The New York Yankees wanted Cliff Lee. They had history, tradition, fan base, allure, and a powerhouse roster on their side. They also had money, more money than any other team could offer. Surely he would choose them.
The Texas Rangers wanted Cliff Lee. They had new owners (including a hall-of-fame pitcher), a young, competitive team, passionate fans, and proximity to Lee’s home. They also had familiarity on their side, since he played for them last season. Oh – Texas also had a lot of money due to new ownership and a new TV contract. Surely he would choose them.
Then came rumours of a mystery team, likely the Anaheim Angels. Not only could they offer a ton of money, but they almost had to sign Lee to erase years of offseason failure. Over the past five or six years they had set their sights on – and failed to acquire – Paul Konerko, Alfonso Soriano, Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and this year Carl Crawford. Surely Lee would sign with them.
Lee wanted a seven-year contract. Very few teams could offer that. The Yankees did.
So Cliff Lee signed a five-year deal with the Phillies.
It makes no sense.
The Phillies had him – but traded him away. He didn’t want to go, but they got rid of him anyways.
The Yankees and Rangers offered him more money and more guaranteed years.
And yet…it makes the most sense in the world.
He loved Philadelphia. And he loves winning.
By re-joining the Phillies he returns to the city he enjoyed more than any other during his big league career. He loved the fans, the park, and felt comfortable. He also joins the team that has to be considered a World Series favourite, or at the very least the NL favourite.
Think about that rotation – Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels? Scary.
So it’s back to the drawing board for the Yanks, who now have to hope that an aging Andy Pettitte decides to come back and join an aging Jeter, aging A-Rod, aging Rivera, aging Posada, and broken down Burnett.
Fans are rejoicing.
Two rapid thoughts before signing off:
1. Yes Lee turned down the Yankees. Yes he didn’t choose the highest bidder. But can we please stop anointing him a saint? It’s not like he turned down $148-million to become a bank teller. He turned down $148-million for $100-million (maybe more). As I read last night on Twitter (can’t remember who wrote it): it’s much easier to leave $50-million on the table when you have $100-million.
2. My free-agent predictions have been pathetic, just as bad as my playoff predictions. Aside from the obvious (Jeter and Rivera back with NY), I have only nailed Victor Martinez to Detroit. I was wrong on Jayson Werth (I said Boston), Carl Crawford (Anaheim), Lee (NY), Adam Dunn (A’s), Paul Konerko (Rangers), and Jorge De La Rosa (Rangers).