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Going back to Philly: Cliff Lee chooses Phillies over Yankees and Rangers

Dec 14, 2010, 12:12 AM EDT

World Series Phillies Yankees Baseball

Wow. In one of the most surprising free agent signings in a long time, Cliff Lee has turned down longer, more lucrative offers from both the Yankees and Rangers to return to the Phillies.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Lee’s deal is worth approximately $100 million for five seasons. Obviously that’s far from chump change, especially if reports about a vesting sixth-year option are accurate, but it’s significantly less than the Yankees’ reported final offer of as much as $154 million over seven years.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has a policy against speaking about free agent negotiations and somehow managed to remain under the radar until tonight, when rumors began swirling that the Phillies were the “mystery team” Jon Heyman of SI.com had been speculating about without knowing (or at least revealing) their identity.

Sure enough, Amaro swooped in and now Lee re-joins a pitching staff with fellow aces Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels for what has a chance to be one of the best rotations of all time.

Lee spent a half-season with the Phillies in 2009, going 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 regular season starts and dominating in five playoff outings as the team fell to the Yankees in the World Series. He was under contract for another season, but Amaro traded him to the Mariners for prospects last December 16 and filled his spot atop the rotation with Halladay.

Lee repeatedly spoke about enjoying his time in Philadelphia, but with the Phillies seemingly having little payroll room to get into a bidding war for him after adding Oswalt’s hefty contract at midseason the Yankees and Rangers emerged as the presumed favorites. Turns out, Amaro was doing his work without leaking any information to the media and Lee was shockingly willing to leave as much as $50 million on the table to return to Philadelphia.

  1. schlom - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:18 AM

    Has anyone is sports history (or really anywhere really) turned down more money than Lee just did?

    Also is Ruben Amaro the greatest GM is history? He’s just managed to save at least $100m in signing two of the top 5 pitchers in baseball.

  2. pisano - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:21 AM

    Thank God this overpriced jerk-off signed with someone other than the Yankees. He’s not worth half of what he was offered, I have nothing against the Phillies, or the Rangers, but I’m so happy someone else got him. The Yankees I’m sure have back-up plans and now they can go ahead with them and also save a ton of money. Good luck.

    • oneshot386 - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:05 AM

      POOR YANKEES FAN, YOUR A LOSER!!!

      • bll4492 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:03 AM

        You’re a loser…….. If you are going totry and insult someone, spell it correctly.

        your adj \yər, ˈyu̇r, ˈyȯr\
        Definition of YOUR
        1: of or relating to you or yourself or yourselves especially as possessor or possessors , agent or agents , or object or objects of an action
        2: of or relating to one or oneself
        3—used with little or no meaning almost as an equivalent to the definite article the

        you’re\yər, ˈyu̇r, ˈyȯr, ˌyü-ər\
        Definition of YOU’RE
        : you are

    • cktai - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:42 AM

      I have to admit that 154M for 7y a 32yo Cliff Lee is overpaying him, especially since he is unlikely yo be worth 20M+ for the last few years. However 100M for 5y sounds very reasonable. Classy move by Lee to give such a huge favourite team discount.

    • stanfa - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:46 AM

      we know you’re hurt. it shows in your message. get over it. go on with your life if you have one. your team is aging and won’t be a factor next year. perhaps you should take up lawn bowling.

    • stanfa - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:03 AM

      hey pisano, to cheer you up maybe you can be the phillies 5th starter. they’ll still play .800 ball.

  3. elric718 - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:21 AM

    I think in 5 years he will get another contract.

    Tony Gwynn used to leave money on the table to stay in SD, and Greg Maddux was staying in Atlanta at any price, but that was the olden days when players made minimum wage.

  4. phukyouk - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:23 AM

    At least the Yanks can go out and get King Felix now. but OMFG! 5 yrs 100 Mil… i gotta say i respect the guy alot more right now.. he just wants a ring or 5

    • theonlycush - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:34 AM

      Do they have enough prospects to get him? I doubt it.

    • mtner77 - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:23 AM

      “At least the Yanks can go out and get King Felix now.”

      Good Luck with that!

      El Gato signed last spring with the M’s through 2014. If he had ANY interest in becoming a Yankee he simply would have waited a year and would have been in the same situation Lee is in now. And even the Yankees’ do not have enough prospects or cash to pry Felix loose. So when do you figure the Yankees’ will get him? April 2015?

  5. thecriticalcynic - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:24 AM

    That’s a lot of money for the second best rotation in the NL.

  6. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:25 AM

    Perhaps Lee looked at the left side of the Yankees infield (a little older and a litter slower) and OMG I’ll have to strike all the RH batters out!

