Tag: Cliff Lee

Cliff Lee: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation Surrounding Free-Agent SP

As Cliff Lee looks to continue his pitching career in 2016, the former American League Cy Young winner needs to find a team willing to take a chance on him.  

Continue for updates. 

Teams Reluctant to Sign Lee

Sunday, Feb. 7

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, multiple teams have explored the idea of signing Lee as recently as this past week, but “are unsure about devoting $6 million to $8 million, plus incentives” to a 37-year-old who has thrown 81.1 innings since 2014. 

In 2013, per the Associated Press (via NJ.com), Lee said he planned to retire when his contract with the Philadelphia Phillies expired:  “I am getting up there in age. I’m 35 years old. When this contract’s over, I plan on going home. I’m running out of opportunities but all I can control is what I can control. I’m going to do everything I can to help us win. That’s all I know to do.”

While no athlete should be held to what they say in the heat of the moment, Lee’s decision could easily be made for him. Injuries have hampered him for two seasons, with his last appearance in an MLB game coming on July 31, 2014 against Washington. 

In the nearly 19 months since Lee’s last game, he dealt with a flexor pronator strain to end 2014 and told the Associated Press (per ESPN.com) last year when his left elbow flared up again that surgery would “possibly” end his career.

Lee wasn’t pitching poorly in 2014, posting a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 81.1 innings, but his inability to get healthy in the time since originally going on the disabled list essentially means he’s not worthy of getting a one-year deal worth millions of dollars. 

If Lee were to accept something like a minor league deal heavy on incentives with an invite to spring training, he may have more luck finding a place to pitch. 

Based on Cafardo’s report, it doesn’t sound like that kind of contract is something Lee’s camp wants right now. 

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Is Tim Lincecum or Cliff Lee the Better High-Reward Comeback Risk?

Baseball, like all sports, is a cruel mistress. Sometimes she smiles, sometimes she frowns. But eventually, the game grinds everyoneincluding the greatsinto oblivion.

Baseball also offers shots at redemption, however; opportunities for an unexpected second act. In fact, successful comebacks happen nearly every year, though they’re hard to predict and even harder to chart.

That’s our purpose here. To examine the cases of Tim Lincecum and Cliff Leetwo fallen MLB aces trying to claw their way back to relevanceand determine which one offers the better risk/reward for a club in need.

Let’s begin with Lincecum. The slender right-hander hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2011 and underwent season-ending hip surgery in September.

Once upon a time, however, The Freak was the most feared pitcher in the game, a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner who eclipsed 200 strikeouts and 200 innings in every season between 2008 and 2011 for the San Francisco Giants.

With his whiplash-inducing mechanics and slim build, there was always a question of how long Lincecum would last. And the answer came beginning in 2012, as his velocity cratered and his ERA ballooned.

Lincecum occasionally showed flashes of his old self, twirling no-hitters against the San Diego Padres in 2013 and 2014 and making memorable appearances out of the bullpen during the Giants’ 2012 World Series run.

But his decline was as steady as it was steep. He’s still just 31 years old, yet it’s worth wondering if his days as an effective big league pitcher are over.

The first clue will come soon. Lincecum is set to hold a showcase for prospective suitors sometime in January, per Rael Enteen of KNBR.com.

Lincecum’s father, Chris, who helped develop his son’s unorthodox delivery and has been his longtime coach and confidant, said Tim met with his surgeon, Dr. Marc Philippon, and was told his hip looks “perfect,” per Enteen.

Whether that will translate to zip on his fastball and increased control, two things that abandoned Lincecum during his slide to mediocrity, remains to be seen.

After performing the operation, Dr. Philippon sounded an optimistic note, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, then writing for CBS Sports:

I think it’s going to help tremendously to regain the velocity on his pitches and the (control) of them. If you cannot control the hips – that’s what generates the power – it’s difficult to get full motion.

Every pitcher is different. In his style of pitching he uses the hips a lot. We’re going to make sure he returns perfectly balanced.

If you’re a Freak fanatic who fondly recalls the days when the shaggy ace used to carve up opposing hitters with high-90s heat and his darting changeup, that has to bring at least a tentative smile to your face.

