Phillies take a page out of Yankees playbook, step in and sign Cliff Lee

Texas Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the fist inning of game 5 of the World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas on November 1, 2010. The Giants defeated the Rangers 3-1 winning the World Series 4 games to 1. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

As if it were right out of the pages of the Yankees’ playbook on how to sign a free agent, the Phillies stole Cliff Lee right from under the Bombers’ noses.

Actually, “stole” isn’t the right word. That would indicate that Lee was once the Yankees’ property, which he wasn’t. He was never a Yankee and thanks to the Phillies’ aggressiveness, he never will be either.

Lee left nearly $50 million of New York’s money on the table to go back to a place where he felt comfortable and had huge success. He’ll join a rotation that already features Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, which is mind-blowing to say the least. Philadelphia opponents will face ace-like stuff nearly everyday when they take on the Phillies. The only person associated with the National League that will sleep easy this week after Philadelphia made this move is Giants’ outfielder Cody Ross, who hit all four of the Phils’ pitchers like a piñata in last year’s postseason.

For those scoring at home, here are the obvious winners and losers of this deal.

Winners:

Phillies. They land an ace when they already had a Cy Young-winning ace in the rotation. With all due respect to Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, the Halladay-Lee pairing is the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball and the Phillies immediately become the team to beat again in the NL. Their offense was inconsistent last year but whether pundits believe it’ll round back into ’09 form or not, the Fightin’ Phils are the favorites to win the World Series next year.

Lee. It’s a little surprising that he spurned the Rangers to return to the Phillies, seeing as how Philadelphia traded him so that it could land Halladay last winter. But obviously Lee was comfortable in Philadelphia and wanted to head back to the NL, where he absolutely dominated in the second half of ’09 (and postseason). In the end, he gets the long-term deal that he had been seeking, a ton of money ($120 million to be exact) and the opportunity to stick it to New York after its fans treated his wife poorly in the stands at Yankee Stadium last year. (Not that that was a deciding factor in him spurning the Yankees but it had to have crossed his mind.)

Losers:

Yankees.
They’re used to being the ones that swoop in at the last second, put an offer on the table that the free agent can’t refuse and then leave those in the bidding war gasping for air. Now they’re at the receiving end of a big F-you and it has to be devastating. They threw a ton of money at Lee and in the end, they still couldn’t land him. This was a huge blow in the post-George Steinbrenner era and while some Yankee fans will say that they didn’t want their club to sign a 32-year-old to a long-term deal, what is New York going to do for pitching? Maybe the Yankees will be better off in the long run for missing out on Lee, but as of right now they’re in a world of hurt.

Rangers. While everyone wanted to see the Yankees burned, nobody wanted the Rangers to become victims. They just lost their ace, who turned down the Yankees’ money to return to a place that was comfortable to him – only it wasn’t Texas. Nolan Ryan can’t be pleased with the outcome (although at least he didn’t wind up with the Yankees) and now he too must revert to his backup plan for pitching (whatever that is). Just months after losing the World Series, Ryan and Co. take yet another huge blow.

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