  7. kesselchamp - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:29 AM

    Lifelong Rangers fan here, glad to hear Lee went where he wanted to go, and seems to have done it on his own terms. Leaving money and years on the table so you can play where you want shows it wasn’t about the money or the prestige, he just wants to win. I think he could still win in Texas, but I can’t fault him for wanting to be a part of the best rotation in the history of history.

    We’ll meet again the World Series, Cliff! Now come on Rangers, go get Greinke!!!!

  8. garyfd - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:31 AM

    This is really great news! Now the Rangers can get some really good young pitching talent with that 20 mil or so they were going to waste on Lee. Cliff is a Yankee killer but that’s about it. He can’t win the big ones against the National League best.

    • hossenfefer - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:46 AM

      so as a Ranger fan you would rather have a pitcher that “might” be able to beat the best teams in the NL (and who exactly is that anway?).over a guy that absolutely owns the best team in the AL. You know, the league your favorite team plays in? That’s pretty backwards. I assume you’re just upset you lost a top 5 pitcher. As a Twins fan, I’m just happy he went to the NL.

  9. Reflex - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:37 AM

    Gotta say, I’m impressed. What I want to know is: Did they give him a no-trade clause? He repeatedly said during the season that he’d sign where he had some security because he was tired of the moving.

    Phukyuk – You got four more seasons before you get your shot at Felix. Enjoy the wait.

  10. jhorton83 - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:45 AM

    Holy mother of crap. You have to hand it to the Phillies for pulling out this kind of shocker. Nobody was even mentioning the Phillies as being in on this. Now you have a rotation that includes Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rotation like that. Should be fun to watch.

  11. oneshot386 - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:10 AM

    ANYONE WHO THINKS THIS IS NOT THE BEST ROTATION IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL, IS EITHER VERY JELOUS OR JUST A COMPLETE IDIOT. hahahahahahahahahaahahahah he just turned down the biggest offer in the history for a pitcher to be apart of the GREATEST ROTATION IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL. THE PHILLIES REALLY ARE THE CLASS OF ALL OF BASEBALL.

    • iamthedoublestandard - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:21 AM

      Slow your roll bro. It’s the best rotation in name only. Talk to me this time next year. There’s no ‘best’ anything till they take it all. And with the names involved they’ll have to do it convincingly. Easy there cowgirl.

  12. edog623 - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:15 AM

    Why is this being seen as a good move by Amaro? It looks to me like a miscalculation that cost Philly the 2010 World Series. They traded for Halladay and immediately ditched Lee under the assumption that they couldn’t resign him. Now it seems he was willing to take 30-50 million less than his market value to pitch for the Phillies. Isn’t this a whole situation a misread of where they stood with Lee? They traded Lee, went a season without him and came up just barely short of a World Series berth (against the team that did have Lee) and then realized their mistake and signed him as a free agent. Looks like they never needed to let him go in the first place.

    • deep64blue - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:09 AM

      He wasn’t going to sign for this last year – that’s what he made clear and why the Phillies traded him, now he knows what he’s missing and was ready to sign.

    • bleedgreen - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:15 AM

      If they don’t trade Cliff Lee, they don’t get Roy Oswalt, period. It still would have been a great line up with Lee, Halladay and Hamels (Who was an unknown at the end of 08), but adding Lee in there? Shit son… do they even NEED a 5th starter?

  13. gt929 - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:25 AM

    I’m a Ranger fan and really wanted him to resign with them, but I’m not gonna say them grapes was probably sour anyway. It just had to be about where he thought he had the best chance to win. (Hope he’s wrong!) He surely shot down the arguments that no one leaves much money on the table, and that the union won’t let players take less. I do have to admit that I’m glad it wasn’t those big Yankee bullies that took our lunch.

  14. jcfromdallas - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:41 AM

    The man’ taking his best shot at a World Series ring…period. The Yanks are too old with not enough pitching and the Rangers aren’t that talented. The Phillies will rule the NL; too bad for the Mets. Wonder what they’ll do???? PS: I’m a Yankees fan but those are the facts.

    • edog623 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:36 AM

      The Yanks are too old? What about Philly? All 4 infielders and 2/3 outfielders in their 30s. Their best “young” position player is Utley (31, 3 years older than Cano), Howard is older than Teixiera and is an all or nothing strikeout/HR type, and Rollins, at 32 just put up a season where he batted .243 (27 points worse than Jeter’s career worst this year) with 17 steals (fewer than Jeter) and just had wrist surgery.

