Because Of Course He Is

The trade history of Cliff Lee is extensive:

June 27, 2002: Traded by the Montreal Expos with Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore and Lee Stevens to the Cleveland Indians for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.

July 29, 2009: Traded by the Cleveland Indians with Ben Francisco to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson.

December 16, 2009: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the Seattle Mariners for J.C. Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies.

July 9, 2010: Traded by the Seattle Mariners with Mark Lowe and cash to the Texas Rangers for Matthew Lawson, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Justin Smoak.

And so, it only makes sense that as the Philadelphia Phillies set to sell off their assets at the non-waiver trade deadline, Lee is now rumored to be available with several very interested parties, including the Texas Rangers. Having gone 751 days without being traded, it’s about time.

Lee’s contract includes a limited no trade clause that would allow him to block deals to all but eight clubs, and he is still owed whatever portion remains of the $21.5 million he’s owed this season, and then another $75 million over the next three years, plus a $25 million club/vesting option in 2016 (that can be bought out for $12.5 million if Lee  is on the Disabled List at end of the 2015 season with an injury to the left elbow or left shoulder, and didn’t accumulate 200 innings pitched in 2015 or 400 innings  pitched in 2014-15). However, as we’ve discussed in the past, no trade rights are often used as leverage for a player to earn a little bit of bonus money from being traded.

So far this season, Cliff Lee has been Cliff Lee. Yes, his ERA is higher than normal, and he only has a single win this season, but it’s not that concerning given his typically brilliant strike out to walk ratio. A higher than normal BABIP, combined with a low strand rate and a viciously unlucky home run to fly ball ratio make his more television-ready numbers look as though he’s having a bad year, when in reality, he’s continuing to pitch as well as he ever has.

You might even suggest that Lee should want to get far away from Philadelphia, not only given the terrible run support his team has given him this season (fourth worst in baseball), but that high BABIP I mentioned earlier coupled with a similar ground ball rate to what he’s always managed suggests that the Phillies infield defense, which has probably been average overall if we look at DRS and UZR, is also letting him down more frequently than it has in the past.

And that’s why, despite the higher ERA and lack of wins, Lee is still going to be costly to acquire.

The latest batch of rumors are suggesting that the Rangers are the favorites to land Lee if he is indeed traded, but I’m not so sure. Any team having conversations with the Phillies, essentially has to be willing to do something that they wouldn’t do two years ago, when Lee signed his deal with Philadelphia. And they also have to pay the price in the form of prospects for the privilege of attaining a contract that they didn’t want to attain only a short time ago, when Lee was two years younger and presumably better.

All this adds up to mean we’re unlikely to see a straight player for player or players deal. Money would have to be involved from Philadelphia’s side.

As for the Phillies, I think I like what they’re trying to do. After getting the first part of his multi-year contract at good value, they’re attempting to trade the remaining years and choosing instead to rely on the recently signed Cole Hamels in Lee’s place. Given Lee’s availability two years ago, they’re also attempting to capitalize on current conditions influencing other teams as a means of moving him. Looking at their payroll structure overall, Philadelphia is simply too top heavy.

Lee is certainly a valuable commodity, but given the rest of their rotation and what they figure he’d bring back in a trade, the southpaw is also the best option to move from the top of their payroll list. If they can acquire cheap, close to Major League talent for Lee, the rebuild that the team supposedly needs isn’t necessary, as we can instead engage in a battle of semantics and call what they’re doing a reload as opposed to a rebuild, replacing expensive talent with cheaper production.

Comments (17)

  1. “One executive’s Cliff Lee musings: Market for $25M-a-year pitchers is so small, Phillies would have to eat $7-8M/year to get prospects back.” Seems like a good opportunity for the Jays to show they spend by not having to give up an enormous amount for Lee.

  2. I was thinking the same. An elite pitcher with 3-4 years of control left, where his salary (affordable for the Jays) could limit the number of prospects that need to go the other way? I think that’s a good deal.

