Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies Agree to Deal: Greatest Rotation Ever?

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Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies Agree to Deal: Greatest Rotation Ever?
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

If you thought Carl Crawford to the Red Sox was stunning, listen to this: Cliff Lee is returning to Philadelphia.

The news comes as a jaw-dropping conclusion to the Cliff Lee saga, slamming the door on months of widely accepted speculation that the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers were the only two realistic landing spots for the former Cy Young winner.

The deal is reportedly for five-years and $120 million—one year and $18 million less than the six-year, $138 million deal (with a player option for a seventh year) offered by Texas, and two years and $30 million less than the seven-year, $150 million deal reportedly offered by New York. 

Clearly, Lee's decision was not about the money, as he left tens of millions of dollars on the table by returning to the team he led to the 2009 World Series.

Lee's five-year deal establishes some much-needed stability for a man who's played for four different teams over the past two years. Originally acquired by Philadelphia at the 2009 trading deadline, Lee carried the Fightin' Phils to the pennant, going 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA down the stretch, and then topping that with one of the greatest postseason performances in Major League history, going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA with two complete games.

Following Philadelphia's loss to New York in the Fall Classic, and after failing to sign Lee to a contract extension, Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro Jr. shipped the lefty to Seattle in a three-team mega-deal that brought 2010 Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay to Philly (it all seems worth it now, doesn't it?).

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One of the lone stars on a struggling Mariners team, Lee was traded again on July 9 to the Texas Rangers—only after a deal to send Lee to the Yankees fell through at the last minute.

Lee promptly led his new club to the pennant for the second year in a row while putting together another masterful postseason performance, going 3-0 while sporting an ERA under one in the ALDS and ALCS en route to the Rangers' first pennant in franchise history.

Although he did struggle in the World Series—losing both starts to the Giants while garnering a 6.94 ERA—Lee is deservedly credited as one of the best postseason pitchers of all-time for his efforts in the past two Octobers.

Lee will now join an already formidable Philadelphia rotation, which already features Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, to create what is the most dominant rotation in recent baseball history—with the potential to be one of the best in baseball history.

If all four pitchers continue pitching to their recent standards, it will surely rival the pitching staffs of the mid-'90s Atlanta Braves, early-'70s Baltimore Orioles and mid-'60s Los Angeles Dodgers.

Look out, Major League Baseball—pitching wins championships, and the Philadelphia Phillies look primed for success for years to come.


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