Marquee free agent starting pitcher Cliff Lee has finally made a decision – and multiple sources are reporting that Lee has agreed to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The news comes as a surprise to many, as most prognosticators expected Lee to either resign with the Texas Rangers or head to New York to play for the Yankees.

The reports began to come in earlier this evening via Twitter.  At first, a number of people fell for a fake Ken Rosenthal account, which began tossing out incorrect Lee-related reports.

But at around midnight, Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated chimed in:

SI_JonHeyman Jon Heyman

yankees have been told they’re out of cliff lee sweepstakes

A few minutes later, TR Sullivan – who covers the Texas Rangers for – sent the following:

Sullivan_Ranger TR Sullivan Lee going to the Phillies. Rangers have been told

Then, the news began to spread like wildfire.


Cliff Lee has agreed to head back to Philadelphia

The financial numbers are still somewhat unknown at this time, but Heyman mentioned that the Yankees offered “$150 million over 7 years”, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has stated from sources that Lee has chosen to accept a deal with the Phillies, that will be a 5-year contract worth somewhere around $100 million, with a vesting option for a sixth year.

This major announcement also brings into the mix a few major points:

1) The Phillies now have arguably the best starting staff in all of baseball.  There are four aces in the rotation, featuring Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

2) The Lee signing also points to a major victory for the Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox.  All will avoid having to face Cliff Lee in the AL East on a regular basis.

3) The Yankees will find pitching, and expect them to turn their focus to other options, among who could potentially include the likes of pitchers like Kansas City’s Zack Greinke and Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza, among others.

And finally…

4) The dominoes should now begin to fall more quickly, especially in the pitching market.  Names such as the aforementioned Greinke could emerge into a blockbuster deal, and other free agents should begin to come off the board soon – including a number of relievers, plus other starting pitchers such as Carl Pavano.

Stay tuned – the baseball offseason just got THAT much more interesting.