OK, let’s switch gears to Lee for a moment. While you have to go back a few years to locate vintage Lincecum, Lee was an All-Star and top-10 NL Cy Young vote-getter as recently as 2013, when he posted a 2.87 ERA with 222 strikeouts in 222.2 innings for the Philadelphia Phillies.

But the veteran southpaw was limited by elbow issues in 2014 and missed the entire 2015 season. Now, he’s gunning for a return and has drawn “significant interest from a multitude of teams,” according to his agent, Darek Braunecker, per ESPN.com’s Andrew Marchand.

Lee was the second-most valuable pitcher by FanGraphs WAR between 2009 and 2013, behind only Justin Verlander, so it’s easy to see why suitors would come sniffing around. And it’s possible a year off resolved his arm issues.

As with Lincecum, we won’t know for certain until we see Lee in action.

Based on what we know now, though, let’s return to the original question: Which pitcher lands in a better place on the risk/reward spectrum? If you were going to take a flier on one, who would it be?

The argument for Lee centers mainly on his more recent success. Just a couple of seasons ago, he was one of the top left-handers in baseball. He also opted against surgery, which doesn’t erase concerns about his health but does simplify the equation. Either a year-plus of rest made a significant difference or it didn’t.

With Lincecum, as usual, there are more moving parts. His doctor’s rosy prognosis aside, this hip surgery is something of an enigma. It’s fun to fantasize about Big-Time Timmy Jim cranking back the clock and emerging as we all remember him. That seems a touch too fairy-tale to be real, though.

Then again, the idea of Lee, who turns 38 in August, rebounding from major elbow and forearm problems and producing over a full 162-game grind is semi-far-fetched in its own right.

All things considered, we’ll give a slight edge to Lincecum based almost solely on age. He’s nearly seven years Lee’s junior and has about 500 fewer MLB innings on his arm. That’s not to say old guys can’t succeed, but when you’re digging in against Father Time, youth offers an edge.

Assuming there are no significant setbacks, it’s probable both players will land spring training invites at least, and possibly guaranteed contracts featuring a low base value larded with incentives. In November, Heyman predicted $5 million guaranteed for Lincecum.

Braunecker said Lee is holding out for the “perfect fit,” per MLB Network Radio. Presumably that means a team built to win now and maybe near his home in Arkansas. That could foretell a return to the Lone Star State, either with his old club, the Texas Rangers, or the Houston Astros. If he’s willing to go north, the New York Yankees also appear to be a logical landing spot.

As for Lincecum, the sentimental bet is on San Francisco, the only franchise he’s ever known. The Giants added Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto to a rotation that looks full, but general manager Bobby Evans said San Francisco “will be watching” Lincecum’s showcase, per Enteen. It’s possible Lincecum’s future is as a bullpen arm anyway, so there could be a fit.

As a baseball fan, you should root for both of these comebacks to succeed, because comebacks are cool. The odds are stacked against it, as they always are. Still, sometimes baseball smiles.

Now, Lincecum and Lee are hoping that smile is aimed in their direction.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Cliff Lee Can Still Be a Low-Risk, High-Reward Starter for a Contender

The teams are interested and lining up. 

They can certainly smell a potential deal that benefits them when the scent wafts through the offseason air. And the aroma is strong with this one.

One-time ace Cliff Lee is back on the market as a viable rotation option for some contending club. After missing all of the 2015 season because of a partially torn flexor tendon, Lee is back to throwing and hoping to land a spot in a big league rotation for 2016.

While the bidding for Lee could rise to the point that he has a guaranteed major league deal and potentially for more than just one season, he still provides a low-risk, massive-reward kind of incentive because he can help front any rotation if healthy. After all, we are talking about a guy who pitched at an elite level as recently as 2014 when he posted a 2.96 FIP and had a 6.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio, though those numbers came in only 13 starts before the injury.

Let us not be misleading or overly optimistic. Lee is a big risk in terms of staying healthy, but low-risk in terms of what a team would have to commit to land him, relatively speaking about the current free-agent pitching market.

It is more than possible Lee signs with a team and his left elbow never responds the way he or the team hopes. Maybe he makes it to Opening Day but ends up a bad pitcher. The team ends up on the hook for whatever money it assured Lee, and he is gone from baseball forever. That is the worst-case scenario.

