Cliff Lee may be shopped as the trade deadline nears.
According to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has a decision on his hands:
Rival team officials believe Amaro has little choice but to at least explore the market for Lee, who has three years and $87.5 million left on his contract after this season. Given the Phillies’ high payroll and poor performance this season, the opportunity to save money — and acquire a low-cost replacement of comparable ability — appears too enticing to pass up.
With a 45-54 record, Philadelphia is buried at the bottom of the National League East. The team hasn't taken advantage of the second-highest payroll in the majors (via ESPN.com), and now it may be time to sell at the trade deadline.
Lee provides Philadelphia with excellent trade bait. He's signed through 2015, is a three-time All-Star and hasn't had an ERA over 4.00 since 2007.
However, Lee's 2012 campaign has been sub-par by his standards. The 33-year-old is just 1-6 with a 3.95 ERA. If Philadelphia hasn't been able to win when he's on the mound, it may be time to see what the market has to offer.
Texas GM Jon Daniels is believed to prefer Lee to Hamels; after all, Daniels offered Lee well more than $100 million as a free agent two offseasons ago. The Rangers would be more likely to trade minor league third baseman Mike Olt for Lee, than a two-month rental such as Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke.
Shipping Lee back to Texas—where he spent part of the 2010 season—would likely ensure the Phillies some touted prospects in return. The Rangers are moving up, and could use all the viable arms they can get.
The long-term devotion to Cole Hamels may put Lee on the chopping block. This season, Hamels has posted a 11-4 record and 3.23 ERA—the best output of any Phillies starting pitcher. Five years younger than Lee, Hamels has never won more than 15 games in a season, but the Phillies have paid him like he's a perrenial 20-game winner.
As for Lee, his fate will be decided by 4 p.m. ET on July 31.