When Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee went on the disabled list two days after his last start May 18 with a left elbow strain, it was bad news for the Phillies on a multitude of levels.
First, and most obviously, Lee is one of the cornerstones of the Phillies’ pitching staff and his absence would be felt almost immediately. It left the team with Cole Hamels as their only starting pitcher who could be depended on to pitch deep into games and not have to rely on a bullpen that, quite frankly, hasn’t done much to earn the trust of the team or the fans.
But more importantly for the Phillies, Lee going on the DL has all but erased any chance that the team could move him at the trade deadline to free up some payroll and try to replenish the farm system. Of all the players on the Phillies’ roster leading up to his injury, Lee’s was the name that came up the most often as someone the organization could realistically drum up some interest in and probably move. He is still considered one of the best pitchers in baseball with an ERA of 3.18 on the season and a toughness you don’t usually find in pitchers in today’s MLB.
But once Lee went on the DL, that option simply vanished. There is still a slim chance the Phillies could find an organization that would be willing to take a chance on him (and the $50 million remaining on his contract), but for that to happen Lee would have to have a miraculous recovery in rehab, be on the mound again by the beginning of July and then pitch some awe-inspiring baseball. Considering he has just started throwing a baseball around again and afterward said his elbow still isn’t 100 percent, that doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Which means the best option for the Phillies right now is to let Lee take his time, rehab his elbow so he can get back to peak pitching condition and then plan on shopping him around at the trade deadline in 2015. It would be a win-win for both parties as Lee will be able to maximize his rehab and ensure he can throw without any pain, and the Phillies will have a valuable commodity to shop around at the trade deadline just when they are in the midst of beginning to rebuild the team.
Watching Lee pitch was going to be one of the bright spots in what was shaping up to be a mediocre season of Phillies baseball. Seeing him go down was disappointing, but in the long run it might be the best thing for the Phillies and their plans for the future.