  3. One of the Lansing SPs, one of Gose/Jake/Snider, and a fuckload of money might get this done…. but probably not

    • I would be very surprised if Toronto is one of Cliff Lee’s acceptable landing spots.

      • “However, as we’ve discussed in the past, no trade rights are often used as leverage for a player to earn a little bit of bonus money from being traded.”

  4. Lee would fit the Blue Jays in a number of ways (assuming he’d actually want to play here):

    - contract is less than 5 years – been stated many times that the team won’t do a contract of more than 5 years

    - increased revenue to increase payroll – TV ratings are up huge, as is attendance, concessions and merchandise

    - very few elite players make it to free agency – Hamels, Cain, and likely Greinke won’t make it to free agency and all were scheduled to at the start of the season

    • Lee would fit the (INSERT FAVOURITE TEAM HERE) in a number of ways (assuming he’d actually want to play here):

      But yes, I’d like to see him or an elite pitcher in a Jays uniform for the next 3+ years.

  5. If the Phils are willing to eat a lot of money or deal him for not a huge haul (to dump the salary) – otherwise, no thanks….I don’t want to see the Jays give up two or three big prospects and have to pay Lee 22 million + a yer…

  6. considering lee’s track record, age, $, and years. so long as the market place for prospects/talent is about the same as a few years back, it should be a similar price as the Roy Halladay trade.

  7. how come no hot rumours on R.A. Dickey?

    one assumes that the mets are are trying to get younger, and build. old man Dickey (age 37) doesn’t fit with that.

    tricky dick would fit with the jays plans (reasonable option for next year) help now and next year, so the jays can buy time for the young arms to come into the big league picture.

    no worries about ALeast/NL consideration really ( two great game against the O’s and Rays this year, a stinker against the yanks, but he still went 6 innings). either the knuckleball is dancing, or she ain’t.

    odds are he’ll stay healthy considering the type of pitcher he is.

    he’s pitching well.

    he’s on twitter so he can tweet on tuesday home games

    being the socially conscious guy that he is (see his charity work/Mount Kilimanjaro) he’d

    probably enjoy the toronto experience. if the jays play it right and donate to his charity (hearing him in interviews it’s actually a big deal to him and his wife) who knows, if he ages well, like some knucklers do, he may stay on after next year if the jays want to woo him.

    before you read on, yes, you can trade players on the DL, or make them PTBNL because they are switching leagues.

    i could see the mets being interested in JPA. he’s got the raw power to blast them out of city field, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith the met’s are looking for a catcher………

    “While the Mets are comfortable entering the 2013 season with Josh Thole as their everyday catcher, they’d like to add a proven backstop who bats from the right side to complement Thole.”

    considering JPA’s performance this year, the jays are probably better off with mathis and gomes this year with an emphasis on mathis (i’m no expert on intangibles, but a good defensive veteran catcher can only help a pitching staff that is young and/or stuggling). in 2013, with a decent mentor, let the TD’A era begin.

    JPA is one of JPR’s guys (he drafted him) so that could help.

    JPA has the good media presense in his “make up” which is sometimes mentioned as a consideration for talent going NY.

    the jays will have to throw in some arms, i won’t speculate on who the jays would give up, or who the mets would want because i just don’t know. however, with JPA being a decent young/controllable “middle of the diamond” piece in the trade, it would lower the cost of the pitching the jays would have add.

    book it!

  8. LOL. The Jays in on Cliff Lee. C’mon guys.

    Just.

    Come.

    On.

    Never ever everedy everson.

    • R.A. Dickey has a 5 million dollar option for next year.

      just say’n

      • Yeah Dickey makes a lot more sense. I just don’t see the Jays trading for – and paying for – a $25M pitcher any time soon.

        • It is really stupid for anyone to pay pitchers 25+ mill per season. They play once every fucking 5th day and pose an enormous injury risk.

          25+ million on an everyday player is somewhat understandable.

  9. No way the Jays take on this salary, he’d be the highest paid guy on the team by $7 Million.

    • I’d actually be pissed if the Jays traded anything of value for Cliff Lee. If they fucking wanted him, they should have just went out and got him when he was an FA?

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