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Hot Stove: Reaction to Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies

12.14.10 at 10:26 am ET
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Be-Lee-ve it or not, ace Cliff Lee has passed up monster deals with both the Yankees and Rangers to return to the Phillies – a team that he helped take to the World Series in 2009 and where his post-season dominance was first truly recognized. The free agent left-hander reached a preliminary agreement on a contract with the Phillies late Monday nigh a deal reportedly worth $120 million over five years, with a sixth-year option for another $27.5 million. The Yankees offered Lee around $150 million for seven years, and the Rangers offered around $120 million for six years.

Here is a look at how the multiple cities involved in the race for Lee are reacting to the decision:

Lee decided to return to the Phillies because he sincerely enjoyed playing there, so much so, that he was willing to pass on an extra few million dollars to do it. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that while this decision “is a nice narrative, even a noble impulse,” it is “fraught with risk and potential disappointment.” Martino points out how the Phillies lineup has changed since Lee was with the team in 2009, as well as the possibility for more shakeups after the first year of his deal is complete. “The Yankees would have given Lee not just more money, but the security of knowing he would not ever be stuck for long on an irrelevant team,” Martino said.

While Philadelphia is ecstatic over a 2011 rotation that will include Roy Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, the club is, at the same time, slightly concerned with payroll issues. Details of how the Phillies will make things work are “sketchy,” writes Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News, but some scenarios include shopping right-hander Joe Blanton, outfielder Raul Ibanez and right-hander Kyle Kendrick.

General manager Brian Cashman disputed the idea that the Yankees were desperate for Lee, saying they have a “pretty good one-two punch to start the season” behind C.C. Sabathia and Phil Hughes. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to get someone,” Cashman said, “but it means we’re not desperate.” Tyler Kepner and Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times attempt to sort through the Yankees prospects and some of the remaining free agents to figure out where the club should to turn its attention to now.

The Yankees really have no plan B for healing their rotation since losing out on Lee, and must now “move forward without having filled the most obvious need for next season,” Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman says that while the Yankees might benefit more in the long run from not having another high-paid, aging player such as Lee on their roster, the 2011 season could be a painful one in his absence.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Phil Sheridan debates which Philadelphia Lee story is more shocking -the deal that sent Lee to the Mariners last December, or the deal that brought him back to the Phillies in the middle of Monday night.

With the Lee era over in Texas, Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News writes that the Rangers will have to look for new and creative ways to upgrade their rotation before the 2011 season begins. One of Cowlishaw’s ideas includes “finding a way to get Matt Garza from the cash-strapped Tampa Bay franchise.”

Read More: C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Hot Stove, Roy Halladay

Cliff Lee signing latest round of good fortune for Red Sox

12.14.10 at 9:54 am ET
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Maybe it started in August.

It was when word started circulating throughout the Red Sox clubhouse that Carl Crawford had told friends he wanted to play in Boston, not New York.

Perhaps that was the beginning of this run for the Sox.

Whatever the origin of the front office’€™s good fortune, it is hard to argue that the Red Sox decision-makers are on a roll, with the news that Cliff Lee would be headed to the Phillies serving as the latest example.

Let’€™s look at how the world has neatly unfolded for the Sox of late:

CLIFF LEE SIGNS WITH THE PHILLIES

This is a no-brainer. It was always believed that this one would come down to the Yankees and Rangers. When asked about the Lee situation in front of the Christmas at Fenway crowd Saturday, Sox general manager Theo Epstein said, ‘€œTexas is a nice place to work.’€ But ask again and he will tell you that, in this case, Philadelphia is even better.

No Lee in the American League. No Lee in the American League East. And, most importantly for the Sox, no Lee with the Yankees.

THE RANGERS LOSE OUT ON LEE

While the Red Sox would have gladly viewed Lee going to Texas as a palatable scenario, there may also be a payoff for the pitcher not heading to the Rangers. That would be the case if, like many people think, Texas GM Jon Daniels turns his attention to signing third baseman Adrian Beltre.

If the third baseman did end up with the Rangers, the Red Sox would secure Texas’€™ first-round selection in next June’€™s draft, the 26th overall. The only teams currently with unprotected first-round picks slotted lower than Texas are Colorado, Toronto, St. Louis, and San Diego. None figure to be in the market to ink Beltre, the Red Sox’€™ last-remaining ‘€˜Type A’€™ free agent.

