The news that Cliff Lee is slated to return to the Phillies rotation on July 21st is beginning to sweep across the Phillies faithful. More than a handful of Phillies fans are certainly looking at that date and thinking, "that's just 10 days before the non-waiver trade deadline, can he prove his worth to other teams for Ruben Amaro to make a move?"
No one has the answer to that question but there is a bit of good news. Lee will likely be able to clear waivers due to his massive contract and be traded in August.
But where could Lee land if the Phillies do decide to move him during the season rather than waiting until the offseason? ESPN's Dan Szymborski writes the Seattle Mariners could come calling and the Phillies would certainly listen.
Lee's contract situation likely will make the bidding for him less fierce than that for [Tampa Bay's David] Price. Owed a minimum of $37.5 million for one year if his option is not picked up or $52.5 million over two years if it is, it's the type of contract that would scare off a lot of the competition, including teams such as the Royals or Indians, who likely wouldn't be willing to pick up that amount of dough even if they still want to make additions in the next few weeks. You'd likely still lose one of the Mariners' young middle infielders in the trade, but the Phillies would probably value outfielder Austin Wilson's raw upside more than most organizations.
Lee, 35, is slated to make $25 million this year and $25 million next year. He is 4-4 in 10 starts this season with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP with one complete game. In parts of five seasons in Philadelphia, Lee is 48-33 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP.
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