POSTED: 7:33 p.m. HST, Dec 13, 2010
NEW YORK — Cliff Lee is returning to the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that traded him nearly one year ago.
The free-agent pitcher reached a preliminary agreement on a contract with the Phillies on Monday night, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.
The deal is subject to the 32-year-old left-hander passing a physical, the person said on condition of anonymity because the agreement was not final.
The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers received telephone calls Monday night telling them they were out of the running, two separate people familiar with those team’s negotiations said, also on condition of anonymity.
Lee 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner turned down longer and more lucrative offers to return to the team he helped reach the 2009 World Series after a midseason trade from Cleveland.
New York had started with a $138 million, six-year offer to Lee, the person familiar with the Yankees’ negotiations said. After outfielder Carl Crawford agreed to a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, New York immediately increased its offer to Lee to $150 million over seven seasons, the person said.
Philadelphia dealt Lee to Seattle as part of a four-team, nine-player swap after the 2009 season while simultaneously acquiring Roy Halladay from Toronto and signing him to a new contract that added $60 million over three seasons. When the Phillies sign Lee, he will join Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels to form what would be considered the top rotation in the major leagues.
The Phillies have been considering trading pitcher Joe Blanton and/or outfielder Raul Ibanez to clear payroll space, a person familiar with Philadelphia’s deliberations. said. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because those talks were ongoing.
Lee had a good time during his stay with the Phillies, who acquired him from Cleveland in July 2009.
“At first, I didn’t believe it. I thought we were working out an extension with the Phillies,” Lee said the day after the trade. “I thought I’d be spending the rest of my career there. ... I was under the impression they wanted to keep me there for a long time. In my mind, it was going to happen.”