The Phillies season came to a disappointing end last night with the loss to the Yankees in game 6 of the World Series. No back to back titles for the Fightin's. But what is next? This morning's Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting the team is "thinking" about whether to pick up pitcher Cliff Lee's $9 million option for next season. The concern is Lee will be 31 next season and will be seeking a C-C like deal for 2011 and beyond. The Phils do have a high payroll but they would be foolhardy if they didn't pick up the option and start talking immediately with the lefty about an extension. It may cost them 20 million a year but it will be worth the investment.
The Phillies are still a top draw team with most of their star parts under contract and in their prime. The real problem they have is the rotation. If the World Series taught the team anything it is that Lee is their ace. He was 4-0 in the post-season with a 1.56 ERA. Overall he was 11-4 since being acquired at the end of July. The Phillies rotation after Lee is really in flux. Cole Hamels took a step backward this season, especially in the post-season, where he was inconsistent at best and bad at worst. Pedro and Jamie Moyer are 40-somethings who can't be counted on. Joe Blanton is a good #3 or 4 starter. J.A. Happ was the big surprise of the season but will he suffer a sophomore slump next season. Sign Lee and don't worry about the front of the rotation. Hope that Hamels gets his head and mechanics back together in the off-season and look for the emergence of Happ.
The Phils also need to address the bullpen, but without a strong starting staff-anchored by Lee-the pen is irrelevant.