The point simply isn’t whether to trade Cliff Lee this summer. The Philadelphia Phillies are considering how they plan to approach the next few seasons as baseball’s hot stove heats up.
This veteran lefty will turn 35 on August 30. He’s healthy and pitching in the prime of his career. So, why would any ‘big-market’ team, regardless of salary issues choose to deal a clear number 1 starter who isn’t truly replaceable? That’s the challenge that general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. faces at this point in time.
Whatever package of players might obtainable would only serve as one line in a complex equation that involves, among other items, future payroll space, decisions related to other high-salaried Phillies, the availability of pending free agents, or trade targets.
Lee seems likely to be retained if Amaro plans to remove another higher-salaried name, in addition to Roy Halladay, from the roster before next season begins. That person could be Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins.
As unlikely as it may seem, if a team is willing to take at least half of Ryan Howard’s lingering mega-deal, along with Lee, in exchange for one of their higher-salaried men, a blockbuster deal could be made.
I would gamble that Lee’s arm strength will endure for a few more seasons. With that bet in mind, my choice would be to keep him in red pinstripes through the remainder of his current contract. He, along with Cole Hamels, form two-fifths of a staff that rises above most other rotations in the major leagues.
While this twelve-season veteran’s trade value couldn’t be higher, some transactions are best left as pure speculation.