The trade that brought Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers in 2010 worked out well for all parties involved that year as it resulted in the club’s first trip to the World Series. However, Lee absolutely choked in the Fall Classic and then bolted for the Philadelphia Phillies via free agency a month later. Now in 2013, the Rangers are seemingly in the same position to acquire Lee for a title run, but there’s a few overlooked details that will prevent a second Texas tenure for Lee.
First of all, Lee has a no-trade clause in his contract with the Phillies that prevents 20 of the 29 other MLB teams from dealing for him and the Rangers are one of those teams. Folks, there’s a reason Lee left Texas after becoming arguably the most popular player on the Rangers’ roster in 2010 (actually, there are several reasons): he didn’t like it there.
Lee complained about the heat of the Texas summer (day games in August can approach 110 degrees in Arlington) and admitted he didn’t like being the ace for a team with a history of bad pitching. So he signed with the Phillies, for whom he played in 2009, including a trip to the World Series.
In fact, Lee started the only two wins the Phillies recorded in that Fall Classic and was then dealt to the Seattle Mariners before being traded to the Rangers seven months later. So it’s easy to see why Lee doesn’t want to be traded again — he’s been there and done that…thrice.
So even if the Rangers talk the Phillies into trading Lee (Philadelphia reportedly doesn’t want to trade the lefty), then both teams will have to convince him to return via trade to a team he couldn’t wait to leave as a free agent in 2010. Of course, the man will make $25 million in each of the next two seasons and then $27.5 million in the final year of his deal in 2016, so he’ll be bank-rolling wherever he’s playing. He’ll be 38 when his contract is up, so it’s not like the Rangers would be hoping he’d stay at the end of it if they acquired him again.
Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan was the driving force behind the deal for Lee in 2010 and he has reportedly been coaxing GM Jon Daniels to create some deja vu in Arlington. Although nothing can be done about the Texas heat, the Rangers now have a bonafide ace in Yu Darvish and an evolving, ever-improving rotation, so Lee wouldn’t be under the pressure to carry the team like he was in 2010.
If the Rangers’ brass can convince the Phillies to make the deal, then it will all come down to Lee. If he really dislikes Texas as much as he said when he left, then there’s no reason why he would suddenly waive his no-trade clause to go there again. And with his ego and lackadaisical attitude about winning, the Rangers are probably better off without him.