Because Lee is 37 years old, and because he’s pitched just 13 times in the last two seasons, that is the likeliest way for all of this to play out. It would be an unfortunate end to a career but not completely shocking considering all the miles Lee has accumulated during his impressive stand.

Bringing the body, and especially the arm, back from all of that trauma taxes it even more, and the likelihood of a successful comeback is small. Or at least that’s how baseball history tells it for pitchers.

But if Lee can indeed come back and recreate what he did in 2014, he could end up being a bargain and a leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. And in a dreamer’s world, Lee could even find enough of his old form to be one of the best pitchers in the majors, as he was as recently as 2013 when he had a 2.87 ERA and league-leading 6.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 222.2 innings with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The idea of that kind of bounce-back, that kind of reinvention, is why half the league is interested in what Lee brings to the table, both in terms of his medicals and his stuff, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Considering it might not take much of a commitment to sign him, any contending team’s front office would not be doing its job properly if it did not at least window-shop on Lee.

At this point Lee is far removed from 2013, but going back to 2010 and right through the last time he pitched in the majors, the numbers show he is a front-of-the-rotation starter.

Since the start of 2010, Lee has a 2.95 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 7.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 133 ERA+ over 134 starts. In those five seasons, his 26.2 FanGraphs WAR mark is fourth-highest in the majors, the ERA is seventh-lowest and the K/BB ratio is by far the best.

You can see why the interest exists. If Lee even hints at what he’s been in the recent past, a one- or two-year incentive-laden contract could end up as the biggest pitching bargain on the current markets, free-agent or trade.

That leaves plenty of teams in the mix for Lee, who wants to pitch for a contender. The Los Angeles Dodgers are probably out after agreeing to terms with Scott Kazmir on Wednesday, but every other club with a thought of playing in the postseason should be making a run at the lefty. High-payroll clubs like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox and lower-payroll teams like the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates should all be seriously considering Lee.

If the comeback fails, none of those teams are crippled by it since the money and expectations are minimal. If it succeeds, Lee is a game-changing rotation piece that shifts postseason odds.

Whenever Lee signs with a team, the news might not shake the ground. But if he pitches like his recent self in 2016, it would certainly be a seismic shift in either league’s playoff picture.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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Cliff Lee: Latest News, Rumors and Speculation Surrounding Free-Agent P

Cliff Lee missed the entire 2015 season due to injury, but the veteran starting pitcher is reportedly in line to make his return to Major League Baseball in 2016.

Continue for updates.

Report: Lee Receives Medical Clearance, Plans to Pitch

Thursday, Dec. 3

While Lee is getting up there in age at 37 and coming off a major injury, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported Thursday that he has been medically cleared and will pitch in 2016 provided a team signs him in free agency.

A flexor tendon tear in his left elbow kept Lee on the disabled list throughout the 2015 season, and it limited him to just 13 starts in 2014 as well.

After it was determined that he would not pitch in 2015, he admitted it was possible he would never pitch again, according to Meghan Montemurro of USA Today.

“So basically if I have the surgery this season will be done, possibly my career I guess,” Lee said. “I don’t know.”

Despite that fear, Lee is on the precipice of a return, although it is anyone’s guess if he will be able to get back to the form that allowed him to make the All-Star team four times and win the American League Cy Young Award with the Cleveland Indians in 2008.

Lee’s last full season came in 2013 with the Philadelphia Phillies, and he was excellent, as he went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA and 222 strikeouts in 222.2 innings.

The southpaw has also enjoyed stints with the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, and his career numbers of 143-91 with a 3.52 ERA suggest he was among the league’s top hurlers in his prime.

While Lee may no longer be in his prime, his track record could be enticing to teams, especially the fact that he is 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA in his postseason career and twice made it to the World Series.

That success on the big stage coupled with the fact that he figures to come at a discounted price due to his injury issues will make him a highly intriguing commodity on the open market.

It is entirely possible that Lee will fail to overcome his elbow issues in 2016 once again, but knowing what he has accomplished over the course of his career, he is certainly worth a flier, especially for a team that believes it can contend for a championship.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Why They’ll Be a Seller by the All-Star Break

Merely one month into the MLB season and teams are already beginning to separate themselves in the division as races start to shape up.

