Another night, another Cliff Lee start that begs the question the Philadelphia Phillies must ponder in the offseason: is he worth another year or two at $25 million?
In this case, the Phillies are talking $25 million a year for the next two years. The answer would have to be no, despite his 13th win of the season after beating the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night. If the Phillies were talking about a 25-win pitcher, the $1 million per win price might seem a little steep, but worth it.
These are not the days though of Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn and Denny McClain, when 25 wins was the norm. These days, if someone wins 20 games, that’s the ceiling.
When the Phillies look at Lee, they see a 13-win pitcher with an ERA just above 3.00 and, for the nearly $2 million per win, that’s definitely not worth it. So in the club box seats where GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and team president David Montgomery sit, they have to be thinking trade.
The problem is that the other organizations have probably figured the Phillies overpaid this contract and to get rid of him, the Phillies might have pay a lot of Lee’s salary.
How much of that salary will be determined by how desperate some of the deep-pocketed teams are for a top-of-the-line starter. His four-seam fastball has dipped below 91 mph for the first time since 2008, a sure indication that both age and innings have taken a toll on his arm.
The Phillies might be stuck with Lee, but the thought here and maybe there is that if they can get two top prospects and a middle-level prospect, they should offer to pay a significant amount of the balance of his contract and bid him a fond adieu. Heck, one of those prospects might turn into a 13-game winner not too far down the road.
After all, 13-game winners may not be a dime a dozen, but they shouldn’t come with a $25 million price tag.