Monday, July 30, 2012
Deadline talk: Cliff Lee
By Richard Durrett
Maybe there is still one big starting pitching fish that is now swimming in the trade deadline pond. ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports that the Philadelphia Phillies have put Cliff Lee in play in trade talks today. Olney notes that the Rangers are clearly the most logical place for Lee to go and that Mike Olt could be a centerpiece to the deal.
ESPN MLB analyst Rick Sutcliffe praises Rangers president Nolan Ryan and manager Ron Washington for how they've handled star Josh Hamilton's slump.
That makes some sense. The Rangers obviously know what Lee can do. He helped them win the club's first playoff series with terrific starts in Games and 1 and 5 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay in 2010 and then hung over the ALCS as the Game 3 starter, winning that one as the Rangers took a 2-1 lead in the series and then ended up getting into their first World Series by beating the New York Yankees in that series.
Lee is older now and his stats this year aren't as good, but he's the type of pitcher you want with the ball when it matters in the postseason. He has a 3.95 ERA and a 1-6 record, Lee is allowing about a hit an inning and opponents are hitting .342 against Lee with the bases loaded. So he's not the same dominant pitcher he was in 2010. But he still has 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.8 walks per nine innings and a 46.7 percent ground ball rate in the 118 1/3 innings he's pitched this season.
But the key stat might be his postseason numbers: 7-3, 2.52 ERA in 11 starts (82 innings). That includes three complete games. He has 89 strikeouts and 10 walks in the playoffs.
It will cost a nice package of prospects, but they would have Lee under contract for three seasons after this one as the front man of their rotation. To make a deal work, the Phillies would need to pay part of Lee's remaining deal (and it's a big deal, so it would need to be a pretty big chunk of change). That contract:
2012: $21.5 million
2013: $25 million
2014: $25 million
2015: $25 million
2016: $12.5 million buyout or $27.5 million option (the option vests at 200 innings pitched in 2015 or 400 innings pitched in 2014 and 2015 combined)
Lee will be 38 years old in August of that final season of the deal in 2016. But he would give them a top-flight pitcher for Game 1 of the playoffs and immediately make the rotation deeper and better. The question is at what cost -- both in prospects and money -- and that's what the Rangers must sort through over the next day.
Would you trade a package of prospects that included Olt to the Phillies for Lee? They haven't wanted to part with Olt to this point. Is Lee worth dealing him? What if it meant Olt and Martin Perez (and you can bet the Phillies are asking for that)? Is that too much (that might depend on how much money the Phillies are paying of Lee's deal)?