A few days ago, I wrote the following:

The Phillies have reportedly been lurking around the periphery of the Lee negotiations, and they’ve also kicked the tires on Zach Greinke. I’m not ashamed to admit that the Phillies getting either of those two would scare the crap out of me. The Phillies as currently constructed are a good team, but shallow — they’ve got excellent high-end talent, but the back of their rotation is crappy, they’ve got question marks in the outfield, and their bullpen is eminently beatable. They’re a beatable team right now, but if they keep adding more stars, I’m not sure that will continue to be the case.

Imagine my surprise, then, upon reading late last night that the Phillies had done just that, signing Cliff Lee to a 5-year, $100 million contract. I should really keep my mouth shut.

What a gutpunch.

The worst part about this, I think, is that we’ve been told for over a year that Lee was looking to cash out, that he was going to go for the biggest deal he could get. The first part of the offseason seemed to bear that out, with his free agency moving agonizingly slowly as his agent worked to extract every last dollar out of the Yankees and Rangers. Then, at the last minute, he signs a sweetheart deal with a team that needs it the absolute least. (Well, maybe not the absolute least, but of all the teams that don’t need any more advantages, the Phillies are up there.)

I’m trying not to panic too much here. The Phillies’ rotation looks unbeatable on paper, sure… but that’s why they play the games. The Red Sox’s rotation looked pretty studly this time last year, and they came in third. Everyone said the 2004 Cubs were a lock to win 100 games; they came in third too. In practical, on-the-field-value terms, they’re merely replacing Jayson Werth, maybe with a little extra. There’s still a lot that could go wrong for them — no one’s a lock to do anything in baseball.

But that’s just it — before, I thought the Braves could legitimately hang with the Phils over a full season. Now, I’m praying for something to go wrong. The Braves should be good enough on their own merits that they shouldn’t have to rely on something going wrong for the Phillies, and this signing makes it that much harder.

On the sort-of-good-news-but-not-really front, this is the first time the Yankees have been spurned by a free agent they put the full court press on since Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux turned up their noses at them in 1993 — the first time in the Jeter era. Still, I’d root for the Yankees to sign every free agent on the planet if it guaranteed the Phillies sucked, and yes, my fingers feel dirty just typing that.


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