>Once again, delivering top-notch, late-breaking news long after it happens, Bases Loaded Balk has learned that Cliff Lee has decided to join the Philadelphia Phillies after coming to an agreement on a 5-year, $120 million deal with a vesting option for a sixth year.  Lee personally let the Rangers know, and his agent broke the news to the Yankees.

Here’s what we have learned:
1) Players don’t always want the maximum years and the maximum dollars.  Lee turned down more years and more dollars from both the Yankees and Rangers to go back to Philadelphia, where he spent the last half of the 2009 season and went to the World Series for the first time.

2) The Yankees can’t get whoever they want if that person doesn’t want to be on the Yankees.  Don’t worry, Yankee fans, I’m sure this had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you spit on the guys wife during the playoffs.  I’m sure he felt safe and welcomed by that reception.

3) The Phillies will be the overwhelming favorite to win the National League in 2011.  In fact, some are already arguing that this may be the best rotation in baseball history… before Spring Training even starts.  There is certainly that possibility.  Two years ago, Hamels was the staff ace, since then, they have traded for Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee – three guys that would be the ace on just about any other staff in all of baseball.  However, let’s hold off on the accolades until the season is over.

4) The mystery team is not always a fabrication by the agent.  ESPN’s Buster Olney had tweeted the other day that most of the time, a “mystery team” is simply created by the player’s agent in order to gain some leverage in the negotiations.  Clearly, the Phillies were the mystery team that was involved – quite unexpectedly because…

5) Just because you trade a player away, don’t assume that he’s never going to come back.  The Phillies traded Lee to the Mariners last offseason as part of a three-team deal that brought Roy Halladay to Philadelphia.  The reason they traded Lee: they didn’t think they could work out an extension with him.

6) The Yankees are no longer the Yankees of old.  Just a couple of years ago, the Yankees would have signed at least one, if not two, of the top free agents.  This year, they looked like Alex Rodriguez in a playoff game – going 0-3 on the big fish.  In fact, with the signing of Crawford and acquisition (and extension) of Gonzalez, I’d say the Red Sox have become the very thing they hated.

Finally, the Yankees and Rangers have to move on, and perhaps their respective fanbases will be excited to hear the rumors that are flying around regarding Plan B for these teams.

Apparently the Rangers have expressed interest in former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang, and the Yankees could possibly be the next stop in the Mark Prior comeback trail.  Yeah, that’s what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket… or some other metaphor that conveys a similar idea.

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