Unless all of the major league scouts who attended Cliff Lee‘s last two starts have vision problems, we can pretty much assume one thing from them: Lee will remain a Philadelphia Phillies player through the balance of the season.
From the Phillies’ perspective, that is not such a bad thing.
Lee left after five innings with a 6-3 lead on Saturday night over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He finished with 85 pitches and 53 strikes.
As many as 20 MLB scouts attended both Lee’s starts before the July 31 trade deadline and Lee needed to prove he still is the dominant pitcher he has been for his 13-year career in order to produce the mother lode of talent the Phillies require to move him now. That did not happen.
Some desperate team will try to low-ball the Phillies right now by offering a mid-level prospect or two for him, but if GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is smart, he should say thanks, but no thanks. There are a lot of Phillies fans who think Amaro is not all that smart, but any son of a Cuban immigrant who is able to get into Stanford — like Amaro was — should figure out that keeping Lee is the best way to go now.
Simply stated, Lee has shown rust in these past two starts but will get better. The Phillies hold his rights not only this year, but next, and that’s a big bargaining chip. An even bigger one is that there are very few aces out there and the Phillies have two, both lefties, in Lee and Cole Hamels. They can afford to trade away one and, in this rebuild attempt, it must be the older Lee.
Lee can bring more of a haul in the offseason and, for that, they should keep him and probably thank him for not wowing those 20 scouts in July.