Rosenthal: Phils Talking Lee With Other Teams

It sounds like the Phillies are talking to other teams about Cliff Lee.  (PHOTO: AP)

It sounds like the Phillies are talking to other teams about Cliff Lee. (PHOTO: AP)

While we heard yesterday from ESPN’s Buster Olney that the Phillies have finally informed teams a certain number of their veteran players are on the trading block, Cliff Lee was apparently not on that list. But in his Fox Sports column today, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Phillies have discussed their All-Star lefty with other clubs. Rosenthal acknowledges that the Phils are unlikely to trade Lee, in large part due to their insistence on receiving a huge haul in return for the former Cy Young winner:

“One rival executive on Sunday night acknowledged the Phillies’ willingness to trade Lee but said the team would do it only “for a lot!!!” — meaning, a steep package of talent.”

The Phils have every right to start the bidding for Lee sky high. He is an elite pitcher and has a track record of dominance come October. He is likely the most coveted player that has any chance of changing teams before Wednesday’s 4pm trade deadline. But Rosenthal outlines several other things that may preclude a Lee trade, as paraphrased below:

– Lee’s contract includes a 20-team no-trade clause and has about $70MM left on it ($9MM left in 2013 and a $12.5MM buyout for 2016). Lee’s $120MM contract has essentially worked out for the Phils, especially when compared to some of the other nine-figure deals given to free agents in recent years. Lee is still a stud, but the no-trade clause and the money narrows down the list of teams that’d be willing to take on the money and fork over premium talent in return.

– The trade deadline is 54 hours away, giving Ruben Amaro Jr. limited time to find the right deal. Rosenthal reports that, despite the front office’s ridiculous lip service in June, the Phils have done their homework on teams that may have interest in Lee. Still, the offseason would be the ideal time for the Phils to move Lee, when teams have a better understanding of their own financials.

– “Ruben has always been a buyer,” one rival executive said. “He doesn’t know how to sell.” This is one of the more interesting quotes in Rosenthal’s story. Trading Lee the first time was a disaster, but Amaro did gain the experience of a semi-sell last year when he moved Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Hunter Pence, albeit for what (so far) looks like limited returns.

– Unlike the first go round with Lee, the Phillies are under no financial pressure to move Lee. They can afford him, and with their new TV deal looming, they can afford a couple more guys like him in the near future.

– As we know, Lee was scratched from his start on Saturday with a stiff neck. With the type of package he would require, any injury is likely to be disconcerting for his suitors. Working in the Phillies favor, however, is Lee’s stellar record of health. He is one of the most durable starters in the major leagues, which may alleviate concerns.

This is a tough spot for Ruben. If he is to trade the guy that he gave $120MM to just two-and-a-half years ago, he absolutely must get a legitimate haul in return… something he didn’t do when he traded him to Seattle after the 2009 season. But should he have to be “blown away” in order to pull the trigger? That is certainly what it sounds it will take, per Rosenthal’s reporting.

To me, the answer is no. As currently constructed, I don’t believe the Phillies can put together a contender while Lee is still good enough to contribute. Just because they can afford him isn’t a reason that should prevent them from moving him. They have too many gaping holes and with free agency the way it is these days, all the TV money in the world isn’t enough to fill them… not in two years at least (they have a club option on Lee in 2016). The only way to turn this thing around is to stock up on young, near major-league ready talent to go with Domonic Brown, Cole Hamels and (hopefully) Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. With Papelbon’s struggles and word that Chase Utley may be brought back, Lee is the only plausible piece on their roster that can bring that back.



  1. Lefty

    July 29, 2013 at 10:43 am

    So an unnamed executive doesn’t think Amaro knows how to be a seller. But doesn’t Amaro have the assistance of Gillick, Wade, Green, Proefrock, Looper, et al, to help him be a good seller? Surely both Wade and Gillick have been through reconstruction projects before. They’ll do as good a job as us fake GM’s. 🙂

    And of course they have to ask for the world for Cliff Lee. First they’ve said they don’t really want to trade him at all, so why not? Also, no buyer comes in with their best bid to start. It’s like buying (or selling) a car. Both sides start at the extremes and move inward if there’s to be a deal, right?

    • Alex Lee

      July 29, 2013 at 11:02 am

      For sure. But would you trade him if you don’t get the world?

