The last Cliff Lee Phillies deal resulted in a World Series berth. Yet another Cliff Lee Phillies union looked impossible months later, when he was dealt for Roy Halladay. For virtually all of 2010, Philadelphia fans bashed GM Ruben Amaro Jr. for not having both aces on his roster. Despite later getting Roy Oswalt, the city was left wondering what might have been when the Giants dethroned them. But all of the angst from the NLCS is being replaced with World Series dreams again, after the second and most shocking Cliff Lee deal yet.
The Yankees and Rangers dominated all discussions for the year’s biggest free agent prize. Despite recent talk over a third “mystery team” in the running, few thought he would go anywhere but New York or Texas. For that matter, few thought he wouldn’t be anything but a Yankee.
Yet rumors began to break early last night, when sources leaked that Philadelphia was a mystery team in the running. However, they couldn’t break the bank to re-sign Jayson Werth, and they were already stacked in their starting rotation. Since Lee was asking for 6-7 years, and likely close to $150 million, even Philadelphia seemed unlikely to afford him.
However, word broke after midnight that the Phillies weren’t just in the running, but that they had won the sweepstakes. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, Lee wound up only taking a 5-year deal, yet one rumored to be worth almost $25 million a year. There are also incentives for a sixth year, but it seems he did not get a widely expected seven-year contract – although he may not have minded.
Shock was felt all around the baseball world over the deal. After an offseason where many gigantic contracts were criticized, the player expected to get the biggest payday of all took a cut. Instead of a seven-year, $150+ million agreement, he left a potential $20-30 million, and two guaranteed years, on the table to return to Philadelphia.
Perhaps the only way this race could have lived up to the hype is if the Yankees didn’t win, but it turned out to be more unpredictable than that. In fact, no one saw this coming until a few hours beforehand, and now people are leaping to call Philadelphia’s rotation the greatest ever.
However, the second Cliff Lee Phillies era isn’t starting with either of them on a roll. Philadelphia was taken down by San Francisco, despite having three aces, and then the Giants became the first team to rock Lee in the postseason. Both the pitcher and his new/old team have something to prove now, now that their October rotations have taken a hit.
Thanks to Lee’s comeback, the Phillies join the Red Sox as the big offseason winners – but it’ll be 10 months before their moves really pay off.
ESPN- “Sources: Cliff Lee to return to Phillies”