Baseball notebook

Lee to rejoin Phillies

Ace lefty spurns Yankees, Rangers

Associated Press / December 14, 2010

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Cliff Lee is returning to the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that traded him nearly one year ago.

The free agent pitcher reached a preliminary agreement on a $100 million, five-year contract with the Phillies late last night, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

The deal is subject to the 32-year-old passing a physical, the person said on condition of anonymity because the agreement was not final.

The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers received telephone calls last night telling them they were out of the running, two separate people familiar with those negotiations said, also on condition of anonymity.

“Cliff called me,’’ Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told “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.’’

Lee, the AL Cy Young Award winner for Cleveland (22-3, 2.54 ERA) in 2008, turned down longer and more lucrative offers to return to the team he helped reach the 2009 World Series after a midseason trade from Cleveland.

New York had started with a $138 million, six-year offer to Lee, the person familiar with the Yankees’ negotiations said. After outfielder Carl Crawford agreed to a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Red Sox, New York immediately increased its offer to Lee to $150 million over seven seasons, the person said.

Philadelphia dealt Lee to Seattle as part of a four-team, nine-player swap after the 2009 season while simultaneously acquiring Roy Halladay from Toronto and signing him to a new contract that added $60 million over three seasons. When the Phillies sign Lee, he will join Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels to form what would be considered the top rotation in the major leagues.

The Phillies have been considering trading pitcher Joe Blanton and/or outfielder Raul Ibanez to clear payroll space, a person familiar with Philadelphia’s deliberations said.

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

With Lee’s departure, the Rangers could move closer Neftali Feliz from the bullpen to the rotation and may attempt to acquire 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke in a trade from the Kansas City Royals.

Average pay hits $3m The average salary in Major League Baseball finished over $3 million for the first time.

The 912 players in the big leagues before rosters expanded in September averaged $3,014,572, the Major League Baseball Players Association said yesterday. The average rose 0.6 percent from last year’s $2,996,106, the smallest increase since a 2.5 percent drop in 2004.

The union’s Opening Day average first reached $3 million in 2007, but the average drops during the season as veterans are released and replaced by younger players earning far less. The union’s average at the start of this season was $3,340,133.

The New York Yankees had the highest final average at $7,604,937, down slightly from $7,663,351 when they won the World Series in 2009. Philadelphia rose from eighth to second at $5,662,551.

The Red Sox ($4,821,016) remained third, and the Chicago White Sox ($4,580,868) climbed from 12th to fourth followed by the Chicago Cubs ($4,107,304), who dropped from second.

Pittsburgh was last for the second straight season at $1,140,598.

Matsui, A’s close Free agent slugger Hideki Matsui and the Athletics worked to finalize a contract that would make him the team’s new designated hitter. Matsui, 36, batted .274 with 21 home runs and 84 RBIs last season with the Angels . . . Righthander Koji Uehara, who enjoyed success as the Orioles’ closer in the latter part of last season, signed a one-year, $3 million deal with Baltimore. He went 1-2 with 13 saves and a 2.86 ERA as a reliever . . . Catcher Rob Johnson, Seattle’s Opening Day starter in 2009, was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for new designated hitter Jack Cust . . . The Rangers re-signed catcher Matt Treanor to a one-year, $850,000 contract. Treanor started 67 games last season, more than any other Texas catcher, but he will be the backup in 2011 to newly acquired Yorvit Torrealba . . . Righthander Dustin Moseley, 4-4 with a 4.96 ERA in nine starts and seven relief appearances with the Yankees last season, agreed to a $900,000, one-year contract with the Padres . . . Outfielder Jeff Francoeur passed a physical and officially became a member of the Royals, his fourth team in less than two years. He agreed to a one-year contract for $2.5 million last week after hitting .249 with 13 home runs and 65 RBIs in 139 games last season with the Rangers and Mets.

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