MLB Rumors: Could Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher Cliff Lee Head Back to the Texas Rangers?

The Texas Rangers are desperately seeking to add an ace to their pitching rotation before the July 31st trade deadline, with Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke at the top of their list, according to CBSSports.

However, reports have indicated that the Rangers are also interested in bringing back Cliff Lee.

Lee is currently in the second year of a five-year, $120 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. He is guaranteed to make $25 million in 2013, 2014, and 2015, with an option for $27.5 million on his contract in 2016.

He is in the middle of a down year, with just one win in 16 starts. However, it should also be noted that Lee has received horrendous run support. Eight times the Phillies have scored fewer than two runs for him. His earned run average of 3.72 is disappointing, especially for one of the highest paid players in baseball, but it’s still better than the league average, and it’s worth noting that Lee’s strikeouts and walks are right on par with his averages.

He would be a great fit for a Rangers squad that is already one of the top teams in baseball this season. The Rangers have three very reliable arms in their rotation (Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, and Colby Lewis), but none of three is a true ace. Lee would fill that need immediately.

In fact, that’s exactly what he was for Texas in the second half of the 2010 season, when the Rangers acquired him after a midseason trade with the Seattle Mariners. He went 4-6 with a 3.98 earned run average over the season’s final two months, but he was absolutely dominant in the postseason, with a 3-0 record and an 0.75 ERA in the ALDS and ALCS. His hot streak did run out in the World Series, but he’s a proven big-game pitcher, and his 7-3 record and 2.52 ERA in the postseason will back up that claim.

And it’s also what he did for the Phillies in 2009, when he was traded to the team in July, won seven of 11 decisions, and collected four more victories in the postseason, including two against the powerful New York Yankees in the World Series.

Could Lee play that role for the third time in four seasons?

After losing the last two World Series, including last year’s heartbreaking seven-game thriller against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Rangers know that they’re extremely close to having what it takes to win it all. A former Cy Young winner and postseason stud like Lee might put them over the edge, and they did have one of their top scouts at Lee’s last start in Los Angeles.

Realistically though, it’s more likely to see the Rangers trade for Greinke. They’re not going to get Hamels, because he’ll be re-signed by Philly soon. And I don’t think Lee wants to leave Philly.

The Phillies have had Lee twice (the second half of 2009, and since the start of 2011), and after returning to the team in December of 2010, he announced that he never wanted to leave. I believe him. I don’t think he’ll want to go back to the Rangers because if he wanted to be in Texas, he never would have left after 2010.

It’d be interesting if he did go, however, to see what the Phillies would acquire in a trade. They’d likely be after a bullpen arm, and the Rangers have some strong talent there in Robbie Ross, Alexi Ogando, Mark Lowe, and Mike Adams. But the Phillies’ main goal would likely be shortstop Jurickson Profar, a 19-year old in the Rangers’ organization who is widely regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball. He would be a perfect replacement for long-time veteran Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia.

Plus the Rangers have Elvis Andrus at shortstop, and the 24-year old is a pretty good player already.

It would be a long shot for Phillies’ general manager Ruben Amaro Jr to acquire Profar in a trade for Cliff Lee, however.

And realistically, it’s probably a long shot that the Rangers even trade for Cliff Lee this season.

This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for Eagles Central and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.