It was assumed all along that Cliff Lee would be wowed by a huge contract and make the trek up to the East coast to join the Yankees. Lee will still move North for the 2011 season but, in a shocker, he returns to Philadelphia.

The Phillies now boast baseball’s version of “The Four Horsemen.” Don’t pretend that you don’t recognize the reference.

Following outfielder Jayson Werth’s departure for Washington and a monstrous contract, the Phillies quietly struck a deal with the game’s most sought-after free agent. Lee joins a rotation that already included Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

- Halladay won 21 games in his first season in Philadelphia with a dominant 2.44 ERA. He completed nine games while racking up 250 innings of work.
- Oswalt went 7-1 after joining the Phillies while pitching to a 1.74 ERA. He also produced a 2.75 ERA in four post-season appearances.
- Hamels’ record didn’t quite indicate how brilliantly he pitched at times. He produced a record of 12-11 despite recording a 3.09 ERA.

And we all know about what Lee’s done since being shipped to the minors in Cleveland. Last season, he earned a 3.18 ERA with 10 strikeouts per walk. Lee won only four of his 15 regular season starts for the Rangers, but dominated the post-season to bring the Rangers into the Series.

He returns to Philadelphia, where he won seven of 12 starts in 2009 with a 3.39 ERA.

——————————
The Phillies were the second-highest scoring team in the National League at 4.8 runs per game (seventh overall).

Obviously, there is a need in the outfield following Werth’s departure to prop up the offense. Of course, when you’re giving up 2-3 runs per game, there’s no need for a run-scoring conga line.

I wonder what the tone of the conference call was in New York when news of Lee’s signing (five years, by the current report) broke. The pinstripes clearly didn’t present that siren call to Lee.

Derek Jeter re-signed, so one of the cash cows returns to the pinstripes for an extended run. That keeps the fans excited and those steeped in “legacy,” “history,” and “loyalty” placated. But, what about the future? What about the big splash when Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are donning Red Sox uniforms?

Something tells me that the “one that got away” tale will be repeated ad nausea in the Bronx.