UPDATE: Cliff Lee chooses Phillies

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UPDATE: Amazing. Absolutely amazing. According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, the Rangers have been told that Cliff Lee has chosen the Phillies.

10:42 PM: Todd Zolecki of MLB.com confirms that the Phillies are a legitimate suitor for Lee and adds that the team is shopping Joe Blanton, Raul Ibanez and Kyle Kendrick in order to free up salary.

10:09 PM: I don’t think I have ever seen a story like this evolve so dramatically and unexpectedly in such a short period of time, but here we are. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees “have become increasingly negative” about landing Lee and believe that he is “edging towards the Phillies.”

10:02 PM: This baby is getting serious. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com hears that this is NOT a leverage play on behalf of Darek Braunecker and that Cliff Lee is indeed interested in returning to Philadelphia.

9:48 PM: Jack Curry of YES Network writes that “there is a belief” that Cliff Lee is headed to the Phillies. Curry continues by saying that if he goes to Philadelphia, it will be for “a lot” less money than the Yankees offered.

8:48 PM: According to Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record, it is “highly unlikely” that the Yankees will increase their offer to Cliff Lee. In fact, executives are starting to think that if Lee wanted to be in New York, he would have accepted today.

In other news, first mentioned by Brandon Worley of Lone Star Ball and passed along by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, a private plane left from Love Field (Dallas, TX) this afternoon bound for Little Rock and returned to Love Field this evening. Oh, this is Hot Stove drama at its best.

8:08 PM: A “well-placed source” tells Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia that Lee’s decision is “close.” He names the Phillies as a finalist along with the Yankees and Rangers.

Meanwhile, emboldened after the identity of the “mystery team” was finally revealed, Jon Heyman of SI.com hears that the Phillies are looking for takers for Joe Blanton in order to free up some cash. In other words, Lee should sign with the Long Island Ducks any minute now.

7:42 PM: Jayson Stark of ESPN.com speculated earlier that the Phillies could be the “mystery team” involved on Cliff Lee and now we have it confirmed.

A source with direct knowledge of the talks tells Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com that the Phillies are still bidding on the free-agent left-hander.

It’s not clear how involved they are in negotiations, but the source tells Rosenthal that the Phillies are “not out.”

It would obviously be quite a swerve if Lee ended up signing with the Phillies. It would also give them one of the most incredible starting rotations in recent memory. But before we get too far into that, just recognize that the timing on this information is curious to say the least.

We know that the Yankees have a seven-year offer on the table while the Rangers have a six-year offer with an option for a seventh year. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told George King III of the New York Post on Sunday that he would not increase the club’s current offer, which is believed to be worth around $161 million. Is there a chance that Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker is trying to make Cashman and/or Jon Daniels sweat at the last minute? I’d say at least a little bit.

2017 Preview: The American League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League East

Boston may have the most talent and, in Mookie Betts, the best player. The Yankees have the best farm system. Baltimore has all the dingers and the best closer. Toronto may have the best collection of heels, at least in the view of fans of the other AL East teams.  The Rays have the best . . . hmm. I’ll get back to you on that.

Anyway, here are our previews for the American League East:

Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.