In a stunning move late last night, Cliff Lee proved that the New York Yankees can't just buy anyone to play in the Bronx. When the Cy Young Award winner announced he would not be signing with the Yankees, immediately analysts assumed he'd be staying with the Texas Rangers, a team that fought their way into the World Series for the first time this past season with Lee on the mound. But in line with the drama that has been this year's MLB Winter Meetings, Lee shocked everyone as word leaked that he had been offered a cool $100M, 5-year deal from the Philadelphia Phillies.
The move has people questioning why Lee would choose to take so much less money, with rumors placing the Yankees highest bid around $160M over 7 years. It was widely known that Cliff Lee was stunned and saddened when the Phillies traded him to the Seattle Mariners last year in a move to acquire Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays. Lee played quite possibly the best season of his career with the Phillies in 2008-09, and it seems that the World Series loss to the Yankees has left him hungry to return in search of a win. Plus, that subway ride to Yankees Stadium and the New York fan berating and spitting on his wife probably didn't help in his decision to drop the Yankees bid.
So how will Lee impact demand for the Phillies? Adding him to the Phillies' already impressive lineup of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt will make for one of the strongest pitching squads in the entire MLB. Phillies fans have historically been extremely loyal, with the team selling out more games than any other at Citizens Bank Park last season. It's a bit early on to determine concrete data, but last week tickets for the Phillies home opener on April 1st, 2011 against the Houston Astros were averaging at $159 a ticket, while today prices have increased, averaging around $227.
We'll continue to track news and fan demand around Cliff Lee's move to the Phillies as Spring approaches. Let us know what you think about Cliff Lee's decision in the comments below or on Twitter @SeatGeek.