According to a report from Jayson Stark based on information gathered in talking to an unnamed executive, the Phillies could look to move Cliff Lee in spring training if he is healthy.
One exec who spoke with #Phillies says he was told they could move Cliff Lee as soon as spring training if he proves he’s healthy
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) February 6, 2015
The key words to note in the tweet from Stark, are “if he proves he’s healthy” as the 36-year-old saw his 2014 season cut short by an elbow injury. Lee made just 13 starts in 2014, the last of which came on July 31st but did not have any kind of offseason surgery.
General managers will need to see evidence that Lee can produce at a level worthy of the $37.5 million he is guaranteed through 2016. Rumors of Lee’s potential availability has been floating around since at least November but was largely overshadowed by the trade rumors surrounding teammate Cole Hamels.
Teams who have been unable or reluctant to meet Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s asking price on the 31 year-old Hamels could find Lee an appealing alternative. Lee has the talent to pitch at a similar level to Hamels if he is healthy (a big if, mind you), but requires a significantly smaller financial commitment and likely fewer top prospects as a return.
Any of the teams still in the market for a top pitcher including the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Cardinals could be interested. It is also entirely possible one of Lee’s former teams, the Indians, Mariners or Rangers elect to bring back the veteran southpaw. Other factors to consider are whether the Phillies will assume any of Lee’s remaining contract, and what exactly they seek in return for the former Cy Young winner.
But Lee’s health will be a close factor to monitor this spring and if he is healthy, he will be yet another star pitcher available heading into the 2015 season, or at the trade deadline.