It was a move that nobody seemed to expect. But, as the afternoon hours turned to evening hours, baseball insiders began to trickle out rumors online that the Phillies were the previously rumored mystery team making offers to Cliff Lee and, later, negotiations were confirmed by multiple sources. At about midnight the story broke that the Phillies had locked down the services of the man they traded away one year ago...Cliff Lee.
On December 14th, 2009 the big story was the trade to acquire Roy Halladay and the subsequent deal that sent Cliff Lee away to Seattle. It's not possible to forget the months of second guessing that so many Phillies phans did, as they wondered what a rotation that included Halladay, Lee and 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels would have been like. 365 days after Lee left, he's back and the Philadelphia phaithful have their wish...as well as a bonus.
When the Phillies worked a trade in July to acquire ace righty Roy Oswalt from the Astros, there was a wide spread pass on any tension related to the squashed dream of having three aces. Now, not only do the Phillies have three top teir pitchers in their rotation, they have an unprecedented four.
The signing stunned many, but Cliff Lee came home. Reports stated that Lee wanted to return to the Phillies so much that he initiated some of the talks. Other reports confirm that Yankees fans' treatment of Lee's wife played a role in his decision.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. may not be done with the surprises just yet, however. Baseball America's top ten prospect rankings for the Phillies system were released on Monday. Don't be surprised to see Amaro use some of those players to draw a return to fill some others voids on the big league roster, as the off-season rolls on. The trade that brought Lee to Philadelphia, from Cleveland, in July, 2009 initially cost the Phillies multiple names from their top ranked prospects. The same applies to the deal that brought Halladay in from Toronto. The Phillies have a great collection of young talent and a new habit of using it to acquire already-groomed talent.
The contract proposed to Lee is reportedly for 5 years, with a vesting option for a 6th season that could bring the total value of the deal to $135 million.
The 32-year-old Lee will surely now become the hero of all Yankees haters, as it's certainly great to shut that team down, in the minds of baseball fanatics that view New York as the evil empire, but it's a greater feat to turn down their immense pay checks.
Phans now have a few months to decide which nickname to go with for the quintet of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, but some options have already come forth, including R2C2, the Phour Horsemen and the Phantastic Phour. I, however, am partial to one that's been in place for months, as though the linguistic loungers at The701Level.com darn well knew what the nonsensical catchphrases they were making up were leading to. Their concept asserts how legit the rotation will be, by letting the world know that the Phillies starters are "4 RELL".
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