Boston Red Sox Made Huge Mistake Not Signing Cliff Lee in 2010

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Last night’s 3-1 Philadelphia Phillies victory over the Boston Red Sox reminded me what a disaster the 2010-11 offseason was for the Red Sox.

After the Red Sox failed to make the postseason in 2010 it was clear their stagnant offense needed a boost. Naturally the Red Sox blew their money like Pacman Jones in a strip club. They overspent on Carl Crawford, giving him a seven-year deal at over $2o million per season. They did a sign-and-trade with the San Diego Padres, which sent talented prospect Anthony Rizzo packing for Adrian Gonzalez, who was subsequently signed for seven-years at $22 million per season.

The demise of both players in Boston is well documented, but their failure alone doesn’t illustrate what a disaster the offseason was. The problem was not just the money they wasted on those overpaid, overrated drama queens. Rather, it was the money they could have spent on free agent Cliff Lee that makes those signings even worse.

Because the Red Sox elected to blow their money on batting instead of pitching, the Phillies jumped at the opportunity to regain the dominant lefty that led them through the 2009 playoffs. Philadelphia signed Lee to a five-year, $120 million contract. If the Red Sox had invested their money in Lee instead of Crawford and Gonzalez, they would have been a much better team the past three seasons.

The Red Sox got off to a great start in 2011, but their season was ultimately undone in September by their biggest glaring weakness: starting pitching. Meanwhile, the Phillies achieved the best record in baseball behind the solid arm of Lee, who finished with 17 wins, 240 strikeouts and an MLB-leading six shutouts.

Lee also kept a tidy ERA of 2.40, and never missed a start. You may recall the Red Sox starters Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz missing countless starts throughout the year. Beckett famously went golfing through one of his injuries and whined about the fact that he was free to do what he pleased during his 18 off days.

Lee would have provided not only the dominant lefty the Red Sox lacked, but also would have naturally assumed the leadership roll of Boston’s pitching staff. Considering his age and experience, this would have proved to be an invaluable asset around influential young pitchers like Buchholz and Jon Lester.

Lee dominated the Red Sox last night. Red Sox fans were treated to a show as he methodically worked his way through the Boston lineup, ending the Red Sox four-game winning streak in the process. Lee needed only 95 pitches to get through eight innings. He allowed only four hits, one earned run and walked none.

As I watched this masteful performance, I couldn’t help but think what could have been.

 

Aidan Kearney also writes for his own blog aidanfromworcester.com. Follow him on Twitter @aidanfromworc and on Facebook @Aidan FromWorcester

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