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If you were thinking that trading Lee would free up salary to sign a top free agent or two this winter, I wouldn't call the thought far-fetched. But the logic behind it? Asinine.
Don't get me wrong, I won't call you an idiot if you believe that placing Lee on irrevocable waivers would lead to going after a high-profile player in the offseason. I think it'd be senseless for the Phillies to do it, though. Here's why.
So let's say you do trade Lee in an irrevocable waivers deal. His entire salary is off the books. You've taken roughly $24 million in average annual salary and you're looking to fill that hole with some talent. Fine by me.
There's been talk that, after trading Victorino, Pence and Blanton, the Phillies may consider going out and bringing center fielder Michael Bourn back to the City of Brotherly Love. Melky Cabrera has also been mentioned. So have B.J. Upton and Josh Hamilton. But would any one of them make sense? More likely than not, no.
If anyone makes sense, it's Bourn. Although he'll be 30 years old entering next year, he's still stealing bases like it's nobody's business and continues to hit for average. He's an above average defender and his speed is ideal for a center fielder. But you're talking about a team that wants to get younger. Signing Bourn—who's a Scott Boras client, mind you—would likely cost the Phillies excess of $15 million a year, and knowing Amaro, he'll likely ink him for either a year and/or a few million too many.
So now we're talking youth. Okay, how about Cabrera or Upton? Well, the 27-year-old Cabrera's got incredibly high advanced stats that suggest his success isn't going to stick around. Yeah, he's led the league in hits this season, but his BABIP last year was .332 and this year it's .387. If anything, he's lucky. But remember that, before last season, Cabrera was virtually on his last chance in the majors. He's too risky a gamble.
And then there's Upton. I'll argue that despite his younger age (he's 28 in a few weeks), he's a bad investment waiting to happen. He steals bases and hits a few home runs every now and then. But otherwise? His defense is only average, he strikes out too much, his average hovers in the .240s, and he doesn't get on base. I'm not a fan of any of that. Are you?
And finally, there's Hamilton. A great player who's two years removed from an MVP award. But he's often injured, he's got off-the-field issues and is too streaky to rely on. After all, he's hit well below .200 since the beginning of June after hitting near .370 on the year prior to that. His strikeouts are up as his plate discipline has gone down the gutter. And oh yeah, he'll be 32 next year and could demand a contract well over $100 million over five or more years. Another mistake bound to happen.
The chances that Amaro makes a push for one of these guys is likely if Lee is traded. Heck, it's probable even if he's not. But knowing that Amaro tends to overdo it on free agency contracts (see Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco and Jonathan Papelbon), one of these four guys—or somebody else, for that matter—will be the team's next cash-strapped instigator.
Don't risk it on another bad contract waiting to happen. Keep Lee, who you know what to expect and is more likely worth the contract. And with Amaro, it's almost set in stone that it will.