      He likes Philly, we get that, but they’re not younger or more talented until you hit the starting pitching. Their rotation is better now, but only because of Lee.

      • bleedgreen - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:21 AM

        There was no way the starting rotation could get better unless it was with Lee in it. Thats a fact. The only thing they could do to improve further is get Greinke as a #5.

        And you talk about Rollins? He was hurt most of the year, and the wrist surgery was to remove a cyst, not because anything was ripped/torn/broken.

  15. sfgiants1 - Dec 14, 2010 at 2:22 AM

    Go Giants!!!

    Now that’s the # 1 pitching rotation. Timmy beat Lee twice on their way to a WS ring.

  16. philcommander - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:18 AM

    As a Phillies fan I can’t wait to give this man a standing ovation next year. Maybe he just wanted to go where the fans are the most passionate about their teams. We will boo you out of town if you don’t give your all…but if you give us your all you will be the toast of town. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose…just give us your all. I think Lee ‘gets’ Philly…and thats why he stayed.

  17. uyf1950 - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:02 AM

    Finally a decision. At least now the Yankees and the Rangers can move on to other business. BTW if I’m Roy Halladay I’m not a very happy camper just about now. Sure Halladay’s a year older, but you can’t tell me this agreement with Lee isn’t going to get under his skin. Arguably a better pitcher than Lee over a longer period of time and they are paying him less money ($4M per year less) not including the giving Lee more years. I want to see how the Philly fans are going to spin this when many of them were talking about CC and his money and contract length. If this were football just about now the so called experts would be saying we have the making of a “quarterback controversy”. Only it’s a pitchers controversy. While the Yankees are out of the Lee race, it would be a mistake to count them out of the race for the World Series. The Yankees have a way of coming back more often than not.
    Congratulation to the Phillies they “picked the pockets” of both the Rangers and the Yankees. But since all the teams still have to play 162 games and no one wins the World Series in December the final chapter of what will be the 2011 baseball season hasn’t been written yet. Keep in mind the Phillies offense isn’t quite what it was in 2010 with the loss of Jason Werth. Then there is Ryan Howard who at 31 is already starting to see his numbers fall off.

    • goveiac - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:59 AM

      That’s so bush league…..

      • uyf1950 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:37 AM

        Why because it’s the truth or because everything I posted above has been posted about the Yankees during this “saga” with Lee by non Yankee fans?

  18. macjacmccoy - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:36 AM

    Damn I just feel sorry for Jeter I bet even he would have picked the Phillies over the Yankees if they offered him a contract.

    • stanfa - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:06 AM

      we don’t want him.

  19. goforthanddie - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:44 AM

    I guess he realized once the contract hits 9 digits, exact numbers don’t matter. Good on him.

  20. stanfa - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:28 AM

    pisano, we know you’re hurt. it shows in your message. get over it. go on with your life if you have one. your team is aging and won’t be a factor next year. perhaps you should take up lawn bowling.

  21. kcfanatic - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    I like that Lee went back to the Phillies, but makes me wonder about collusion between the player and the GM. I wonder if this was staged last year to get prospects to trade for their pitching staff knowing that they would sign him in his free agent year.

    I know that it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that is earily similar to a story told here in KC. Jeff Montgomery was a top of the line closer, and the GM was trying to trade him for prospects in his contract year to a contender. The Royals would get prospects, Jeff would have a chance to go to the playoffs. There was a behind the scenes agreement that Jeff would resign with the Royals in the off-season. The trade didn’t pan out, but the idea was there and has been told by Jeff on local radio. I’m sure he’s not the first player that that has almost happended with.

  22. goveiac - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    I have never been happier. As a lifelong Jays fan, there is very little that brings me as much joy and heartfelt appreciation then seeing a team other than the Yankees or the Red Sox make big name acquisitions, especially when those two teams are in the hunt for specific players. Not that I would walk across the room to piss on the teeth of the Phillies if they were on fire, but its nice to see the AL East (easily the toughest division in the bigs) not get overblown by big Yankee paychecks or huge Red Sox signing bonuses, keep it a bit more competitive so my Blue Birds can reign supreme once again.

  23. Jonny 5 - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    “I want to see how the Philly fans are going to spin this when many of them were talking about CC and his money and contract length.”

    I for one was not saying a darned thing about the contract CC got. I think it was a smart move to tie him up for that long by the Yankees. Sure it’s easy to balk at any long term deal like that, but if your team can afford to do it, any fan would be crazy to complain imo. I love me some CC, he’s a stud pitcher. So that’s what i’ll do, I’ll be crazy happy about getting Lee back, but reserve the right to complain later if his abilities diminish greatly.

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