      I would, assuming you still get a very good package. I’m sure some disagree, but I am very pessimistic towards this team’s future without a youth infusion. You can’t just add stars anymore via free agency… you’re forced to splurge on aging stars or roll the dice on sleepers. And their farm system is mediocre at best. You have Franco and Biddle as potential impact guys that can help in the next year or two. Not much beyond that. I’m sorry but while I like the Ruf, Asche, Joseph, Galvis and Hernandez’s of the system, they’re not future starters on a contender… in an ideal world that five-some is the bench of a good Phillies team.

      • Lefty

        July 29, 2013 at 11:58 am

        I think I’d wait it out Alex, and given his value, I’d go for the world.

        Of course there are differences of opinion about what exactly “the world” is. I’m not smart enough to be a GM. I don’t know if the answer is plenty of ripening prospects, or established guys to keep it going so they maximize the new TV contract, or what. What I know is Cliff is the type of commodity that should bring plenty back.

        I agree about your assessment of the farm, I don’t think it’s the worst, but not chocked full of blue chippers either.

      • Ryne Duren

        July 29, 2013 at 2:24 pm

        Good article Alex. I agree on moving him. As long as it’s a full blown rebuild. And I’d ask a lot. there’s no reason what so ever to have a guy his age making that kind of money on a team going nowhere. As is with a closer. If they want to keep us fans interested they have to show a commitment to youth and revitalization of the team. Everybody should be on the block. except our young (in young I mean youth young) players, and that includes Hamels. He is still our future. Every veteran should go.JimME should wave his no trade crap and just go. The only guys we probably can’t trade is Howard, and Doc. Doc’s a FA anyway but if he shows he can pitch at his old level before the end of this year I’d extend him and try to move him before next years deadline. Unless for some odd reason we’re back in the hunt.
        They should just trade who they can for whatever they can get. simple as that. And change the manager and move forward. We as fans can and will take that approach. It’s better than watching this club flounder.

  2. Pamikedc

    July 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Lee sells way way too many jerseys for them to trade him.

    Remember folks- it is a business too!! He fills the seats when he pitched.

    He wants a ring. Cry CRy cry. He had a few chances.

    • Alex Lee

      July 29, 2013 at 11:29 am

      MLB teams share merchandise sales, so his jersey sales are irrelevant. But, if he helps them to fill the ballpark, they do keep that cash so that is valid.

  3. Don M

    July 29, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Latest from MLBTR …. Phillies definitely working on an extension with Utley – telling other teams he’s not available.


    The Tigers traded for Astros closer Jose Veras … which means that they likely wouldn’t be trading for Papelbon too . . .

    Should be a great 2nd half when Amaro doesn’t trade any of these guys, and we finish with like 84 wins – and no plan for the future. I can’t wait

    • Alex Lee

      July 29, 2013 at 11:43 am

      If that happens it’s going to cost RAJ his job. Maybe not in the short term, but eventually because this team is going nowhere. By the way… 84 wins? They’d have to go 35-22 for that to happen. More like 75.

    • Lefty

      July 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      How long have I been begging for them to hurry up and deal Paps? His value seems to be dropping faster than his pitch velocity. Hopefully there are other opportunities, but the Tigers seemed like a really good one before this.

      • George

        July 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm

        Given his ridiculous salary, Papelbon has never really had much value. No one is forking out big bucks for closers anymore. The only trade they could ever make, even without the drop in velocity, would be if they pay part of that salary.

        The Tigers’ acquision of Veras should show mostly that teams in need of closers are still looking to get one cheap, not that Papelbon has lost all his ability.

      • Lefty

        July 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm

        Well I guess paying part of that salary is part of the deal since they jumped that fast to sign him, before understanding both the market-place, and the new impending CBA at that time.

  4. Chuck A.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Who cares how many Cliff Lee jerseys they sell. If they can get a good haul for him…to help rebuild/retool for the future…then you gotta move him. He’s the most valuable trade chip they have and Ruben better not have blinders on right now when it comes to this guy.

  5. teejvee

    July 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Being in ‘sell’ mode is , how shall I put it, non-optimal.

    Trades for prospects almost never pan out for the seller.
    Sometimes it’s just addition by subtraction. I think that would be the case with Papelbon but not Lee or Utely.

    • hk

      July 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm

      “Trades for prospects almost never pan out for the seller.”

