The inner workings of baseball contract and transaction rules are a tricky business. I’ve been following the game intensely for a long time and I’ve only really grasped all the nuances and hitches over the last couple years. For more casual fans of the game, a lot of the rules governing things like waiver transactions probably read like an anagram of antidisestablishmentarianism. It is for this reason that the Twitter machine exploded with a raging hot fury yesterday when it was announced Phillies lefthander Cliff Lee was placed on waivers and subsequently claimed by a mystery team. Not long afterwards, it was announced that the fiscally substantial and not-altogether responsible Los Angeles Dodgers (so nouveau riche) were the team that won the claim.
Queue the frenzy.
As Dustin explained yesterday (twice), the Phillies placing Lee on waivers does not necessarily mean they have any real intention of dealing him—and for that matter, the claiming team may not have any real intention of making the acquisition. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible that a deal will take place, but it means we should all relax, maybe go to our back decks and chill out with a nice frosty beverage and think about all the things that probably won’t happen in this crazy world.
In fact last night, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was asked to confirm or deny the story and said “It’s irrelevant. He’s not going anywhere.” Now, obviously he could be lying to keep his leverage with the Dodgers and to keep the negotiations out of the media, but it seems to me that that should end almost all speculation that Lee will be dealt.
So let’s all just chill out.
At this time of year, teams place large portions of their Major League roster on the waiver wire to gauge interest from other teams. Most of the time, the names aren’t leaked to the press simply because there’s no way most of the players will get moved. Teams have the right to revoke the claim and keep the player as though nothing happened, which is in all likelihood exactly what will happen with Lee. The Phillies could also allow the Dodgers to claim Lee outright, but then LA would be on the hook for all $95-million owed to Lee by the end of 2015. The two teams could also work out a trade, but all of Lee’s trade protections (he can block trades to 21 teams and it’s unknown if the Dodgers are in fact one of them) would still be in effect.
Of course, of all the teams in baseball that could logically acquire Lee and his Zeppelin-like contract over the next three seasons, the Dodgers and their newfound wealth and stable ownership seem to make the most sense—hence the craziness on the Tweeter.
Still, it seems more likely that if Lee gets moved, it won’t be until the offseason when teams can more easily juggle their assets in the name of cost-certainty. Lee’s deal is somewhat of an albatross in terms of average annual value, but considering the calibre of pitcher, the track record of durability and the fact that he’s only under contract for three more season would probably make him very appealing to teams in ‘win-now’ mode with deep pockets. Waiting until the offseason also allows the Phillies to deal openly with any team who may be interested, rather than losing a ton of leverage through the waiver process.
And the Rest:
What is it with brothers and their constantly wanting to keep pace with each other? [AP].
Penniless, old, and barely able to compete in even the most precarious of semi-pro leagues, Jose Canseco has signed with Rio Grande Valley of the North American Baseball League [AP].
Sam Miller analyzes the Dodgers acquisition of cupcakes [Baseball Prospectus].
Aaron Cook couldn’t strike out your mother [Matthew Kory, Baseball Prospectus].
Three pitchers that may still be traded before August 31st [Jack Moore, FanGraphs].
The Rockies are clearly unable to care for themselves [Grant Brisbee, McCovey Chronicles].
If you’re not listening to the PRODcast yet, shame on you [Productive Outs].
Vin Scully—still the best