POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 15, 2010
PHILADELPHIA » Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels -- and Cliff Lee. Yes, Cliff Lee.
The Philadelphia Phillies have assembled quite an impressive starting rotation that could eventually go down as one of the best in baseball history. The stunning addition of Lee gives the Phillies four aces in an era when most teams would be happy to have just one.
Lee spurned more lucrative offers from the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers to return to Philadelphia. The free-agent pitcher passed up an extra $30 million from the Yankees and reached a preliminary agreement on a $120 million, five-year contract with the Phillies, two people familiar with the deal told the Associated Press.
Lee approved the idea of signing with Philadelphia on Monday night when talks hit the $100-million mark, one person said, adding that final negotiations brought the figure higher.
The agreement, includes a buyout of a 2016 option and 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.
Lee's deal starts at $11 milllionCliff Lee starts off his $120 million, five-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies with a relatively modest $11 million salary next season.
Including an option for 2016, the deal could be worth $135 million for six seasons, according to contract information obtained yesterday by the Associated Press.
His pay escalates to $21.5 million in 2012 and increases to $25 million in each of the following three seasons.
There is an option for 2016 for $27.5 million with a $12.5 million buyout. For the option to become guaranteed, Lee must pitch 200 innings in 2015 or 400 innings combined in 2014 and 2015, and he also must not finish the 2015 season on the disabled list because of a left shoulder or elbow injury.
The city, as a result of the news, was abuzz all day with baseball. Even in frigid temperatures -- with the Flyers and Eagles at the top of their games, no less -- all the talk was about Lee and the Phillies getting back to the World Series. In fact, as the Flyers prepared to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins across the street in a battle for first place in the NHL's Atlantic Division, there were more television trucks in front of Citizens Bank Park than there were at the Wells Fargo Center.
The fever is understandable, of course. After all, this fearsome foursome has three Cy Young awards, 13 All-Star game appearances, two NLCS MVP awards, one World Series MVP award, one perfect game and one postseason no-hitter on its remarkable resume.
The World Series-champion San Francisco Giants have an outstanding rotation. But even two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner don't compare just yet.
Lee joined the Phillies in July 2009 in a trade with Cleveland. He had a sensational postseason, going 4-0 and earning two wins in the World Series. But the Yankees beat the Phillies in six games.
Lee never wanted to leave Philadelphia, and was upset when he was dealt to Seattle last December on the same day Halladay was acquired from Toronto. The Phillies tried trading for Lee in July, but ended up with Oswalt instead.
Now they've got them all.
"It was somewhat surprising, but all along we had thought that if a third team would jump in late, it might be the Phillies," Rangers managing partner Chuck Greenberg said, adding that Lee "expressed his affection for his time pitching with the Phillies" during their first meeting.
The Rangers have to fill a big void after losing Lee, who pitched them to their first World Series. And, the Yankees must look elsewhere for a top-of-the-line starter.
"We have a lot of respect for Cliff, Kristen (Cliff's wife) and the way they went about the decision," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said yesterday. "They had three good offers, from three competitive clubs. And they went to a place that they were comfortable, in the National League, and (to be a) part of potentially a historic-type rotation."
Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees have finalized their $30 million, two-year contract.
The 41-year-old closer receives $15 million in each of the next two seasons, with $1.5 million each year deferred with no interest. The deferred money will be paid in $1 million annual installments starting in 2013.
The Yankees also reached a preliminary agreement with catcher Russell Martin and agreed to a minor-league contract with right-hander Mark Prior.