Thank You, Cliff Lee!
No, I’m not happy Cliff Lee spurned both the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers this offseason. No, I’m not happy Lee joins a rotation that will include him, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, and that rotation is one the Cardinals will have to face at least twice a year. And no, I’m not happy that a starting pitcher in his mid-30s will be making $20 million per year, though I am thankful Adam Wainwright is locked up for a couple more seasons.
What I am happy about is the overall meaning of Lee’s signing with the Philadelphia Phillies. He left seven figures and another season or two on the table to return to a team he loved playing for. Even though it’s still ridiculous money, Lee demonstrated through his actions, not just his words, that money isn’t the only thing in this game. The precedent has been set.
And the Cardinals have to be jumping for joy today, because they still have to sign Albert Pujols this offseason.
Now I’m not delusional. I don’t believe Pujols will look at Lee’s deal and say, “$20 million for five years? I can live with that.” Pujols is still extremely likely to be the highest paid player in baseball history when it’s all said and done. But maybe, just maybe, some of this $280 million over 10 years talk can die down a bit. Pujols has said, on numerous occasions, that he wants to be a Cardinal for life. He’s also said he’s not all about the money, and he wants to play on a team that has a chance to win every year. Well, Albert, here’s the deal: the Phillies are all in. The Cardinals want you just as bad as you want them, but they don’t have the ability to jack their payroll up to $150 million per season. You want to have the chance to beat those Phillies every year? It’s time to sign a deal. And you may not necessarily have to take a “discount,” because you’re easily going to make more money than any Cardinal ever has. But don’t balk (pun intended) if John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt try to get creative with the numbers. This team can’t compete if they can’t afford to surround you with great talent, and that doesn’t come cheap either. We, as Cardinal fans, are taking you at your word. And now we have an example to point to in Cliff Lee: money, in fact, isn’t everything.