"Hey, Chase! You guys got Cliff Lee!"
Utley had just left a movie theater late Monday night in Southern California, when somebody recognized him and told him that Lee had rejoined the Phillies. Lee, who has agreed to a five-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies (a vesting option for a sixth season would increase the value to $135 million), is scheduled to take his physical on Wednesday in Philadelphia. He will be reintroduced afterward at a news conference at Citizens Bank Park.
"I was very surprised and extremely happy," Utley said on Tuesday.
His teammates shared his sentiments. Phillies closer Brad Lidge learned of Lee's decision from teammate Ben Francisco. Lidge and Francisco had a playoff game in their fantasy football league, and after Francisco beat Lidge, he cheered him up with a text message: "It's OK. You don't need to cry. We just signed Cliff Lee."
"It ended up being a great night," Lidge said.
"I'm shocked," Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said. "For the last week, it was the Yankees and Rangers, the Yankees and Rangers. And then I started hearing Philadelphia entered the picture, and I'm, like, 'There's no way.' I just never would have thought it could happen. I heard we were tapped out with our payroll. But this just shows you what this organization is about. It shows where we are and where we want to go."
Lee joins a rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. It is a rotation that boasts three Cy Young Awards, one World Series MVP award, two National League Championship Series MVP awards and six 20-win seasons.
"I just keep thinking about how many wins we're going to get in the regular season," Lidge said. "And then how dominant those guys will be in the postseason. You never know what's going to happen in the postseason, but I just can't imagine a scenario in which we get there and we don't have the best pitching by a lot, no matter who we're playing against. Even the Giants. They have four great starters, but compared to the names we're throwing out there, there's nobody that can compete with that."
The odds certainly work in Philadelphia's favor. They have the best rotation in baseball. They have four pitchers who legitimately have the ability to throw a shutout every time they step on the mound.
Lee completed an interesting circuit in the last 12 months. The Phillies said they traded him to Seattle last December because they felt he would not sign an extension and because they said they needed to restock their farm system to make up for the prospects they shipped to Toronto for Halladay.
They got Halladay because they traded Lee.
They got Oswalt before the July 31 trade deadline because they traded Lee.
And they got Lee back a year later.
"Now it looks like everything is going to end up working out," Lidge said. "However we were able to do it, we've got all the guys. We've got all three of them. It's pretty amazing."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.