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MLB Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Shouldn’t Trade Cliff Lee Again

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Lee is one of the best starting pitchers of his generation

Lee is one of the best starting pitchers of his generation
Brad Mills–USA TODAY Sports

It might happen someday, maybe even this season. But, if the Philadelphia Phillies want to win, want to be a playoff contender, want to contend for another World Series title by at least 2015, then they will never trade Cliff Lee.

Lee isn't the long-lost relative of Clifford Walker Lee, who was an infielder, outfielder and catcher for the team from 1921-1924. No, that cheeky reference was inserted simply to underscore the importance of this masterful ace.

The 34-year-old's unsupported 2012 season offered further proof that sabermetrics provide a smart, but still limited analysis of this great game. The value attached to a pitcher's won-loss record involves the balance between logic and human emotion.

For the past number of years Lee has experienced poor run support, as have some of his other mound mates, because the Phillies' lineup has been incomplete.

Last year Lee's 6-9 record was hardly indicative of his performance through 30 starts. Anyone who saw the repeated exasperation on his face, the dugout confrontation with Shane Victorino, or who considers common sense understands that being listed as a 'winner' matters.

This phenomenally precise left-hander is 52 games above .500 (132-80) in his career. With continued good health, he's likely to put his team in a winning position during the next 80 starts (estimated) of his career through the end of the 2015 season. That's the year that his guaranteed contract ends, unless an innings pitched vesting option is triggered.

A heavy bounty of 'prospects', or a combination of major league players and prospects, could be gained by general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. if he risked trading Lee again. However, it seems a better bet to keep one of the best pitchers of this era while he's in his prime and build around him.

Lee is a unique 'centerpiece' player. Any organization is better with him on the mound than it is with him off it.

Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanyOB, Facebook, Google+ and read his blog Insight.

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This 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner's record was a stunning 22-3

This 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner's record was a stunning 22-3
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians were 81-81 in 2008. Lee won 27% of his team's games that season and the American League Cy Young Award, as he went 22-3.

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Consistently preventing runners from reaching base is the mark of all great pitchers

Consistently preventing runners from reaching base is the mark of all great pitchers
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Cliff Lee posted a solid 1.114 WHIP during last season's challenging 30-start, 6-9 season.

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Lee has carved a sharp 1.199 career WHIP mark

Lee has carved a sharp 1.199 career WHIP mark
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Cliff Lee's 1.312 WHIP with the Cleveland Indians through eight seasons was very good. But, the 1.061 WHIP that he's generated through 86 Philadelphia Phillies' starts is excellent.

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Amaro will surely consider the anticipated ramifications of any Lee-trade sequel

Amaro will surely consider the anticipated ramifications of any Lee-trade sequel
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After openly acknowledging that he shouldn't have traded Cliff Lee in December 2009, Ruben Amaro, Jr. exploded baseball's hot stove by signing him to a massive free agent deal in December 2010.

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Lee didn't want to leave Philadelphia in 2009 and was elated to return in 2010

Lee didn't want to leave Philadelphia in 2009 and was elated to return in 2010
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies' fans should hope that Cliff Lee won't be forced to say goodbye for at least two more seasons. Any package of players received in return for this true ace, or any payroll space that could be created through his departure, isn't likely to equal the elevated gift that he delivers every fifth day.