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Lee has 15 fewer wins this season than he did last season, and only one fewer loss.
However, he is still just one season removed from going 17-8 with 238 strikeouts and a 2.40 ERA on his way to a third-place finish in NL Cy Young voting.
But that doesn’t make it any easier for the Phils to pay between $87.5 and $102.5 million over the next three to four years to a pitcher who is 2-7 this season.
Lee was already claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers following the trade deadline. That was an opportunity for the Phillies to allow Lee and the at least $87.5 million still owed to him to change teams, while they received a boatload of payroll flexibility.
But Lee is still a Phillie.
If the Phils passed on what was likely their only chance, prior to next season, to have a team take on Lee’s entire salary, chances are they would rather receive players in return instead. A quick glance at the team’s roster explains why.
Besides Lee, few Phillies’ players could be dealt in a trade that would fill multiple needs for the team.
With players needed at third base, at least two out of three outfield spots, the bullpen and possibly the starting rotation, the Phillies may have a difficult time hitting all of their goals through free agency.
When it comes to trades, Lee is likely the only Phillie whose trade value (if the Phillies pay part of his salary) could result in the team filling at least two needs in one trade in terms of acquiring above-average major league talent or minor league prospects.
Roy Halladay? Possibly, but would the Phillies trade him, and what kind of offer would a team make for a recently injured 35-year-old pitcher?
Would any teams be willing to take on the salaries of Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins? Chances are no, plus any trade involving these players could leave the Phils with more holes.
Trading Lee may or may not be a good decision. But what’s more certain is that, if the Phillies do trade him, they must be strategic in order to strike big with their best trade chip.