Lee (0-4), who has not won a game yet this season is still considered by many an attractive commodity and would undoubtedly net the Phillies a significant amount of value in return. There also seem to be a handful of teams who could afford and be allowed to bid for his services.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, there is list of nine teams who Lee would consider waving his no-trade clause. A likely suitor would retain control the 33-year-old lefty for another three seasons at $25 million a year—with an $27.5 million option or $12.5 million buyout for 2016.
Quite an investment indeed but his Cy Young and postseason pedigree may be enough impetus for a contender to pull a trigger. Here are five teams who may be willing to just do that.
One team who could potentially be interested in trading for Lee could be the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles (41-31) are currently two games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East and also in contention for both AL wild card spots.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette recently told reporters at the "State of the Team" address that ownership was willing to do whatever they can to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
“...We’re always looking and you can be rest assured that the ownership here wants to win this year," Duquette told a pool of reporters including Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. "And if we’re in a position where we can improve the team and it makes sense, we’re certainly going to do it.”
The Orioles would be an intriguing destination for Lee. There would be a few potential hurdles that would need to be cleared. A potential trade would have to be cleared by Lee and a list of prospects would have to be approved by the Phillies and the Orioles.
There is a good chance Phillies GM Ruben Amaro would want Orioles' prized pitching prospect Dylan Bundy to be part of any potential Lee trade package. It's highly unlikely Duquette and company would sign off on any trade involving Bundy—stalling any potential deal. However, Lee's postseason pedigree coupled with his success against AL East foes could weigh heavily on Duquette—especially if the Orioles are still in contention by the end of July.
Another team who may be willing to deal for Lee could be a familiar one—the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians (37-34) are currently a half-game behind the front-running Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. The top three starters in the Indians rotation (Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe) have a combined 18-16 record so for this season. Except for Lowe, the Indians are void of starters with both pennant chase and playoff experience.
Lee (0-4) has not put together impressive numbers as well and his $87.5 million price tag—at least—for the next four years may be too steep a price for Cleveland to pay. Still, the idea of acquiring a front-line starter such as Lee could be very tantalizing for a team who hasn't won a World Series in 64 years.
Indians president Mark Shapiro said last week that he expects GM Chris Antonetti to be "heavily involved" in trade talks as the July 31st deadline approaches.
"If you are not in it to win the World Series, why are you in it?" Shapiro told the AP (via ESPN.com). "There are times when you have to make a move with one eye on the present and one on the future. When you have the opportunity, you have to seize the moment and take advantage. Yes, I think it is possible that we can win. Now."
The Cliff Lee to the Pittsburgh Pirates trade scenario seems extremely implausible but could potentially happen.
The Pirates (38-33) enter Monday a game behind the AL Central leading Cincinnati Reds. A team who has spent the past two decades dwelling in the basement may be encouraged enough by recent success to make a move—a big move.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington told MLB.com last week that the Pirates have been involved in trade talks for six weeks but "there is no traction anywhere."
"We've been told by some clubs that they are going to hold out as long as they can to sell tickets, and keep their fans engaged," Huntington told MLB.com. "That will obviously take multiple sellers off the market, and you can't blame them for trying to stay in it."
Indeed, the extra wild card has given a lot of teams—including the Pirates—hope they can make a postseason appearance. It remains to be seen whether or not Lee would accept a trade to the Pirates—a team who has not exactly been successful for a couple of years now. The Pirates do have something the Phillies covet—prospects. Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon—both prized pitching prospects would undoubtedly be included in any potential Lee trade package.
New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman has fielded plenty of Cliff Lee questions over the years. The Yankees almost made a pre-deadline trade for Lee in 2010 when he was a member of the Seattle Mariners. When the deal fell through the Yankees tried again— albeit unsuccessfully — to acquire Lee via free agency but were turned down yet again.
Could Lee finally wind up in the Bronx after all of this time?
All the stars could be in the right alignment at this time. The Yankees (43-28) currently own a small 2 1/2 game lead over the Orioles in the AL East. They have the financial resources and prospects to be able to take on Lee's salary and provide the Phillies a acceptable package in return. The Yankees could offer the Phillies a combination of Phil Hughes and a mixture of prospects including the likes of Mason Williams, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been one of the feel-good stories of the 2012 MLB season. At 43-30, the Dodgers are leading the NL West by three games over the San Francisco Giants. With a new ownership group firmly in place, it seems the Dodgers are now willing to open up their checkbooks and add talent if necessary.
Could Cliff Lee wind up in Dodger Blue before the end of the season?
According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers may be willing to spend money, but the trade market—which includes Lee—has been developing slowly to this point.
“The second wild card has kept an extra eight or nine clubs in it,” said Dodgers GM Ned Colletti. “They have no real reason to act quickly.”
Eventually teams will decide to scuttle the 2012 season and if the Phillies could entertain the idea of trading Lee to the Dodgers. The Dodgers have a couple of prospects in the minors who could draw interest from Ruben Amaro and company. Pitchers such as Zack Lee and Chris Reed could be potential pieces in any Lee trade.