Cliff Lee spurned the aggressive advances of the Yankees and the sweet seduction of the Rangers for a little brotherly love. While the Rangers and the Yankees appeared to be the top 2, in fact the only 2, contenders to land Lees services for the 2011 season and beyond. According to many sources, whoever sweetened the deal with a 7th year would have the inside track to land Lee.
Then, out of nowhere, at the proverbial eleventh hour, the Phillies swooped in and sunk their battleships. The Phillies offered Lee a 5 year/$120 million contract with an option of a 6th year. A sizeable sum, in fact it would be the 5th highest contract for a free agent pitcher ever, but smaller than the Rangers 6 year/$138 million with a vesting option for a 7th year at $23 million, and much smaller than the Yankees 7 year/$154 million offer.
According to ESPN.coms Jerry Crasnick, Lee's deal includes $107.5 million in salary, a $12.5 million buyout and a $27.5 million vesting option that kicks in if he pitches 200 innings in 2015 or a combined 400 innings during the 2014-2015 seasons.
That means Lee is leaving about $30 million on the table. That's incredible at all, much less considering the pay-for-play (to borrow the term) culture of professional sports today. The past few years its been all about the individual and the money the individual can make. This is clearly about more than money. This is about winning. This is about going back to a place where both he and his family felt comfortable.
Lee said that he never truly wanted to leave in the first place. The Phillies traded Lee in the offseason for fear that they couldn't resign him. Instead, they waited and pulled off an enormous coup in landing Lee a second time.
Lee joins a Phillies staff with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels that has collected Cy Youngs and World Series MVPs like they are baseball cards, giving the Phillies rotation a chance to be one of the greatest of all time, challenging to join the ranks of the great Braves rotation of the 90s, the Orioles of the early 70s, and the Tigers of the 40s.
Will they do it? We'll soon find out. But that much firepower on offense and depth in the rotation, plus National League competition, seems to put the odds in the Phillies favor. Bad news for the Braves and the rest of the league.