Around 4 pm EST today, I noticed a tweet from Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman that there was a third team in the Cliff Lee Sweepstakes.
"Word is offer much lower than NYY's, but it's also a place Lee loves," Tweeth Heyman.
Right then and there I knew the Phillies were still in the running.
Who else could it realistically have been?
Lee was upset when he was traded to the Mariners for three prospects, disappointed that he was not given the opportunity to pitch with Roy Halladay for a winning team.
With Lee back in the fold, that winning should continue.
The Phillies starting rotation featured three premiere pitchers and Lee won't be a shabby fourth.
By all accounts, Lee loved his time in Philadelphia and clearly, he must feel a bond with his former teammates, Charlie Manuel, Citizens Bank Park, the city, cheese steaks or something.
After all, the Phillies simply didn't approach the dollars the Yankees were willing to pay—reported by Buster Olney at six years, $138 million with a player option for a seventh year at $16 million.
That's a total of $154,000,000 guaranteed dollars.
And get this: Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported the Rangers actually put $161 million on the table over seven years, though the seventh year was based on a vesting option.
Lee turned that down, too.
Early reports have the deal with the Phillies at around $115 million over five years with a vesting option for a sixth year.
He's certainly not going to be hurting for cash anytime soon, but for a guy everyone assumed would chase the almighty dollar to wherever that took him, the news was shocking.
But let's look at a few reasons why it makes sense, if not $en$e:
- Lee, in joining the Phillies, could help form arguably the greatest starting pitching rotation of all time. Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee alongside Kyle Kendrick, Vance Worley or even a right-handed throwing Jamie Moyer will simply be dominant as long as they stay healthy.
- This is a good team. They've continued to show that they will do anything possible to continue to be a good team. While it's not difficult to second guess several moves made by GM Ruben Amaro, the organization has proven it will spend money and make deals to make an impact now (unless of course, they are busy trading Lee, which of course, is done with an eye on the future). If I were a Major Leaguer (and I'm not... yet), that would appeal to me.
- I never read a story about Phillies fans harassing Cliff Lee's wife.
Cliff Lee is a straight shooter. I expect we'll hear all about why he chose the Phillies over any other team pursuing him.
I also can't imagine Lee coming to Philadelphia for any reason other than the opportunity to form one of the greatest rotations of all time.
The Phillies laid the groundwork for this signing last year. When Amaro traded for and extended Roy Halladay and then flipped Lee for prospects, we should have known he'd be back.
It would have saved quite a bit of angst.
And I'm guessing Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, negotiated a no-trade clause into this contract so we won't have to go through this again.