Although the 2015 MLB All-Star break is still more than two months out, the teams quickly descending to the bottom of the standings are beginning to figure out whether to buy or to sell before the game.

One team primed to be a seller this summer are the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that has gotten off to an 8-15 start and currently sits fifth in the NL East.

Injuries have piled up for the Phillies, which has led the pitching to fall to the bottom third of the league in most statistical categories. In addition, the team suffers from a lack of offensive production.

With the New York Mets leading the NL East and a three-way battle brewing in for second place, the Phillies are in a position to trade away their top assets. 

Just 23 games into the 2015 season, the Phillies have mustered only eight wins and are struggling to keep pace with the NL East front-running Mets. The Mets own a 15-8 record and have been dominant at Citi Field. 

Both the Miami Marlins and the Washington Nationals remain in contention, too. The Nationals have won three in a row, while the Marlins have ripped off two straight. Meanwhile, the Phillies continue to dig themselves into a deeper hole with three consecutive losses.

Currently, five pitchers sit on the Phillies disabled list. Among them are Cliff Lee and Chad Billingsley, who were expected to be pivotal parts of the starting rotation.

Billingsley is on the 15-day DL and could be activated as early as next weekend for the showdown against the Mets, according to the Philly.com.

Lee, on the other hand, is on the 60-day DL. He’s currently deciding between rehab for a left forearm strain or surgery, which would end his 2015 season. In March, Lee told Philly.com that he was leaning toward giving rehab a third chance.

With both Lee and Billingsley sidelined, the Phillies have had to rely on the likes of Jerome Williams (3.80 ERA), David Buchanan (8.76 ERA) and Severino Gonzalez (23.63 ERA). Along with Cole Hamels (3.19 ERA) and Aaron Harang (2.51 ERA), the Phillies rank 21st in MLB in team pitching, behind three rival NL East clubs.

Offensively, the Phillies have endured even more struggles. The lineup has been short of Domonic Brown all season long, while their usual sluggers, such as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, have struggled with been inconsistent. 

Utley has batted .114 in 21 games played, and his counterpart Howard is at .194 in 20 games. As a team, the Phillies rank 29th in the league in offense with a team batting average of .223. Additionally, the Phillies rank 26th in home runs (13), 29th in on-base percentage (.280) and 30th in runs scored (63).

As the Phillies continue to sputter, they find themselves with no other options other than to start dealing. Among the chips that could be angled include none other than Hamels. 

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro has received a bevy of phone calls about the availability of the team’s longtime ace, and according to USA TODAY, the St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have all expressed some level of interest.

Per the report, the Phillies would only send Hamels in exchange for a player they could turn into their centerpiece in the future. 

The Cardinals are without their ace, Adam Wainwright, who was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Brandon McCarthy, the Dodgers’ prized free-agent signee, is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Blue Jays need to find a suitable replacement for Marcus Stroman, and the Red Sox rank dead last in MLB with a 5.04 team ERA.

If the Phillies intend on being sellers, they also can try to shed closer Jonathan Papelbon and his $13 million salary to any buyers. 

Papelbon owns a 1.08 ERA and five saves in eight appearances out of the Philadelphia pen, but the team has little need for a stopper as it continues to plummet in the standings. To shed his salary would be ideal for Philadelphia, and the Blue Jays—who also reportedly have interest in Hamels—also have been in the mix for Papelbon, per CSNPhilly.com.

However, Toronto dropped out of those talks as the season progressed, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

In addition to those two pitchers, the Phillies may consider dealing Utley. Although the veteran second baseman is not putting up All-Star statistics so far this season, he is an impending free agent.

The team would be wise to try to get something in exchange for Utley, instead of simply allowing him to walk for free.

Utley previously made it clear to the organization that he did not want to leave Philadelphia, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, but that position may have changed with the team’s current standing.

But there is some curiosity about whether this will change, in the face of the Phillies’ dim prospects now or in the immediate future. Jimmy Rollins chose to leave, accepting a trade to the Dodgers, and rival evaluators believe Cole Hamels wants out, as well.

Utley is a California native that attended UCLA. Naturally, both Los Angeles teams—the Dodgers and the Angels—make season for that reason. Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick is batting .295 this year with 14 RBI. Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella is batting .317 with 10 RBI. 