      This is simply untrue. Sometimes the sellers win just by dumping bad contracts and sometimes the sellers win by acquiring Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore or Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison or Jean Segura or Patrick Corbin or Wil Myers* or Adam Jones (and whomever else Seattle traded to Baltimore for Erik Bedard) or Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan or Jarred Cosart*, Jonathan Singleton* and Domingo Santana* or Zach Wheeler or…

      These are the ones I could think of in 5 minutes off the top of my head. I understand that some of these prospects – those noted with an asterisk – haven’t necessarily panned out yet, but it is a ridiculous contention that trades for prospects almost never pan out.

  6. CarlG

    July 29, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    I’m okay with moving anyone we have to for the blue chips and genuine upgrades we need in the everyday positions. But why on earth are we hanging onto Chase Utley who, let’s be honest, could break down any day here, and be taking ground balls in a lawn chair for the remainder of whatever contract we intend to sign with him, while Cliff Lee is, well, Cliff Lee! I just don’t get it. They should keep Hamels and Lee (and Ryan, of course, because you’re stuck with him), hold on your kids, and shop EVERYTHING else. So long, Chase. So long, Jimmy. Bye, Youngs. Bye, Chooch. Bye, Charlie.

    • schmenkman

      July 29, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      Carl, if you rank the most productive players (by WAR) over the last calendar year, #20 in all of MLB on that list is Utley. The last time he missed a game due to his knees was June of 2012. Is it possible things could go south again? Sure. But it does seem like he’s found a way to manage the situation and play.

      There’s going to be some age-related decline over the next 3+ years, but even so, and even if he misses time, IMO a combination of:

      120 games from Utley + 40 games from (let’s say) Hernandez

      is going to give you much more production than 160 games of Hernandez.

  7. Pamikedc

    July 29, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    @Chuck A., I agree w you. I’m just saying- the business side of it. Cliff Lee makes the Phils more $$$$ than Asche, Overbeck, Hernanadez and Galvis will.

  8. George

    July 29, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Trading Lee might or might not fill some holes, but it also opens a brand new and rather large hole in the staring rotation. Hamels would become the only proven ace. I’m not sure any team could rebuild quickly wih Kendrick, Pettibone, Lannan (who probably won’t be back, anyway) maybe Gonzalez, or if he fails his physical, some other unproven minor leaguer. Biddle is projected by most scouts as a #3 at best, as is Gonzalez. That would put Kendrick as the co-ace.

    In other words, if they are entertaining Lee offers, they’d better get absolutely the best back, and not settle for anything less.

  9. Lefty

    July 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    OT- I don’t know where to put this, so I’ll put it here. I’m glad the Phillies are signing Brad Lidge to a one day contract so that he can retire as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. That magic perfect season is something I’ve ever seen before, and who knows if we ever will again.

    Congrats Brad, and good luck in your next endeavor.

    • Ryne Duren

      July 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      Lefty are you sure it’s for one day? Or is this the deadline move by Rube to get a bullpen piece. You know, he does fit Rubes criteria. He old he’s a veteran, he’s had ample rest so he’s probably not hurting. He’s been through the wars etc. etc. just kidding.

  10. Don M

    July 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Sometimes trades don’t work out…. and sometimes you can trade a guy in the last year of his contract for a guy that looks promosing. .

    Beltran -for- Wheeler

    Or Pence – for the haul the Astros got from us …

    It’s worth making the deals because they aren’t going to win anything with the guys they have now, but at least there’s a chance they could win something with young, talented players they might bring into the system.

    • Carlos Danger

      July 29, 2013 at 7:17 pm

      The Brewers trading Greinke for Jean Segura last season turned out just fine also.

      BTW, the Brewers are giving over $3 million in vouchers back to their fans because of the awful season they’ve had.

      • c. schreiber

        July 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm

        Wiiieenner!!! Show it to us.

  11. Eric D

    July 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    How about to the O’s w the deal being built around Bundy?

  12. ron howard

    July 29, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    ken rosenthal is 5 foot 4, and i find that his baseball comments lack stature and don’t measure up. they lack a certain vantage point that most of us have.

  13. Brooks

    July 30, 2013 at 6:59 am

    I go tonight with mixed emotions.
    First, the temptation to stay at Fado’s and watch the game on TV while drinking with my friends..
    Second, this will probably be the last time I see some of the players that have helped to make the greatest memories I will ever have about my baseball experience here in Philadelphia.

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