12/15/10 3:25 PM EST
Phillies introduce their newest ace in Lee
By Evan Drellich / MLB.com
The prized pitcher of this year's free-agent market was formally introduced as the newest member of the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
"It's been a whirlwind couple of years for me, and it's been a fun ride, and this offseason's been full of unknowns, and it feels great to land back here in Philadelphia," Lee said. "I never wanted to leave this place in the first place. To get an opportunity to come back and be part of this team and this pitching rotation is going to be something that's historic, I believe."
Though Lee went to the World Series with the Rangers in 2010, it was Philadelphia, which he led to the World Series in 2009, where he wanted to be most. The 32-year-old left-hander from Arkansas agreed to a five-year, $120 million contract late on Monday night.
For most of the offseason, the Rangers and the Yankees were believed to be the only two serious contenders to sign Lee, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made a late push after the Winter Meetings. It also didn't hurt that Philadelphia is in the Senior Circuit.
"I prefer National League baseball over the American style of baseball," said Lee. "I like to hit. I like to face the other pitcher instead of the DH."
Lee's contract has a vesting option that could keep him in Philadelphia for six years. He was traded three times since the start of the 2009 season: from Cleveland to Philadelphia, from Philadelphia to Seattle and from Seattle to Texas. That's almost inexplicable for a pitcher of Lee's caliber.
Lee left money on the table to return to Philadelphia, where he pitched in the second half of the 2009 season before the Phils traded him to the Mariners last December. The Yankees offered Lee a six-year, $138 million contract with a vesting option that increased the value to $154 million, according to ESPN.com.
"The intensity that you can feel when you get in the game, you can feel the volume every game," Lee said. "Every game has got an elevated feel to it compared to everywhere else."
But in the end, he preferred playing in Philadelphia.
"There wasn't anything that scared me away from New York," said Lee. "I wasn't scared to play there."
The 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland, Lee joins the Phillies at the top of his game and gives them a rotation that could go down as one of the best all-time. Lee went a combined 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA and seven complete games in 28 regular-season starts last season, and he joins a rotation with Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and defending National League Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.
Different from Lee's first go-around in Philadelphia, when he won all four of his playoff starts including two in the World Series, is Lee's uniform number. He'll wear No. 33 next season. He previously wore No. 34 in Philly.