Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cliff Lee returns to Philadelphia Phillies

Who saw this coming? MLB Trade Rumors has been following the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. Lee was traded away during last year's off-season so the Phillies would be able to sign the ever so dominant Roy Halladay. Next season, Lee will be back.
The wait is over. In a surprising development that leaves two top American League teams empty-handed, Cliff Lee has agreed to sign a five-year, $120MM deal with the Phillies. The contract also includes a reachable vesting option for a sixth year.

MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan first reported the deal, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reported on the terms and vesting option (on Twitter). Agent Darek Braunecker represents the left-hander.

After months of rumors that suggested he'd sign with the highest bidder, Lee turned down tens of millions in guaranteed money to sign in Philadelphia. Crasnick hears the Yankees offered a deal that guaranteed Lee $132MM over six years, plus a $16MM player option for a seventh year (Twitter link).  At $148MM guaranteed, that was the highest bid.  The Rangers offered $138MM over six years, and their proposal included a vesting option that could have brought the value of the deal to $161MM, according to Yahoo's Tim Brown (Twitter links).

Almost exactly a year after they traded Lee for Roy Halladay, the lefty is back in Philadelphia. Like Halladay, who signed an extension that delayed his free agency, Lee opted to play for the Phillies instead of looking for the biggest contract possible. The Phils could have a historically good rotation if Lee, Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels stay healthy.
The Phillies are still the favorites to win the NL East and a possible return to the NLCS and the World Series in 2011.

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