The two teams most mentioned when it has come to possible landing spots for Beltre ‘€” the Angels and Oakland ‘€” both have their first-round picks (No. 17 and 18, respectively) protected.

If Beltre does join up with the Rangers, the Red Sox would then have the No. 19 (from the Tigers for Victor Martinez) and No. 26 picks. They lost their own first-round selection (No. 24) to the Rays for signing Carl Crawford.

THE RED SOX SIGN CRAWFORD WHEN THEY DO

Part of the hurry for the Sox to come to an agreement with Crawford last Wednesday night was because the Angels set a deadline of 11 p.m. that evening for the free agent outfielder to make up his mind. But another driving force for the hurried timetable was that the Red Sox knew if they waited until this week, they might be finding themselves in one of baseball’€™s least desired positions ‘€“ going head-to-head with the Yankees in bidding for the services of a free agent. When it comes to straight-up money, it is still a contest virtually no team has won.

THE PADRES WERE THE ONES TRADING ADRIAN GONZALEZ

There are few in baseball who don’€™t think the likes of at least Casey Kelly and Anthony Rizzo won’€™t be good major leaguers. Still, perhaps nobody valued the pair like both the team that traded the two youngsters, and the team that traded for them.

The Padres’€™ perception of Kelly, in particular, was key, considering any deal for Gonzalez needed a centerpiece, and San Diego general manager Jed Hoyer, and his assistant, Jason McLeod, both viewed the 21-year-old as just that. They knew Kelly as well as anybody, even as much as the Red Sox themselves, having played key roles in drafting and developing the pitcher before heading to Petco Park.

And while giving up Kelly wasn’€™t an easy road for the Red Sox to go down (they didn’€™t include him in any Roy Halladay packages), the prospect’€™s departure didn’€™t dent the Sox’€™ future like a typical centerpiece might.

THE YANKEES DIDN’€™T GET ANY YOUNGER

New York’€™s big moves of the offseason to date are re-signing Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Both are good players, but, as good as they are, extending each by four and two years, respectively, could get uncomfortable.

EVEN VICTOR MARTINEZ OFFERED A SILVER LINING

While losing Martinez simply came down to the Red Sox not valuing the catcher has much as Detroit, there was a plus for the Sox. The Tigers owned the first non-protected pick in the draft (No. 19), which is now the property of the Sox.

Sources: Nothing done in regard to Red Sox acquiring Joe Blanton

12.14.10 at 8:53 am ET
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According to two major league sources familiar with the situation, no agreement has been finalized in regard to the Phillies sending pitcher Joe Blanton to the Red Sox.

SI.com previously reported the Red Sox had a deal in place to acquire starting pitcher Blanton from the Phillies. Earlier Tuesday, FoxSports.com’€™s Ken Rosenthal reported Phillies ‘€œwere deep in discussions’€ about sending pitcher Blanton to the Red Sox.

The 30-year-old Blanton has two years remaining on his current contract, which would pay him $8.5 million in both 2011 and ‘€™12. The righty went 9-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 29 appearances for the Phillies in ‘€™10, while finishing with a 12-8 mark with a 4.05 ERA in ‘€™09. Blanton did go 6-1 with a 3.48 ERA after the ‘€™10 All-Star Game.

For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

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Report: Red Sox have deal in place to acquire Joe Blanton

12.14.10 at 8:39 am ET
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According to SI.com, the Red Sox have a deal in place to acquire starting pitcher Joe Blanton from the Phillies. Earlier Tuesday, FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported Phillies “were deep in discussions” about sending pitcher Blanton to the Red Sox.

The 30-year-old Blanton has two years remaining on his current contract, which would pay him $8.5 million in both 2011 and ’12. The righty went 9-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 29 appearances for the Phillies in ’10, while finishing with a 12-8 mark with a 4.05 ERA in ’09. Blanton did go 6-1 with a 3.48 ERA after the ’10 All-Star Game.

For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Reports: Cliff Lee heading back to the Phillies

12.14.10 at 12:20 am ET
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In a startling turn of events, free agent pitcher Cliff Lee has a deal in place to return to the Phillies. The news was first reported by MLB.com, which cited multiple industry sources. According to SI.com, Lee’s deal would be worth $120 million over five years, while FoxSports.com is also reporting there is a vesting option for a sixth year that would pay the pitcher $27.5 million, raising the potential worth of the deal to $135 million. There is also reportedly a $12.5 million buyout in the sixth season.

