Whoa. We assumed that, at some point, a story would come out about how Ruben Amaro contacted Roy Halladay (who was named the Sporting News' Pro Athlete of the Year today) before signing Cliff Lee. What we didn't expect, was that the Phillies would have been so sensitive of Doc's feelings in all this.
Jayson Stark has the report. As you would expect, Doc just wants to win:
But Amaro said when he explained the "special circumstances" that had caused the team to consider altering that philosophy [signing Lee to more than three years]. Halladay told him, "Ruben, this is completely different. This is a totally different circumstance. Do what you think you've got to do to put the best team on the field. … All I want to do is win."
This team is so damn lovable. But this next part is surprising: [ESPN.com]
That reaction, the GM said, was "exactly what I thought I would hear." But he admitted before he made the call, he and assistant GM Scott Proefrock "kicked around a couple of different possibilities" for adjusting Halladay's contract.
Because the Halladay extension was negotiated in the context of a trade, and not free agency, the Phillies felt those circumstances were different. But because they knew that in order to sign Lee, it would take so many more years and dollars than they'd offered Halladay, they might have an uncomfortable situation on their hands.
"So we definitely talked about that," Proefrock said, "how it would impact, if it would impact it. We were concerned about it. I think that's one of the reasons Ruben even called him. … We talked about it. But I don't think it's gotten any further or gone anywhere beyond that."
Because Doc reacted the way he did, the concept stopped there. What's amazing is that the Phillies may have had even more flexibility to "adjust" Doc's contract. And perhaps that's all because of silent partner Joe Middleton: [Great read from CSNPhilly.com]
John Middleton - Don’t underestimate the billionaire part owner’s impact on the Phillies’ aggressiveness. The guy is a competitor. He likes to win. You can see that when he walks around the clubhouse soaked in champagne after playoff series wins. You could see it in his eyes – they were fiery with anger and disappointment – when the Phillies lost in the NLCS in October. Middleton might be a silent partner in the public’s eye, but he’s not silent in that boardroom. He’s got some Steinbrenner in him.
That Steinbrenner is rubbing off and played a part in the Lee negotiations.
As we first reported on Tuesday, the Phillies were not willing to let $5 million come between them and CP Lee. Assistant GM Scott Proefrock called Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, on Friday with an offer. Braunecker, who was driving at the time, scribbled the terms onto the back of a CD case. From there, talks picked up and continued throughout the weekend. But by Sunday, it appeared as though the two sides reached an impasse.
"I sent Darek an e-mail on Sunday around 3 or 4 in the afternoon," Proefrock said. "It was basically, 'Sorry this didn't work out and we couldn't bridge the gap.' I told him, 'I appreciate your professionalism and your efforts to do what's best for your client.'"
Later in the day, Proefrock received a text message from Braunecker. "Is this eating at you as much as it's eating at me?" it read. The dialogue was rekindled, and the deal went from dormant to breathing.
Ultimately, three people willed the deal to fruition from the Phillies' end. Amaro, who's never lost the swagger or cockiness he possessed in his playing days, kept looking for ways to open doors that appeared to be closed. Proefrock, the Phillies' detail man, was the unsung hero, doggedly working through obstacles and finding ways to keep the lines of communication open. And in the end, Phillies president and CEO David Montgomery found a creative way to bump the guaranteed portion of Lee's deal from $115 million to $120 million and push the boulder to the top of the hill.