The Cliff Lee era in Philadelphia will come to an end in 2016 as the Phillies have declined to pick up the left-handers option for next season.
The 37-year-old has not thrown a single pitch in the majors this season after aggravating a lingering elbow injury back in spring training. The injury landed Lee on the 60-day disabled list, but the Phillies were hopeful that the lefty would rehab his way back to the big club sometime around All-Star break and allow the team find a trade suitor before the July 31 trade deadline.
That never happened.
Instead, Lee lost his entire 2015 campaign and will likely lose his MLB career after the Phillies’ decision to not pick up his option. His current elbow injury carried over from an injury he suffered last season which resulted in him being shut down twice during a season where he managed to pitch only 81.1 innings.
2015 marked the final year of a five-year, $120 million contract Lee signed back in 2011. The deal included a $27.5 million club option for 2016, but with the Phillies electing to decline the option, they now owe Lee a $12.5 million buyout.
“I don’t think it’s any surprise to anybody,” said interim general manager Scott Proefrock, via ESPN. “We have to communicate it in writing. We haven’t done that yet.”
If this decision by the Phillies leads to Lee retiring, it would spell the end of a stellar major league career.
Over 13 seasons, Lee has compiled a 143-91 record, good for a career .611 winning percentage. Lee’s breakout season came in 2007 where, at age 29, he collected 22 wins en route to a Cy Young season with the Cleveland Indians. Lee joined the Phillies in the middle of 2009 and helped the club reach their second consecutive World Series. In game one of the series against the New York Yankees, Lee made a play on a pop up back to the mound that, still to this day, encapsulates his demeanor on the mound.
Lee would be traded to the Seattle Mariners during the 2009 off-season after the Phillies acquired Roy Halladay from the Tortonto Blue Jays. The lefty would return to Philadelphia, for less money no less, after helping the Texas Rangers reach the 2010 World Series and would join Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt to complete one of the greatest starting rotations ever assembled. After an incredible 102-win season, Lee blew a 4-0 lead in game two of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals in what will likely end up being his final postseason start. The Phillies would later drop the series in five games.
Lee continued to dominate on the mound in 2012 and 2013 despite the Phillies missing the playoffs both seasons, but was inconsistent in 2014 while battling a nagging elbow injury. Overall, Lee sported a winning tenure in a Philadelphia, posting a 48-34 record and a 2.94 ERA over 827.1 innings-pitched in a Phillies uniform.