- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
- 0 Shares
Although Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. declined to address the extent of other teams' interest in Lee, he said he's keeping an open mind on Lee and numerous other Philadelphia players who might generate interest at the deadline.
"I never put any real absolutes on anything," Amaro said by phone Friday. "Although we don't have any desire to move a guy like that because we view him as someone who will be key to our future, I am a businessperson as well and I'll be a good listener.
"I can't sit here and say I'm not going to trade Chase (Utley), or Cliff, or Michael Young or Chooch (Carlos Ruiz), or any of these guys. Some guys are less tradable than others. But I think I owe it to us as an organization to listen. If teams are going to come at us and suggest things, I'm not going to turn off the faucet and stop listening to them."
Lee has been scratched from Saturday night's start at Detroit because of a stiff neck, and will be replaced by left-hander Raul Valdes, who has gone 1-0 with a 7.59 ERA in 11 relief appearances this year.
The Phillies have gone into a tailspin since the All-Star break, losing five straight on their road trip to fall eight games behind Atlanta in the National League East division at 49-53. Coolstandings.com gives the Phillies only a 2.8 percent chance to make the postseason.
Lee, 34, would qualify as the crown jewel of a starting pitching market that's headed by Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana and Bud Norris, now that Matt Garza has been traded from the Cubs to the Rangers. Lee, a four-time All-Star and former American League Cy Young Award winner, is 10-4 with a 3.05 ERA this season. He ranks fifth among National League starters with a 1.01 WHIP and a Wins Above Replacement of 4.0.
Any trade talks involving Lee are likely to be complicated by his contract situation. He signed a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 that pays him $25 million in each of the 2013 through 2015 seasons. The deal includes a $27.5 million club option for 2016 and a $12.5 million buyout.
Lee also has a provision that allows him to block trades to 21 clubs each year.
Sources would not confirm which clubs have approached the Phillies with offers, but the list of teams reportedly in the starting pitching market includes Boston, Atlanta, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The $70 million-plus still owed Lee is likely to be an impediment for several of those clubs in trade discussions.
When asked at the All-Star Game last week to address his future, Lee said he pays little attention to trade speculation.
"I'm not too worried about it," he said. "There are all kinds of rumors and what-ifs, and it's all rumors until Ruben calls me and says, 'Hey, you're traded.' To me, there's no benefit playing them out in my head."
The Phillies have talked with Texas about a deal that would send Young -- the Rangers' all-time hits leader -- back to Texas. But sources familiar with those discussions described those talks as exploratory and said no deal is close. The Rangers, who dealt Young to Philadelphia last winter, have been hunting for a right-handed bat.
CSNPhilly.com reported Thursday that the Phillies have been discussing a contract extension with Utley, who will be eligible for free agency after the season. Amaro told reporters Thursday that he expects Utley to be in a Philadelphia uniform after the trade deadline, but said Friday that the team feels no sense of urgency to get an extension done.
"Chase is a guy that we'd love to keep in our uniform, but even if we were having a negotiation with him, we wouldn't be talking about it publicly," Amaro said. "And we don't necessarily have to do anything prior to the deadline. He's still our player. There's no real timeline one way or the other."
Amaro said this weekend's series in Detroit could help make a difference in the Phillies' thought process in advance of Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. While the Phillies have to make up a significant deficit against Atlanta in the East, they'll face the Braves 13 times in August and September.
"I don't foresee us doing a whole lot, to be frank with you, over the next five days," Amaro said. "But things change from day to day, and minute to minute."
Information from ESPN.com's Jayson Stark and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Cliff Lee tried to make it clear Tuesday night that his faith in the Phillies is still strong and he wants to win in Philadelphia, and isn't seeking a change of scenery.