Continued from page 1

Lee wasn’t happy when he got traded in a four-team, nine-player deal that brought another ace, Roy Halladay, to the Phillies from Toronto.

“At first, I didn’t believe it. I thought we were working out an extension with the Phillies,” Lee said last December after he was dealt to Seattle. “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.”

The Phillies moved from dingy Veterans Stadium to Citizens Bank Park in 2004, changing the culture of Philadelphia fans, famous around the world for booing Santa Claus and throwing snowballs at him during an Eagles’ game in 1968.

Philadelphia also has become one of baseball’s biggest spenders. The Phillies‘ $5.7 million average salary this year was second only to the Yankees‘ $7.6 million, according to figures complied by the players’ association.

“We used to have a hard time getting free agents to come here, so it seems to have changed 180 degrees,” Giles said. “The ballpark has changed everything about the Phillies because we have the revenue, we have the fans.”

The Yankees were ready to offer $150 million to Lee, with a $148 million guaranteed over seven years plus $2 million on hand for general manager Brian Cashman to close the agreement. But New York’s money wasn’t enough.

“He really liked Philadelphia. I remember hearing that. The word on the street was that (the trade) stunned him, that he really liked that environment,” Cashman said. “And I think that the fact he’s going to Philadelphia proves how much he really enjoyed Philly.”

Texas all but said Lee would have stayed if the Rangers had offered a seven-year agreement. The Rangers’ best offer was $138 million over six years, with an option for a seventh season that could have become guaranteed.

“There was a lot of back and forth. There was a point at which they said if you will do ‘X’, we would agree to terms,” Rangers managing partner Chuck Greenberg said. “Those terms went beyond the parameters that we were comfortable with, specifically in years.”

While Lee left $30 million on the table, it’s not like he’s playing for the minimum. He received the sixth $100 million contract for a pitcher, trailing the deals of Sabathia ($161 million for seven years), the Mets’ Johan Santana ($137.5 million for six seasons), the Giants’ Barry Zito ($126 million for seven years) and Mike Hampton ($121 million for eight years), and topping Kevin Brown’s $105 million, seven-year contract.

Gene Orza, the union’s outgoing chief operating officer, said the image of free agents seeking every possible dollar is wrong.

“I think people underestimate the frequency players take less money to go someplace where they’re comfortable,” he said. “I know nobody want to hears this because it doesn’t suit their prejudices, but in fact there’s a whole slew of considerations: what the schools are like, who your friends are, who your wife’s friends are, pennant-winning chances, farm system. There’s a whole bunch of things people consider. So I’m not surprised in the slightest that he chose someplace that offered him less money than another. I think that happens quite frequently in this sport, more than people care to know.”