The Reuters global sports blog
Cliff Lee threw his best curve ball of the year this week, freezing the anxious New York Yankees and Texas Rangers in their tracks by deciding to rejoin the Philadelphia Phillies.
The decision came out of left field, as the Rangers and Yankees did all the public wooing of the 2008 American League Cy Young winner, while the Phillies worked the back channels.
The Yankees offered seven years, the Rangers were believed willing to put six seasons on the table for the 31-year-old lefty from nearby Arkansas who helped them reach their first World Series.
The Phillies won his services with a five-year deal worth a reported $120 million with an option for a sixth season.
After a World Series and San Francisco Giants triumph that fittingly capped a Major League Baseball campaign known as the Season of the Pitcher, the sport has barely skipped a beat before quickly beginning its next chapter — open season on free agents.
License to begin the hunt in a season of big spending has been granted 10 days earlier than in the past due to rules changes intended to make the wheeling-dealing easier.