The Cliff Lee negotiations are approaching the end, and the teams involved - and all the rest of us - are awaiting a resolution. The Rangers have made their best offer, the Yankees have made their best offer, and while there have been whispers that a mystery team was involved, by and large that team was written off, and it was assumed that Lee would pick between Texas and New York.
Only, not so fast. According to Ken Rosenthal, that mystery team can't be written off quite yet, as that mystery team is none other than the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies, of course, were Lee's team down the stretch in 2009, and the team with which he reached his first postseason and World Series. Lee quite enjoyed his time in Philadelphia, and it would appear the feeling is mutual, as the Phillies are trying to figure out a way to swing a return.
For what it's worth, the Phillies aren't to be considered favorites or anything. They're a long shot, and as Rosenthal writes:
Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock, when asked about Lee in early December, told Sirius XM’s and FOX Sports’ Jim Bowden, “That ship has sailed.”
It would take something of a budgetary miracle to fit Lee in, and the team would have to unload some payroll, presumably (in part) in the form of Joe Blanton. But there's no telling just how a team will act when it has a chance to sign a superstar, and you can't blame the Phillies for getting excited at the prospect of a Lee/Roy Halladay/Roy Oswalt/Cole Hamels front four in the starting rotation.
The best bets in this race remain the Rangers and the Yankees. But they aren't the only bets. The Phillies have a fighting chance.