Cliff Lee Rejoins Phillies, Spurns Yankees, Rangers

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Late Monday night, baseball fans in New York City and Arlington probably felt like the Grinch just stole their biggest present while fans in the City of Brotherly Love caught Santa dropping off a gift that was beyond their wildest dreams in the form of a 6'3" fireballing left hander.

In a shocking move, Texas Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee turned down the Yankees and Rangers and will return to his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies, according to reports from ESPN.

A Rangers front office source told Richard Durret of that Lee had reached an agreement with the Phillies. According to other sources, Lee's deal is for five years and $120 million with an option for a sixth year.

The signing ends the race for the biggest name free agent pitcher on the market and gives the Phillies an excellent opportunity to reach the National League Championship Series for the third year in a row.

"We're disappointed but now we can move on and look at other ways to improve the team," Rangers G.M. Jon Daniels said. "We still have every expectation to win this year. It's hard to take fault with Cliff's decision when he chooses a spot that he and his family are comfortable, have a chance to win. He was a part of the most successful team in club history, to this point, and we thank him for his role here."

The Rangers offered the former Cy Young winner a six-year deal with a possible option for a seventh while the Yankees also presented the 32-year-old all star with a six-year, $132 million deal with an optional seventh year.

Lee came to the Phillies in a 2009 trade from the Cleveland Indians, but was later moved to the Seattle Mariners. The Phillies then made a deal to pick up Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay before the 2010 season.

Though Lee was traded away from Philly, multiple reports suggest that he developed a strong bond to his teammates and the city and was open to returning if the team could put together a competetive offer.

The Phillies will now sport a rotation featuring Lee, Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. The foursome went a combined 58-43 in 2010 and will match up well against the World Series-winning San Francisco Giants who have an equally intimidating front line with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Jonathan Sanchez.

Lee, whose career record is 102-61 with a 3.85 ERA, is known for his post-season prowess. He carries a 7-2 playoff record with a 2.31 ERA over the last two seasons and was unbeaten in October until losing consecutive starts to the Giants in the World Series.

Selected Reading: ESPN, Sportsline, CNNSI

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