It’s not often that you witness history.
But here in Philadelphia, where America’s history is rich, so too is that of America’s Pastime.
Particularly in recent years.
Philadelphia made history yet again late Monday night as they brought back former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee for five years in the $120 million range with a vesting option for sixth year according to SI’s Jon Heyman.
It’s hard to believe that with reining Cy Young winner Roy Halladay (21-10, 2.44 ERA), Cole Hamels, (12-11, 3.06) Roy Oswalt (13-13, 2.76) and now Lee (12-9, 3.18) that the Phillies don’t have the greatest starting rotation ever assembled.
Amongst a battle between the North and South, the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers appeared to be the front-runners to sign the free-agent lefty.
The talk of the identity of the “mystery” team began to emerge early Monday evening. By midnight, Lee turned down the Yankees a six-year, $138 million contract with a vesting option that increased the value to $154 million as well as the Rangers offer of seven-years for around $160 million.
High Hopes’ Shay Roddy spoke with a source directly involved with the team’s personnel decision making around Midnight Tuesday morning. The source refused to comment on the reports, stating that he doesn’t “know anything about it at all.”
“That’s typical Ruben Amaro, Jr.,” MLB Network analyst Mitch Williams said. “You don’t hear a thing about it until the deal is done.”
When the “mystery team” emerged as the Phillies, it was not completely surprising. Despite being silent during Lee talks in recent weeks, it was no secret that the lefthander loved his time in Philadelphia. Unfortunately money seemed to always get in the way between Lee and the Phils.
This time the Phillies were willing to make the long-term investment.
“He feels like he has a unique opportunity to be part of that rotation” said Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels after Lee informed the team he was turning down their offer.
To be part of the Phillies rotation rotation, Lee turned down some major money yet his contract is still the fifth highest all-time for a starting pitcher.
After letting free-agent outfielder Jayson Werth sign with the Washington Nationals, the Phillies were very quiet at the Winter Meetings. Apparently they were setting up for the kill.
Despite winning the Cy Young Award in 2008, the Cleveland Indians traded Lee to the Phillies mid-way through the 2009 season. Lee had an instant impact, revitalizing the team by going 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts while dominating in the playoffs going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in 40.1 innings. Lee led the Phillies their second straight pennant before being part of a three team trade that sent Halladay to Philadelphia and Lee to Seattle.
During a 2010 season of “what-if'” the Phillies could have maintained both Halladay and Lee, the Phils made yet another mid-season deal acquiring Oswalt from the Houston Astros.
Meanwhile, Lee was traded again at the mid-season deadline, this time to the Rangers leading them to their first American League Pennant in franchise history.
During an injury prone and overall erratic year on the mound in 2007 for Cleveland, where he was left off the playoff roster, Lee dominated the Yankees in both the 2009 and 2010 playoffs. While Lee was on the mound, his wife was the target of much scrutiny from the New York fans — a possible reason Lee didn’t sign with the Yankees.
Nevertheless, Lee is once again a Phillie. The 32-year-old has had concerns of lower back problems. Despite his dominance when he’s healthy, The Phillies may be be taking a risk signing Lee to a long-term contract.
But it’s a risk Amaro was willing to take. Already due to owe $150 million to 17 different players before the Lee deal, Amaro said the team will make an exception for a special player.
This also means that the Phillies will have to dump some contracts most likely pitcher Joe Blanton and outfielder Raul Ibanez who is due $11.5 million and is in the last year of his contract.
The Phillies were also looking to solve bullpen problems this off-season but now that they have the top two complete game pitchers in the majors over the last two seasons in Halladay (27) and Lee (17) a substantial load is taken off of the relievers.
Playing for five teams in two years must have taken a toll on Lee, although with the way he played you would have never known. Now that the ace has a long-term deal he can finally settle down to a place he calls home.
Lee never burned bridges with Philadelphia despite being abruptly traded to Seattle, “They did a lot of things right,” Lee said.
After Monday it appears the Phillies have done everything right.