- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
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Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies traded away Cliff Lee, stunning both the baseball world and Lee himself. This year the Phillies rocked the free agency market by reacquiring Lee, who once envisioned himself retiring a Phillie.
"Obviously I wanted to be back," Lee told a Philadelphia-area television affiliate Tuesday night. "I'm here, so I'm excited and ready to get this deal finalized and be back with the Phillies."
"I enjoyed my time in Seattle. I enjoyed my time in Texas," Lee said in his first public comments since news of the deal broke Monday night. "Looking back, I'm kind of glad I had the chance to go back to the World Series. I had a great time in Texas. I got to play close to home. It was a lot of fun. But now I'm back here and I'm looking forward to it."
A guaranteed $120 million deal also helps to smooth over any hard feelings. The Phillies announced Lee's signing on Wednesday and will hold a news conference later in the day.
He will wear the No. 33.
The Phillies strayed from their general guideline for pitchers Monday when they reached agreement with Lee on the five-year deal, with a vesting option for a sixth year.
Just a year ago, the Phillies held firm to the same principle in signing Roy Halladay to a three-year, $60 million extension with a vesting option year for $20 million more. At the time, Philadelphia management cited the old Pat Gillick directive about refraining from deals of more than three guaranteed years to pitchers.
Anyone who thinks the disparity in contracts might be the source of jealousy or friction in the Philadelphia clubhouse apparently doesn't know Roy Halladay very well.
Halladay, reached Tuesday through his agent, Greg Landry, told ESPN.com that he's looking forward to pitching with Lee and is "totally excited and pumped up" about the newest addition to the Philadelphia staff.
"Roy used the word 'overjoyed,' " said Landry, Halladay's representative at Creative Artists Agency.
Lee, 32, turned down substantial offers from the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers to reach agreement with the Phillies. His contract includes a $12.5 million buyout along with a $27.5 million option that vests if he pitches 200 innings in 2015 or 400 innings during the 2014-2015 seasons, sources said. If Lee pitches the maximum six years, he will earn a total of $135 million.
While larger deals were on the table for Lee, he chose to take less cash to return to Philadelphia.
"That's the most I've ever seen a player walk away from," former Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "It's unprecedented."
Lee said he saw no drawbacks in returning to Philadelphia, though he couldn't put his finger on one overarching reason.
"I don't know, just the team, the atmosphere, the environment, the fans, the city. I mean, there's a lot of things," Lee explained. "My family enjoyed it here. The pitching staff. There's a lot of pros and not many cons when you start weighing things out."
"Players seem to like living here," Phillies chairman Bill Giles said earlier Tuesday. "There's nice housing -- and not as expensive as some other places if you want to buy or rent. The schools are good. I think our front office and manager and coaches have a good reputation around baseball right now as being good people."
Lee is expected to take his physical exam Wednesday in Philadelphia and a press conference could take place later in the day.
Two league sources said the Phillies talked to Halladay before making their guaranteed five-year offer to Lee, and that Halladay gave the idea his blessing.
Halladay and Lee will team with Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels to give Philadelphia the most formidable starting rotation in baseball and one of the best in recent memory. The four starters have a combined career winning percentage of .636 (481-275) and have made 13 All-Star appearances.
But is this the best rotation ever?
"Potentially, you know it could be, but it's also a little premature to say that," Lee said. "You have to let things play out, you have to let those things happen. Obviously health is a huge part of that, guys continuing to do what's become the norm. If we do that, it's arguable, but like you say, you gotta go out there and do it first, so time will tell on that."
Halladay was one of several Phillies players to react positively to the return of Lee, who pitched for Philadelphia in the second half of the 2009 season before leaving town in a trade with Seattle Mariners last December. The Mariners dealt Lee to Texas in July, and Lee helped pitch the Rangers to the World Series.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins told ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd that he learned about the Lee signing in a text message from his mother late Monday night. Rollins made his wife turn off a video of "The Young and The Restless" so he could confirm the news on ESPN. Then he sent a text message to Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. with his reaction.
"I said, 'Wow,' " Rollins said. "I picked up my phone and texted Ruben and said, 'Boy, you're sneaky.' "
Jerry Crasnick is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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