Phillies Win Lee Derby; Yankees Turn To Plan B
NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Cliff Lee is returning to the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that traded him nearly one year ago, leaving the New York Yankees no choice but to turn to Plan B.
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The free-agent pitcher reached a preliminary agreement on a $100 million, five-year contract with the Phillies on Monday night, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.
The agreement 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.
The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers received telephone calls Monday night telling them they were out of the running, two separate people familiar with those team’s negotiations said, also on condition of anonymity.
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The Yankees’ Plan B scenarios start with swaying Andy Pettitte away from retirement. Pettitte arguably holds more value for the Yankees now that Lee is out of the picture, and they may have to pay the veteran lefty more than planned to convince him to return.
Kansas City Royals starter Zack Greinke holds a no-trade clause to the Yankees, but may not be a good fit. Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza and Atlanta’s Derek Lowe have been linked to trade speculation, and could be possible targets for the Yankees.
Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton is also a possibility for New York, although the Red Sox could put an end to that Tuesday. According to WFAN’s Jon Heyman, the Phillies and Red Sox are close to having a deal in place that would send Blanton to Boston.
Lee turned down longer and more lucrative offers to return to the team he helped reach the 2009 World Series after a midseason trade from Cleveland.
New York had started with a $138 million, six-year offer to Lee, the person familiar with the Yankees’ negotiations said. After outfielder Carl Crawford agreed to a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, New York immediately increased its offer to Lee to $150 million over seven seasons, the person said.
Philadelphia dealt Lee to Seattle as part of a four-team, nine-player swap on Dec. 16 last year while simultaneously acquiring Roy Halladay from Toronto and signing him to a new contract that added $60 million over three seasons. Lee will join Halladay, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, and pitch alongside Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels to form what would be considered the top rotation in the major leagues.
The Phillies have been considering trading pitcher Joe Blanton and/or outfielder Raul Ibanez to clear payroll space, a person familiar with Philadelphia’s deliberations. said. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because those talks were ongoing.
Lee had a good time during his stay with the Phillies, who acquired him from Cleveland in July 2009.
“At first, I didn’t believe it. I thought we were working out an extension with the Phillies,” Lee said the day after the trade. “I thought I’d be spending the rest of my career there. … I was under the impression they wanted to keep me there for a long time. In my mind, it was going to happen.”
A fourth-round draft pick in 2000, Lee is 102-61 with a 3.85 ERA in nine major league seasons. He has excelled in the postseason, going 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA for Philadelphia and Texas in the past two years, including 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA against the Yankees.
Lee won 18 games for Cleveland in 2005, then got hurt in spring training in 2007 and was demoted to the minors. He returned to the big leagues, finished 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA and was left off Cleveland’s postseason roster. He rebounded to go 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 2008 and was voted the AL Cy Young Award.
He was 14-13 for the Indians and Phillies in 2009, and 12-9 for the Seattle Mariners and Rangers this year.
With Lee’s departure, the Rangers could move closer Neftali Feliz from the bullpen to the rotation and may attempt to acquire 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke in a trade from the Kansas City Royals.
This was a rare instance in which the Yankees’ financial might failed to land a player they wanted. After losing to Texas in the AL championship series, they are seeking to add pitching to a rotation that includes CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. New York is waiting to find out from Andy Pettitte whether he will pitch or retire; the Yankees also have promising Ivan Nova, a hard-throwing right-hander who turns 24 next month.
New York also held talks with Crawford before his agreement with the Red Sox, but never made an offer.
AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.