The deal was shocking in that Lee had been viewed by many in the industry as a mercenary who was intent on extracting as much money as possible from his first foray into free agency. But the Phillies did not make the most substantial offer in terms of either dollars or years. The Yankees, according to several reports, had an offer in the vicinity of seven years and $150 million on the table. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported (via twitter) that the offer was for six years and $138 million (a $23 million AAV, the same that Yankees ace CC Sabathia is receiving), with a seventh-year player option for $16 million that would have brought the total to $154 million ($22 million per year).

But Lee instead was persuaded to return to a city where he enjoyed his first taste of the postseason in 2009. That year, Lee — whom the Phillies acquired in a trade from the Indians earlier in that season — emerged as a dominant October force. But he was traded after the season in a three-team deal that shipped the 2008 AL Cy Young winner to the Mariners and that landed Roy Halladay in Philadelphia (where Halladay went on to win the 2010 NL Cy).

After finishing 2010 with the Rangers, Lee reportedly was offered more years and dollars to play in Texas than Philadelphia. But the appeal of the City of Brotherly Love — and the opportunity to pitch in a loaded rotation that will feature Lee, Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels – apparently proved sufficiently compelling to persuade Lee to return to Philadelphia.

In the last three years, Lee is 48-25 with a 2.98 ERA while bouncing from the Indians to the Phillies to the Mariners and then the Rangers. He is 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA in the postseason, with a remarkable 80-to-8 strikeout-to-walk rate.

The Yankees made the left-hander the centerpiece of their offseason efforts. But in a rare turn of events, New York failed to land its primary free agent target. Making matters worse for the Yankees is the fact that this offseason’s other top free agents who could have offered the team an upgrade — Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford — are no longer available, having signed with the Nationals and Red Sox, respectively.

Read More: Cliff Lee, Phillies, Rangers, Yankees

Adrian Beltre to the Rangers: A consolation prize for the Red Sox?

12.13.10 at 12:37 pm ET
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According to ESPN’s Karl Ravech, the Texas Rangers are hot on the trail of free agent Adrian Beltre, suggesting Cliff Lee might be leaning toward signing with the Yankees. In terms of where Beltre could end up, this would be best-case scenario for the Red Sox. If the third baseman did end up with the Rangers, the Red Sox would secure Texas’ first-round selection in next June’s draft, the 26th overall. The only teams currently with unprotected first-round picks slotted lower than Texas are Colorado, Toronto, St. Louis, and San Diego. None figure to be in the market to ink Beltre, the Red Sox’ last-remaining ‘Type A’ free agent.

The two teams most mentioned when it has come to possible landing spots for Beltre — the Angels and Oakland — both have their first-round picks (No. 17 and 18, respectively) protected.

If Beltre does join up with the Rangers, the Red Sox would then have the No. 19 (from the Tigers for Victor Martinez) and No. 26 picks. They lost their own first-round selection (No. 24) to the Rays for signing Carl Crawford.

Read More: Hot Stove,

Sources: Mariano Rivera initiated contact with Red Sox

12.12.10 at 11:09 pm ET
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According to multiple major league sources, Mariano Rivera’s representatives were the ones to initiate contact with the Red Sox in an attempt to get the team interested in the closer. While the Red Sox would ultimately make a two-year offer to Rivera, according to sources the team’s expectation was that he would be returning to the Yankees. The 41-year-old ultimately re-signed with New York, securing a two-year, $30 million deal.

While there was some thought that because of the offer to Rivera the Red Sox were prepared to non-tender closer Jonathan Papelbon, separate sources suggest the Sox were never inclined to let Papelbon become a free agent this offseason. In the short-term, the team valued the reliever’s presence in the back-end of its bullpen, while long-term it coveted  any draft picks that might come the Sox’ way if Papelbon were to sign elsewhere in free agency next year. The Sox’ closer is arbitration-eligible for a third time, and is heading into the final season of being controlled by the Sox.

The current system allows teams to gain draft picks for players viewed as ‘Type A’ or ‘Type B’ free agents if those players are offered arbitration by their clubs, and then sign with another organization. There is some doubt that the new collective bargaining agreement (the current one extends through the 2011 season) will allow the process to remain intact, but many executives still believe the upcoming group of free agents will be ‘grandfathered’ in for next year’s offseason. Papelbon, who almost certainly would be a ‘Type A’ free agent, would fall into that group.

For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

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