, would give them the best starting pitching staff -- on paper -- in the American League, they don't need him.
We'll see what happens, but my guess is, something will.