All signs point to the Phillies making some moves before the 2015 MLB All-Star break. They’ve been rumored to do so for months, and all signs point to it finally coming to fruition.

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Cliff Lee’s Career-Threatening Injury Is a Sounding Alarm to Trade Cole Hamels

Cliff Lee has sent Ruben Amaro Jr. his much-needed wake-up call.

Now it is up to Amaro to actually wake up.

Lee is the Philadelphia Phillies former ace and currently a 36-year-old left-hander whose balky elbow has him face to face with the end of his successful career. Amaro is the Phillies’ general manager and currently the man who still has not traded his one strong bargaining chip and current left-handed ace, Cole Hamels.

But Amaro should not be that guy for much longer. He should move Hamels in the near future if not immediately. And if he keeps Hamels longer than that, then he should cease to be the team’s GM. Either way, Amaro should not be that guy for much longer.

Don’t hold any precious breaths waiting for that to happen, though. Lee’s career-threatening elbow injury is not going to push Amaro into trading Hamels, and apparently, neither is any other injuries to pitchers on other clubs.

“Nope,” Amaro told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark when asked if his asking price on Hamels has softened after Lee’s injury. “Why would it change? No reason to change it.

“I don’t know what our ‘stance’ on Cole is. Others have ‘stances,’ I guess, for us. I guess other people must think we have a ‘stance.’ Our ‘stance’ is that we’re open-minded. And that hasn’t changed one bit.”

But open-minded in Amaro’s world seems to differ from common folk.

Here is the Cole Hamels Situation, or “stance,” as we have come to know it since last July at the non-waiver trade deadline: Amaro has refused and will continue to refuse any trade offer for his ace that does not completely knock him off his designer loafers.

The inherent injury risk of hanging onto Hamels does not even register into Amaro’s thinking.

“There’s no lesson learned from Lee’s situation because it’s a totally different situation. One guy is hurt. The other guy is completely healthy,” Amaro dissected to Stark.

“All pitchers can get hurt. All players can get hurt. It can happen any time,” Amaro later added. “That has nothing to do with the way we go about our business, [by] planning for a player to get hurt. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Understandable. You do not “plan” for a player’s injury without any pre-existing knowledge that he is prone to having one, which is Hamels’ situation. Still, trading your most valuable asset at his highest value in order to fully kick-start your team’s rebuild is not the same as planning for injury.

It is just wise, especially when we have now learned over the last eight and a half months that Amaro’s dream package is not dropping onto his doorstep. And if it does between now and next July 31, it likely means that the pieces he covets have significantly lost value to their current organizations, which also does not bode well for the Phillies.

The teams the Phillies have flirted with—the Red Sox, the Rangers, the Yankees, the Padres—have aggressive but analytical front offices. If they are unwilling to part with key prospects at this point, especially when they lack a true ace (Red Sox) or have just lost one for the season (Rangers), their minds are unlikely to change. This becomes particularly true next offseason when you consider the crop of available starting pitchers might be the deepest in the history of free agency.

And if Amaro hangs onto Hamels beyond this coming July, his value drops dramatically with three years instead of four on his contract, another year of age and mileage on his arm and plenty of other options on the market that do not cost high-end prospects.

“Again, if there were deals that we felt were appropriate for us to move forward, then we would,” Amaro told Todd Zolecki of MLB.com last month before Lee was hurt and before the Rangers lost Yu Darvish to Tommy John surgery. “So far some of the deals that we’ve discussed with some of our players have not yielded what we’ve wanted to do. And in some cases, we feel like we’re better off staying with the players that we have for a variety of different reasons. We’ll move forward accordingly.”

But what forward is there to move toward without a trade for Hamels? The team has no other pieces worth salivating over, and it is clearly not in a position to win anytime soon, with or without Hamels. Hamels understands this and has stopped barely short of asking for a trade to a contender during this spring training.

So instead of waiting for the eye-popping prospect package, which is just not available these days like it was when the Rangers traded Mark Teixeira in 2007, the Phillies ought to seek their best available offer as soon as possible and be done with this cloud of constant speculation.

At one point this offseason, we all saw Lee, if healthy and effective, as a trade piece at some point before August. That option has been erased.

Now, Lee is a simply a reminder of one of the possible risks of hanging onto Hamels too dearly. His injury is not the reason Hamels should be traded but more of a notice of what could happen in a worst-case world.

