MLB Trade Rumors: Why Philadelphia Phillies Must Trade Cliff Lee

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IJuly 26, 2012

Jun 05, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee (33) during the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. The Dodgers defeated the Phillies 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

After the Philadelphia Phillies inked ace Cole Hamels to a six-year, $144 million extension, they must now trade veteran left-hander Cliff Lee. reported on Wednesday:

Four general managers of other clubs told Wednesday that Lee is not yet formally available, but other executives expect Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will consider offers for the left-hander leading up to next Tuesday’s non-waiver deadline.

Let's be frank: The Phillies are currently 45-54, 14 games behind the National League East-leading Washington Nationals. They are 9.5 games out of the second wild-card spot in the NL. They may surge at the end of the season, but that's wishful thinking based on what they've done so far.

There's also the fact that Lee is owed $87.5 million in the next three seasons. The Phillies owe Lee, Hamels, Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard a combined $89 million next season alone, per Yahoo! Sports. They are scheduled to pay the first-level luxury tax this year and the second-level luxury tax next year.

The time to trade Lee is now, when he still has great value to other teams. Granted, he has fallen since his spectacular showing last season (1-6, 3.95 ERA, .265 batting average against), but he's valuable for contenders because of his outstanding track record in the playoffs. Lee is 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 11 career postseason starts.

It's understandable that the Phillies would want to hold on to the trio of Hamels, Lee and Halladay given their past success, but, the reality is, Lee and Halladay are 33 years old and 35 years old respectively and they are pitching like it. (Beyond Lee, Halladay has struggled to the tune of a 4.32 ERA this season.)

The Phillies have other areas to address, mind you. It's part of the reason why they are 45-54. They could add help at third base and in the outfield. Why not trade Lee for some valuable, young, cheaper pieces? It makes a lot of sense at this juncture.

The great organizations make decisions based on baseball, not sentimental value.

It's time to say goodbye to Cliff Lee.

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