Other pitchers have put up stats similar to those of Cliff Lee, but few can replicate the success he’s had at being trade deadline bait.
With the Phillies faltering at 28-30, third in the National League East, the team that Lee handpicked in free agency three years ago now appears primed to trade him again. While the Phillies were the one team that didn’t move Lee at the midsummer deadline in the three times he’s been traded (they traded him in the 2009 offseason, while Cleveland dealt him at the 2009 deadline and Seattle at 2010 midway mark), this could be their year to make the move.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports that Lee has 20 teams listed in the no-trade clause of his contract with the Phillies, including the Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers and Orioles. That means those teams would need Lee’s permission to acquire him, and that they would likely have to put up more money to do so.
Lee has three years and $77.5 million left on his contract after this season (the third year has a vesting option and $12.5 million buyout), but the Phillies haven’t indicated that they want to dismantle their current squad or deal Lee.
Lee told Morosi that he wasn’t “going to get too caught up” in the trade rumors, but he was aware of the team’s state and his role in keeping himself from being sent to a new team.
“Management is going to have some decisions to make when we get closer to the trade deadline if we continue to play the way we have,” he said. “I want to do everything I can to make sure they’re not forced to make some of those decisions. I’m just going to try to pitch and do everything I can to help the team win.”
While Lee was able to pick the Phillies from among other suitors several seasons ago, that decision may be out of his hands now that the team hasn’t turned into the contender he expected.
“Every time I’ve been traded, before that, every organization would say, ‘You’ll be the first one to know if we’re ever going to move you,” he said. “I was the last one to know every time.”
In fact, Lee said, he found out about each trade while watching TV.
The Red Sox have had strong pitching this year, but Lee would be an upgrade over every starter but Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Boston also has room to maneuver, with space under the salary cap and plenty of prospects.
Lee is 7-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings pitched this year.