Surprise, surprise...coveted free-agent ace Cliff Lee has signed with his former club the Philadelphia Phillies. According to multiple media outlets, the 32 year-old All-Star hurler will make a return to the team who he helped lead to the 2009 World Series and reportedly has agreed to a five-year, $120 million deal with a vesting option for a sixth year.
Lee put up sparkling numbers that postseason with a 4–0 record, 33 strikeouts in 40.1 innings pitched, and a microscopic ERA of 1.56 ERA and was the only Philadelphia starter earn a victory during the 2009 World Series with each of their two victories.
In a move that will stun baseball fans across the nation, Lee turned down the advances of the New York Yankees who defeated the Phillies during that same World Series. By joining Philadelphia, he will have rejected a seven-year offer from the Yankees that would have paid him in the range of $160 million.
It should also be mentioned that Lee would have earned significantly higher endorsement contracts if he opted to put on the pinstripes and passed on the opportunity to team up with close friend C.C. Sabathia.
The Texas Rangers were said to have given Lee multiple deals to consider including one worth more than $20 million annually over six seasons. Rangers' manager Ron Washington admitted that he was confident that the star hurler re-signing telling reporters "that he'll be here."
Lee's performances this past postseason propelled the Rangers into the 2010 World Series where they lost to the San Francisco Giants in six games. Some baseball insiders felt that Texas held an advantage in negotiations due to the Rangers' proximity to his Arkansas home.
Lee will now form part of what experts will undoubtedly refer to as an "All-Star" Phillies rotation. Along with Lee, Roy Halladay is one of the most revered pitchers in the game. Philadelphia will now have a one-two combination that no team across the MLB could match. Completing the "murderer's row" of top-four starters are Roy Oswalt, who after his July trade from the Houston Astros recaptured his dominant ways and Cole Hamels who enjoyed a terrific comeback season in 2010.
The capture of Lee will give Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel an arsenal of supreme starters to choose from in potential playoff match-ups as the Phillies are surely a "shoe-in" to make the playoffs in the upcoming 2011 season.
Club general manager Ruben Amaro will likely deal away Joe Blanton to free up some space as 26-year-old Kyle Kendrick is predicted to be their fifth starter to fill out Philadelphia's rotation.
Lee is coming off of a fine 2009 regular season campaign where he put up a 3.18 ERA, 185 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.00 in combined duty with the Rangers and Seattle Mariners. A nine-year veteran, his career ERA stands at 3.85 with a win-loss record of 102-61.
As Phillies fans awake to Tuesday morning, the will be greeted by the sensational news that their club has reacquired one of the predominant starters in baseball to add to their already stunning rotation.
Late-night message board viewing "Phanatics" are already predicting a return to the "fall classic" for their beloved Phils. Only time will tell if this group can live up to the lofty expectations that most MLB pundits will place upon the Phillies in 2011.