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Cliff Lee, the prize free agent pitcher coveted by the Yankees, left as much as $50 million on the table to rejoin the Philadelphia Phillies, the team he pitched for when it lost the 2009 World Series to the Bombers.
The star lefty, who helped pitch the the Texas Rangers into a World Series in October, had been offered a six-year, $138 million offer by the Bombers, according to reports from ESPN. That deal also reportedly had a $16 million player option for a seventh year. But late Monday night, Lee took the Phillies up on their five-year offer for more than $100 million, which also had an option for a sixth year, according to the New York Post..
Word of the deal came hours after Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman said the team would not raise its offer.
"We are not ratcheting up our offer," Cashman told ESPN, adding in a subsequent text message that the team is "not desperate" to sign the 2008 Cy Young winner.
All along, the bidding was presumed to be between the Yankees and the Rangers. Lee, a native of Little Rock, Ark., was believed to be hesitant to come to the Big Apple. But the Yankees, accustomed to paying whatever it takes to get their man, were offering a deal believed to be worth more than $150 million.
Being spurned by Lee, after their rival Red Sox acquired superstar outfielder Carl Crawford, leaves the Yankees scrambling for pitching. Beyond ace CC Sabathia annd young Phil Hughes, they must hope aging lefty Andy Pettitte comes back for another season and that A.J. Burnett, signed two years ago to an $82.5 million contract, stops being a bust. Another possibility is a trade for Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke. But that deal would likely cost the Yankees top catching prospect Jesus Montero, and Greinke has suffered from social anxiety disorder and could be a bad fit for the Bronx.
"I don't like this perception that we're confused or disoriented or we don't know what we're doing," Cashman told ESPN Monday, seemingly in preparation for the bad news.. "We have contingency plans in the event they decide to go another way."
"I really don't think we've got a lot of holes," he said. "We've got one of the best in the league in CC. We've got a kid who won 18 games for us last year in Phil Hughes. And I really believe that A.J. Burnett is going to bounce back for us next year."
Philadelphia, meanwhile, sports a formidable rotation featuring Lee, Roy 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.