Phillies' Lee not looking for another trade

DAVID SWANSON / STAFF Cliff Lee is optimistic about the Phils' chances of bouncing back.
DAVID SWANSON / STAFF Cliff Lee is optimistic about the Phils' chances of bouncing back. (is optimistic about the Phils' chances of bouncing back.)
Posted: February 28, 2014

DUNEDIN, Fla. - The following is a list of the 11 players acquired by three teams when they traded away Cliff Lee in the last 5 years:

Jason Knapp, Jason Donald, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Tyson Gillies, Phillippe Aumont, J.C. Ramirez, Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke, Blake Beaven and Matthew Lawson.

None of those players is a major league All-Star. In fact, only two have a very good chance at being on any big-league roster when the season gets underway.

The Phillies aren't likely to trade Cliff Lee any time soon. But if the trade deadline comes around and a team that lost 89 games a year ago is in the middle of another losing season, it could very easily change that stance and cut its losses.

Lee, 35, is owed a total of $50 million this season and next; he also has a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016 (200 innings pitched in 2015 or 400 IP in 2014-15).

If the Phillies do eventually trade him, however, they have to get a better package back than any collection of the names listed above.

"That's trades," Lee said yesterday. "When you get guys from the minor leagues, you never know what you're going to get. It's hard to replace a guy who is established and has had success in the big leagues, no matter who you replace him with. There are a few phenoms who come up like the [Bryce] Harpers and [Mike] Trouts of the world, but a lot of young guys come up and you never know. That's why you get package deals, you get one big-leaguer for three or four minor leaguers. You just hope one is going to pan out. You never know."

After his spring debut against the Toronto Blue Jays, in which he allowed a run on two hits while striking out three in two innings, Lee entertained the trade questions because it has been a part of his routine as the Human Trade Rumor.

But as the 2014 season nears, Lee isn't interested in getting traded. Despite suffering through bouts of frustration while playing for a losing team a year ago, Lee enters this season hopeful.

Because when Lee actually had the chance to choose his new team for the only time in his somewhat-nomadic, 12-year career, he chose to join the Phillies.

"I don't have control over [trades], so there's no sense worrying about it," said Lee, who has a limited trade clause. "I signed back with the Phillies because I wanted to come here and win, and that's what I intend on doing."

It goes without saying that the Phillies stand a better chance to win with Lee than they do without him, which is exactly the logic general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. employs every time a team inquires about Lee's availability.

But the success of a team goes beyond one man. The Phillies also need Cole Hamels for another healthy and productive season. They need a healthy Ryan Howard, a healthy Carlos Ruiz, a productive Jimmy Rollins . . . and so on.

"Obviously, we've got everybody on the field that needs to be there [right now]," Lee said. "We've got our key guys healthy. The addition of Marlon Byrd, A.J. Burnett, [Brad] Lincoln in the bullpen. We've got a deeper starting rotation. With Marlon, we've got another thumper in the middle of the lineup. So that along with our key guys healthy is going to be crucial.

"I think we all know Chase [Utley] is going to be Chase. If Howard can just get back to doing what he does, that will help out a ton. Jimmy, same thing. If they can just regain the things they've done a couple of years ago and just get back to being more solid, consistent players - and that goes for all of us.

"We just need to be more consistent and fundamentally sound and execute. [Manager Ryne] Sandberg and the coaching staff has been preaching that from Day 1 and it's definitely good to hear. It's definitely the key to winning - for every team, especially a team that has the talent. If we just do the basic execution and play fundamental baseball, we can beat anyone."

Lee's third full season with the Phillies went wasted in 2013.

He was 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA in 31 starts, earning his fourth trip to the All-Star Game. Lee led the National League in strikeout-to-walk rate (6.94) and with the fewest walks-per-nine innings (1.3) while also ranking fourth in the league in WHIP (1.01).

Lee is the type of pitcher any team would want atop its rotation - where he is likely to be on Opening Day - for his remarkable consistency and no-nonsense, rapid work on the mound.

"You know what you're going to get," Sandberg said. "And so does the team and the players behind him. Guys can play defense behind him because he works so well with his command, locates his pitches."

Said pitching coach Bob McClure: "You're talking about maybe getting a beer after an hour and 50 minutes."

The Phillies would love nothing more than to see Lee take the mound for 30-some starts and then enter the postseason alongside Hamels and Burnett in a short series. But that's a long way away.

Until the Phils prove they can contend again, the trade rumors will persist.

If they became more than rumors and a trade involving Lee is brought to fruition, Phils fans who still haven't gotten over the first time he was traded away can only hope the deal looks something more like the first trade of the lefthander's career.

In June 2002, the struggling Cleveland Indians traded away their ace, Bartolo Colon, who would go on to win 20 games. The Indians received four young players or prospects from the Montreal Expos in exchange for Colon and Tim Drew: Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Lee Stevens and Double A pitcher Cliff Lee.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheesee

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