Well, Cliff Lee is back. Or is he? Alright, his performance against the Giants Monday night can possibly be attributed to being rusty. He has been on the disabled list since May 18 and is coming back from with a left elbow strain, but will he still be as big of trade bait as he was before he made his comeback start?
That remains to be seen but time is most certainly running short for Lee and the Phillies. They’ve expressed that they are in no hurry to trade Cole Hamels but Cliff Lee was someone they were suspected of looking to unload. Will they be able to if he has just one more start before the July 31 trade deadline? It’s a question that has been in the back of my head this whole time. Will the Cliff Lee that returns be the same Cliff Lee?
So far not so good for Lee who gave up six runs on a career high 12 hits in just 5.2 innings against the San Francisco Giants Monday night. That only leaves us with questions. If he throws a no-hitter in his next start he might still be able to command big money, or better yet big prospects for a struggling Phillies team. Otherwise it is debatable that teams will want to take a chance on Lee who is already 35-years old and who’s health is questionable.
There were reportedly quite a few scouts at the game Monday but it’s speculated that many could have been there to see other Phillies possible trade assets like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Marlon Byrd and others. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com writes,
“Against that backdrop, the Tigers, Pirates, Orioles, Mariners, Angels, Royals, Blue Jays and Giants — contenders all — were among a dozen teams that had scouts at Monday’s game. No one can say for sure who was on hand to expressly scout Lee, in part because the Phillies have so many other tradable commodities on their roster.”
Beyond Lee’s poor outing a trade with all but nine of the 30 Major League ball clubs would require his approval. The nine teams that he could be traded to without consent are the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, Minnesota Twins, the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals.
It is unlikely that the Phillies would trade within their division cutting out the Braves, Mets, Nationals and Marlins. While teams like the Rays and the Twins wouldn’t be able to pay the remaining $50 million on Lee’s salary.
Lee could approve a trade to teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox or the Baltimore Orioles but those teams have been said to have been backing off the idea of trading for Lee. Even more so since his Monday start.
If the Phillies are going to move Lee he is going to have to prove he’s healthy in just one final start before the July 31 trade deadline.