Lee gives Phillies a potentially historic rotation

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels _ and Cliff Lee. Yes, Cliff Lee.

The Philadelphia Phillies have assembled quite an impressive starting rotation that could eventually go down as one of the best in baseball history. The stunning addition of Lee gives the Phillies four aces in an era when most teams would be happy to have just one.

Lee spurned more lucrative offers from the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers to return to Philadelphia. The free-agent pitcher passed up an extra $30 million from the Yankees and reached a preliminary agreement on a $120 million, five-year contract with the Phillies.

The agreement, which includes a buyout of a 2016 option, was announced Wednesday.

“My family enjoyed it here,” Lee told WCAU-TV. “There’s a lot of pros and not many cons, when you start weighing things out.”

The lefty’s decision to join the Phillies makes them the envy of the majors. No other team boasts four starters with similar pedigrees. Halladay was the NL Cy Young Award winner this year and won the AL honor in 2003 with Toronto. Lee won the award in the AL in 2008. Oswalt has two 20-win seasons and a NLCS MVP award. Hamels was World Series MVP in ‘08.

Lee said speculation about the team having the best pitching staff ever was premature.

“You’ve got to go out there and do it first, so time will tell on that,” he told WCAU.

The city, as a result of the news, was abuzz all day with baseball. Even in frigid temperatures _ with the Flyers and Eagles at the top of their games, no less _ all the talk was about Lee and the Phillies getting back to the World Series. In fact, as the Flyers prepared to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins across the street in a battle for first place in the NHL’s Atlantic Division, there were more television trucks in front of Citizens Bank Park, than there were at the Wells Fargo Center.

The fever is understandable, of course. After all, this fearsome foursome has three Cy Young awards, 13 All-Star game appearances, two NLCS MVP awards, one World Series MVP award one perfect game and one postseason no-hitter on its remarkable resume.

The World Series-champion San Francisco Giants have an outstanding rotation. But even two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner don’t compare just yet.

Lee joined the Phillies in July 2009 in a trade with Cleveland. He had a sensational postseason, going 4-0 and earning two wins in the World Series. But the Yankees beat the Phillies in six games.

Lee never wanted to leave Philadelphia, and was upset when he was dealt to Seattle last December on the same day Halladay was acquired from Toronto. The Phillies tried trading for Lee in July, but ended up with Oswalt instead.

Now they’ve got them all.

“It was somewhat surprising, but all along we had thought that if a third team would jump in late, it might be the Phillies,” Rangers managing partner Chuck Greenberg said, adding that Lee “expressed his affection for his time pitching with the Phillies” during their first meeting.

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