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Lee agrees to five-year deal with Phillies

Talk about an early Christmas present for Phillies fans.

Cliff Lee is coming back to Philadelphia after the Phillies signed him late Monday night. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)
Cliff Lee is coming back to Philadelphia after the Phillies signed him late Monday night. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)Read more

Talk about an early Christmas present for Phillies fans.

The baseball world exploded late Monday night with reports that lefthander Cliff Lee - exiled to Seattle, then immediately missed - will rejoin the Phillies as a free agent.

Both of the other contenders for Lee's services, the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers, got phone calls on Monday from agent Darek Braunecker that Lee would not be joining them.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels confirmed the reports at about midnight.

"Cliff called me," Daniels said. "He was very classy. He was very appreciative of the time he was here and how he was treated. He and his family enjoyed his time here. He also enjoyed his time in Philadelphia and liked some of the things that opportunity had to offer."

The New York Post reported that the deal the 32-year-old Lee agreed to with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is worth $100 million over five years. There also is an option for a sixth season.

If so, the Phillies abandoned a club policy of offering nothing longer than three-year deals, a measure of their eagerness to regain Lee.

Righthander Roy Halladay had signed a three-year extension last winter at $20 million per season.

The deal is subject to the lefty's passing a physical, the Associated Press reported.

Lee reportedly turned down a Yankees offer of seven years for $150 million, which carried a player's option for a seventh season.

Texas reportedly offered the man who pitched them into the World Series for the first time a six-year deal for $120 million.

Amaro, who could not be reached for comment on Monday, had to defend the Lee trade to Seattle - after the lefthander won two games in the 2009 World Series against the Yankees - for most of the 2010 season as the Phillies reached a third straight National League Championship Series.

Where the money is to come from has yet to be determined. The Phillies' 2011 payroll already will exceed $150 million and efforts to unload some big contracts have been unsuccessful.

Lee has long said he enjoyed his brief stay in Philadelphia. He went 7-4 in 12 second-half starts for the '09 pennant-winners and was 4-0 in the postseason, including a pair of victories over the Yankees in a World Series that New York won in six games.

Lee in Philadelphia would give the club a formidable rotation with Halladay (the 2010 Cy Young Award winner), Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt.

Lee has a career record of 102-61 with a 3.85 ERA in nine seasons with Cleveland, the Phillies, Seattle and Texas. He's 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA in the postseason over the last two years, and was unbeaten in October before suffering back-to-back losses to San Francisco Giants in the World Series.

A report on ESPN on Monday had said Lee was intrigued by the possibility of joining the Phils because such a rotation would give them the best No. 1 starter in baseball (Halladay), the best No. 2 (Lee), the best No. 3 (Oswalt) and the best No. 4 (2009 World Series MVP Hamels).

Sports Illustrated reported that the Phils will look to move righthander Joe Blanton.