Everyone thought that Cliff Lee was going to either the Yankees (the favorite), or the Rangers (the sentimental choice). They had very good reasons to think that way. The Yankees and Rangers ponied up the money to make Lee's great-great-great grandchildren very wealthy.
The word was Lee was looking for top dollar, and he had the ability to take it.
But Lee had a great perspective. It appears to me he was thinking, "I'm going to be VERY rich. How about I pick a team that is 1) going to challenge for the World Series, and 2) will do what it takes to keep that team going.
1) PITCHING: Yankees-pitch with C.C. Sabathia and then a big fall off. Rangers: Me and ? ? ? Phillies- join 3 STUDS. Big advantage to Philly.
2) HITTING: All three have great line ups. I'd put them in this order: Phillies, Yankees, Rangers.
3) COMPETITION: Being a National League Baseball fan, I'm sad to say it is "easier" in the National League. Lee probably leaned towards Philly, having a higher probability to 1) make the playoffs, and 2) get to the World Series.
4) MONEY: People are saying Lee left money on the table taking a "smaller" deal signing with Philly. The fact is Lee will average more money per year with the Philly deal, although he will be missing out on an extra year. If Lee makes all his bonus, it turns out that he will be short less than $10 million, not $50 million.
Good for Lee. Good for Philly. Good for all the Yankee haters.