Utterly stunned. Speechless. Totally shocked. Amazed. Blown away.
These are all reactions that were had when Cliff Lee announced his signing with the Philadelphia Phillies over the Yankees and Rangers. Ever since this process started, New York and Texas were seen as the only "realistic" landing spots for the ace. Sure, the Nats made their pitch but it wasn't taken all that seriously. As time passed and the winter meeting ended, rumors of a third team, a "mystery team" or "darkhorse" if you will, have been quietly fluttering around. I, for one, thought that a true third contender didn't really exist. If anything, I thought it might be a team that was merely looking to push the price up on the Rangers and Yankees, forcing them to match this "mystery team's" offer. Little did I know, or really anyone for that matter, that the "darkhorse" was real and in fact, the team that would wind up taking the cake.
Its not often that the Yankees don't get what they want. The Rangers have had their share of heartbreak but also success (see: Nolan Ryan). Lee spurned both of these clubs and turned down more guaranteed money in order to return to the Phils. Why would he do this, especially after they traded him away to Seattle almost one year ago today? Because that's where he wanted to play and where he felt like he could win. Not money, not fame, Cliff Lee wants to win a World Series. In an era where players like Jayson Werth get $126 million dollar contracts, Cliff Lee is a breath of fresh air. When traded to Seattle in the winter of '09, he commented how he was disappointed with the trade because he wanted to retire as a member of the Phillies. Well Cliff, that's again a possiblilty. Congratulations.
As for Philadelphia, they have undoubtably the best rotation in baseball. Halladay will still be their ace, Lee will take the two spot, Oswalt the three and Cole Hamels the fourth spot in the rotation. The team is actively trying to move Joe Blanton and his salary so the fifth spot will be up for grabs but probably end up going to developing pro Kyle Kendrick. Despite sending Jayson Werth packing, the Phillies will be the favorites in the N.L. East for sure. Domonic Brown will take over in RF and, unless they find someone to take on Ibanez' salary, Raul will play LF with Victorino in CF. The infield will be the same Howard, Utley, Rollins and Planco. Ruiz wil remain behind the plate and Phillies look awfully good on paper. A few less runs scored, no doubt, but far fewer runs surrendered. Good luck Marlins, Mets, Braves and Nationals. Your fate may already be sealed!