Jun 2, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee (33) cools off in the dugout in between innings against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Brewers, 7-5. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Trading Cliff Lee Could Be Harder Than First Thought


A new report by Fox Sports baseball writer Jon Morosi indicates it may be more challenging for the Phillies to trade Cliff Lee than originally thought, if they decide to so in the next few weeks.

It was well known that Lee has a limited no-trade clause in his contract, listing 20 teams that he would need to approve a trade to. But it was unknown over which of those teams Lee had control of his own fate.

Morosi noted today that some of those teams could be potential Lee buyers…

While Lee didn’t want to discuss specific teams with FOXSports.com, major league sources say most of the 20 teams subject to the provision are projected trade-deadline “buyers.” The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles are among the 20 teams that would need Lee’s permission to acquire him, the sources told FOXSports.com.

It makes sense that Lee would poo-poo the Yankees, given the history he has with that fanbase while pitching for the Texas Rangers. But the Red Sox, Rangers and Orioles are particularly interesting. It’s possible Lee isn’t enamored with dealing with the Boston media, and at the time he signed his deal with the Phillies, Baltimore simply wasn’t very good. And perhaps there is a reason Lee decided not to re-sign with the Rangers.

No one knows if Lee would approve a trade to any of those teams, or why they are on the list.

Still, two of the teams that could most use a starting pitcher at the deadline are the Rangers and Orioles, both of whom also have farm systems that could land the Phillies a top-tier prospect.

The Rangers have the #1 prospect Jurickson Profar in all of baseball (who is almost certainly completely untouchable), as well as the #22 prospect Mike Olt, #81 prospect Mike Perez, and #97 prospect Leonys Martin.

The Orioles have the #2 prospect Dylan Bundy (again, most likely untouchable), and #26 Kevin Gausman (already on the big league team), as well as a couple other prospects outside the top 100 that could interest the Phils (Jonathan Schoop and Nick Delmonico).

Of course, the Phillies don’t want to trade Cliff Lee. And Lee likely doesn’t want to go anywhere. But according to Morosi, Lee sounds like he’s at least talked himself, and likely his family, into the idea that he could be on the move for the fourth time in four years.

“There’s a lot of season left, but we definitely have to figure out a way to be more consistent across the board,” Lee said. “The Braves aren’t slowing down. The Nationals have struggled as well, but with the talent they’ve got you can’t expect them to continue to play the way they have.

“The way we played last year, the way we’ve started out this year, it’s getting close to do-or-die time. . . . Management is going to have some decisions to make when we get closer to the trade deadline, if we continue to play the way we have. I want to do everything I can to make sure they’re not forced to make some of those decisions. I’m just going to try to pitch and do everything I can to help the team win.”

“I can’t sit here and come up with the what-ifs,” he said. “If (a trade scenario) presents itself, I’ll have to look at the situation and figure it out. Right now, I’m a Phillie and I want to do everything I can to help this team win.”“Every time I’ve been traded, before that every organization would say, ‘You’ll be the first one to know if we’re ever going to move you,’” Lee said, recalling that he learned of each trade while watching television. “I was the last one to know every time.”

The Phils have a chance to bank a substantial number of wins over the next two weeks. Monday night’s game against Miami was the first of a ten-game stretch against the Marlins, Brewers and Twins that pit the Phillies against some of the worst teams in baseball. They follow that up with three games in Colorado against a Rockies team that is 3-7 in their last 10 games.

If the Phillies can’t figure out a way to go 7-3 in this 10-game run, or 9-4 in their next 13, they could miss out on their best shot to make up serious ground on Atlanta.

The Phils are 28-30. They are 7 games out of the Wild Card and 7 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the NL East. If they can’t shave at least 2-3 games off that lead in the next two weeks, Ruben Amaro may have no choice but to realize the futility of catching Atlanta and the rest of the National League and look to sell many of his finest pieces.

Lee would undoubtedly be at the top of every team’s wish list.

But the limited no-trade clause, and the teams that are known to be on it, make trading Lee a little bit harder.

Who knows? Maybe the inability to trade Lee will end up working out the best for the Phils.

Because no one wants to see him go.

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  • John Barrett

    I’m still dubious of being able to get a ‘top-tier’ prospect for a 34 year-old pitcher still owed $25 million or whatever he’s still owed.

    • John Stolnis

      He’s going to be the best pitcher available, if the Phils sell. He’s pitching at an incredibly high rate, and is actually quite reasonably priced for a pitcher of his caliber. The Phils will have to eat some salary to get a “top tier” prospect, but I think they would do that.

  • Dobie Gillis

    do not trade Cliff Lee, you will see a major alienation of the Phillies by the fans. F Amaro!

    • John Stolnis

      If the team is bad enough to have to trade him, the fans will be staying away as it is, I would think. But your point is well taken. That may very well be why he doesn’t get traded.