For the last few days, we have heard that a ‘Mystery Team’ has entered the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. That suitor appears to be none other than the Philadelphia Phillies. Lee was a member of the Phillies during the second half of the 2009 season, pitching the team to their second consecutive World Series appearance. Lee was exceptionally good in the playoffs that year, going 4-0 with 1.56 ERA in five starts. After Lee’s impressive post-season run and knowing that they wouldn’t be able to afford him long-term, the Phillies shipped him to the Seattle Mariners as one of the key components in the three-team deal that sent Roy Halladay to Philly. With the Yankees and Rangers publicly stating their desire to land the 32-year-old left-hander, what are the Phillies chances of bringing him back to Philly?

The Case For Lee In Philadelphia:

Apparently, Cliff Lee ‘loved’ his brief stint with the Phillies and was devastated when he was shipped to the Seattle Mariners. But honestly, who wouldn’t be? The Phillies will be one of the clear-cut World Series favorites for the next five years. Boasting an impressive nucleus that features Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, the Phillies are built for short-term and long-term success.

It can also be argued that Lee has a lot of unfinished business in Philadelphia. After defeating the Yankees in two World Series games, Lee helplessly sat in the dugout as the Bombers took each game that Lee did not pitch in. Additionally, Lee now has another bona fide ace in Halladay to help shoulder the load.

And just for a second, image that rotation:
1. Roy Halladay
2. Cliff Lee
3. Roy Oswalt
4. Cole Hamels
5. Me

Now that is a hell of a rotation.

Worried about dollars? Don’t be. The Phillies were able to convince Halladay to sign a three-year, $60 million contract extension. Halladay clearly could have received more money on the open market, but wanted to play for a competitor that had a chance of winning the World Series. If Lee signs on with the Phillies, they instantly become the World Series favorites.

The offer may increase if the Phillies are able to find a home for Brad Lidge ($11.5 million) or Joe Blaton ($8.5 million). In addition, Roy Oswalt’s contract ($16 million) expires after this season. Lee could accept less money up front as the Phillies make the transition to a more payroll friendly team in 2012.

The Case Against Lee In Philadelphia:

Could any sane human being leave $80 million on the table? If the reports are correct, the Phillies are offering Lee a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $80 million.  It may increase if the Phillies are able to move one of the aforementioned parts.

But let’s think about this for a minute. $80 million! That’s a lot, a lot,  A LOT of dough. That’s borderline insanity. People freaked out 12 years ago when Greg Maddux left $5 million on the table to sign with the Braves. But $80 million?

I don’t know him personally, but Lee seems like the guy who wants to be highly paid. The guy who wants the spotlight firmly placed on him. He can achieve both goals if he signs in New York. And let’s be honest. No club is going to top the Yanks 7-Year, $161 million offer.

The Verdict:

The Phillies definitely throw a curve ball into the mix. Lee is familiar with Philadelphia. He is very well-liked in the city. There is unfinished business. Adding him to an already strong Philly rotation would make them instant World Series favorites. Lee wouldn’t have to be the ace (like he would in Texas) and he wouldn’t have to deal with the New York media.

But can Cliffy really leave $80 million on the table?

I wouldn’t, but I’m all about the straight cash homie.