The reason for a Hamels trade has long been upon us considering the Phillies have lost 259 games in the last three seasons. And until now, Amaro has engaged in the kind of hardball no other MLB executive is willing to play, and it is costing his franchise valuable time in its attempt to regain relevancy.

Lee’s elbow is Amaro’s alarm sounding. The Phillies now have to hope his snooze button is broken.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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Cliff Lee Surgery Would Add Pressure on Phillies to Get Cole Hamels Deal Right

Cliff Lee‘s left elbow made it through just one spring training start—and all of two innings—last Thursday before he was shut down the following day with another bout of elbow discomfort in the same spot that plagued him for much of 2014.

The 13-year veteran went for an MRI on Sunday that revealed some inflammation, and while it’s too early to tell yet, Lee did acknowledge that surgery is at least a possibility. If that’s how this plays out, then Lee’s 2015 season will be over before it even begins—and there’s a chance his baseball career could be finished too.

“It would be 6-8 months out,” Lee said, via Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “So basically if I have the surgery this season will be done. Possibly my career I guess. I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”

And just like that, all the pressure is back on general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and the rest of the Philadelphia Phillies front office to do right by a rebuilding organization and make the most out of the club’s final big trade chip, Cole Hamels.

Were it only about his success, experience and postseason history, Lee would make for an enticing option for the Phillies to peddle to clubs eying a proven starter—provided, of course, they made the $37.5 million Lee is owed more palatable.

But combined with that amount of money, this latest run-in with elbow discomfort or soreness makes Lee absolutely immovable.

As Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes:

The Phillies (and Lee) obviously hoped to see the pitcher progress this spring without any issues. Had Lee stayed healthy, he could have been a nice trade chip for Amaro and Co. … and Lee himself could have potentially joined another team prior to the July trade deadline as he pursues an elusive World Series ring.

That is out the window at this point. If Lee weren’t considered damaged goods after making just 13 starts in 2014—none after July 31—due to elbow problems, well, he definitely is now.

Even if Lee were to be OK enough to pitch in the first half of the season, there’s just not going to be much interest in or market for a 36-year-old left-hander with a contract that is cumbersome (and then some) and, more importantly, an elbow that is unwilling to cooperate.

Which brings us back to Hamels, who now more than ever is Amaro’s last chance to turn the aging, injury-prone core of what was a top-notch team for several years into a batch of young, cost-controlled talent to help with a long-overdue rebuilding project that has just begun.

A 31-year-old southpaw, Hamels has been at the center of trade rumors dating back to last July and continuing all throughout this past offseason, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com notes.

While Amaro did manage to bring in some prospects, like Tom Windle, Zach Eflin and Ben Lively, by swapping longtime shortstop Jimmy Rollins and in-his-final-act outfielder Marlon Byrd, Hamels remains the lone piece that could net a return of real, franchise-altering value.

Nobody is knocking down Amaro’s door to ask about closer Jonathan Papelbon, and nobody is even picking up the phone to inquire about first baseman Ryan Howard.

The reports all along have been that Amaro has refused to budge on his terms involving Hamels, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. That means the GM won’t trade him unless the acquiring club sends an elite package of prospects and picks up most, if not all, of the $96 million Hamels is due through 2018.

“Cole Hamels is a known entity,” Amaro told Stark. “A known winner. A known World Series MVP. A known top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. If Cole Hamels continues to be Cole Hamels, which we fully expect him to be, why would [his trade value] decline?”

Funny, but a similar sentiment might have been uttered about Lee this time last year.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Hamels has a $20 million option for 2019 that he might want picked up if dealt, especially to one of the teams on his limited no-trade clause.

The good news here is that Hamels has yet to show any sort of decline or injury concern, meaning his value on the trade front remains relatively high. He is, after all, coming off a career-best 2.46 ERA last year.

That’s a big reason why Amaro needs to get it right when it comes to trading Hamels, which feels like an inevitability by now, whether it happens in the month between now and the start of the regular season or by the trade deadline at the end of July.

It’s also a big reason why Amaro should be willing to bend, if only a little bit, in his demands with regard to a return for Hamels. If nothing else, Lee—who had a 2.80 ERA while making at least 30 starts in each of his first three seasons since re-signing with Philadelphia—is an unmistakable example of how fast a pitcher’s career can be derailed.

