Cliff Lee Shuns Rangers, Shocks Yankees and Signs With Phillies

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The good news: Your Texas Rangers didn't lose Cliff Lee to the New York Yankees.

The bad/horrible/devastating news: Your Texas Rangers lost Cliff Lee.

To the Philadelphia Phillies?!

We heard persistent whispers all throughout the very exhaustive free-agency recruitment of Lee about a third "mystery team" but, honestly, didn't pay it much mind. Because, during my talks with Rangers' officials, they didn't either. But last night - literally in the 11th hour - Lee shocked Texas, New York and the baseball world by signing with the team that traded him last December to get this whole clustereff started in the first place.

And as if not signing with the Rangers or Yankees wasn't jarring enough, how about this: Lee took less money - as much as $30 million less - to go back to Philly. In agreeing to a five-year deal worth $120 million, he left more years and more money on the table.

Pick your jaw off the breakfast table and consider this:

*The Yankees actually lost out on a marquee free agent for the first time since Greg Maddux in 1992.

*The Phillies now boast a starting pitching rotation of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

*The Rangers - with their "menu" of contract options to Lee rejected - are now staring at a bland Plan B that might include pitchers such as Matt Garza and/or Zack Greinke.

But what about the Yankees' money and history and the personal persuasion by Lee's buddy CC Sabathia? What about the Rangers' proximity to Lee's home and the claw and antlers and camaraderie and their trifecta of face-to-face meetings in Arkansas?

And what about wanting revenge against the team that dumped you exactly 362 days ago, not a return?

This conclusion is almost as shocking as it is disappointing.

According to various reports, the Yankees' final offer was six years for $148 million with an option for a seventh year. The Rangers also apparently offered the chance for a seventh year and a total of $140 million with unique incentives such as a luxury suite at Cowboys Stadium.

In the end, Lee decided to go pitch for his former team, just not the Rangers. (Just wondering, is this about winning or cheesesteaks or perhaps something to do with Lee's son, who at one time battled leukemia?) He helped the Phillies get into the 2009 World Series but was then traded last December to the Seattle Mariners for three prospects.

No way around it Rangers fans, this one's a loss. A stinging defeat. New owner Chuck Greenberg rolled out the red carpet, investors Ray Davis and Bob Simpson produced the green cash and even general manager Jon Daniels and president Nolan Ryan grudgingly expanded their comfort zones to offer Lee a seventh year.

But in a bottom-line, results-oriented business, the Rangers just swung and missed at the meatiest fastball they've seen in a long time. To compensate for losing "their" free agent they get the Phillies' first-round draft pick (No. 33 overall) plus a supplemental first-rounder. I know, y-a-w-n. (And don't forget, renting Lee for three months cost the Rangers first-base prospect Justin Smoak.)

It's one thing for the Eagles to beat the Cowboys Sunday night, but the Phillies beating the Rangers on Monday night? Especially when no one even knew Philadelphia was really in the game?

The winter meetings are over, the No. 1 free agent is off the board and what do the Rangers have to show for it? A new starting catcher in Yorbit Torrealba. In 2010 the Rangers' marketing slogan was "It's Time." In 2011 it's looking like it will be "Time's Up."

The good news: Money finally lost in baseball free agency.

The bad news: So did the Texas Rangers.

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