Here’s Amaro’s bottom line: More than ever, he needs to get it right when trading Hamels, but in light of Lee’s latest ailment, the leverage is going in the wrong direction.


Statistics are accurate through Monday, March 9 and courtesy of MLB.comBaseball-Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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Phillies’ Cliff Lee Answers Questions Using Magic 8 Ball During Press Conference

Baseball season is finally underway, and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee has already run out of answers for the media.

Following the pitchers and catchers’ first workout of the season, Lee used a Magic 8 Ball to field questions from reporters. 

Teammate Cole Hamels recently voiced his displeasure with the way the Phillies are headed into the 2015 season, so maybe Lee used the Magic 8 Ball to distract from the sticky situation.

[CSN Philly, h/t Next Impulse Sports]

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Cliff Lee Concludes Interview with Loud Fart, Asks If Reporters Got It on Tape

If there are no more questions, Cliff Lee would like to end this interview on a wet, crinkly note. 

After two months on the disabled list, the Philadelphia Phillies starter returned to the mound in uninspiring form on Monday night, chalking up one of the worst games of his career against the San Francisco Giants (12 hits, six runs in just under six innings).

It was a night to forget for Lee, who could be hopping towns if the Phillies can convince an eligible suitor to take a chance on the 35-year-old lefty and pick up the $12.5 million buyout left on his contract.

Thus Lee concluded what could have been one of his final interviews in a Phillies uniform with a definitive (ceremonious?) passing of gas. 

CSNPhilly.com (h/t Barry Petchesky of Deadspin) was on hand to capture the endearing moment.

After halfheartedly going through the postgame motions with reporters (he wants to win games, he’s not worried about leaving Philly), Lee waited patiently for a final question from the pack.

The pause soured into awkwardness and, sensing conclusion, Lee adjourned the forum with a judicious gavel clap of butt thunder.

Is there any punctuation in public discourse more final than the screech of the barking spider? I believe there is not. 

No matter how serious the business or matter afoot, it will be derailed—if not ended entirely—by the sound of the boxer bugle’s crisp reveille. Farts end discussions and, as Lee proved, introduce newer, deeper lines of conversation. 

“Did you get that on tape?” Lee asked, not in the least ashamed.

Yes, the reporters got that all down, and if Mr. Lee believes his bottom was misquoted, he may take that up with the editors at CSN.


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Cliff Lee Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz, Speculation Surrounding Phillies Star

On Friday night, the Philadelphia Phillies begin their second half in the National League East cellar with a 42-53 record. General manager Ruben Amaro has several assets who will be very valuable in trades, including left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, word around Philadelphia is the team would rather move Lee than Cole Hamels. 

“The strong belief, based on talks so far with the Phillies,” wrote Heyman, “is that the team would much prefer to trade Cliff Lee than Cole Hamels.”

However, another general manager quoted in Heyman‘s report wonders how you can possibly trade for Lee now, because he “isn’t pitching.”

Lee pitched in only 10 games this season before going on the disabled list May 20 with a left elbow strain. He was terrific in the games he did pitch, posting a 3.18 ERA with 61 strikeouts and nine walks in 68 innings. 

If you are asking teams to trade for Lee, who is 35 years old and will make $25 million in 2015 with a vesting option for $27.5 million in 2016, they need to see what he’s capable of doing and whether the financial investment is worth the cost. 

The 2008 American League Cy Young winner is on track to return July 21, according to manager Ryne Sandberg, per Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

There is still no definitive word on what the Phillies plan to do at the deadline. Amaro did recently say the team would be “open to anything,” via another report from Heyman. That’s the first logical quote from Philadelphia’s general manager in almost two years. 

Given how expensive Lee will be the rest of this season and next season, it seems likely the Phillies will have to pick up some of that contract to get the package they want or settle for a lesser deal in order to get a team to take on all that money. 

Lee has been an impact starting pitcher for seven years, and there was little to suggest that was going to change before he got hurt, so a team in need of pitching help can elevate its standing dramatically if it acquires the lefty.

It’s still a steep price to pay for anyone, especially a pitcher coming off an arm injury who will turn 36 on August 30. 


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