MLB Trade Rumors: Philadelphia Phillies Should Be Cautious Trading Cliff Lee

Jon ReidCorrespondent IIDecember 5, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 02:  Justin Upton #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against the Colorado Rockies during the MLB game at Chase Field on October 2, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Diamondbacks defeated the Rockies 5-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Coming into this offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies were a team hunting for some assistance in the outfield.

With B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino both off the market, Michael Bourn likely to sign elsewhere and Nick Swisher demanding a price that Philadelphia probably isn't willing to pay, it seems as though the options are drying up.

So what now?

Well, there's always the trade market.

According to a tweet from Pedro Gomez of ESPN on Tuesday, the Phillies may have been looking to making a splash, as they discussed potentially swapping Cliff Lee for Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks:


Phillies and Diamondbacks are discussing Justin Upton for Cliff Lee. Money coming to AZ would also be involved.

— Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) December 4, 2012


This wouldn't just fill the team's need for a big bat in the outfield, it would instantly bolster Philadelphia's lineup in a way that none of the aforementioned free agents could (with the exception of a few of those names being switch-hitters).

At just 25 years old, Upton has averaged 23 home runs and 77.5 RBI, while swiping at least 18 bases in each of those seasons.

Upton has been sensational since arriving at the major league level.

It would surely be worth giving up Cliff Lee for him, right?

Lee is 34 years old and will be 35 by the time the 2013 season wraps up. He was injured this past season and costs Philadelphia a good chunk of change.

Trading him is not that simple, though.

If the Phillies were to trade Cliff Lee, they'd lose an integral part of their rotation.

They would still have dominant, ace-caliber starters in Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay, but Halladay is no spring chicken, either. He had a poor, injury-plagued season as well.

It's also worth noting that Halladay will be a free agent after the 2013 season, meaning the Phillies could be faced with losing two of their best pitchers, which would make them very thin in terms of starting pitching after 2013.

Should they be able to re-sign Halladay or feel fairly confident that they can pick up a second or third starter either this offseason or next (perhaps a guy like Shaun Marcum or Brandon McCarthy), the trade would seem much more feasible.

Until then, Philadelphia would be wise in approaching this potential deal—or any potential deal involving Lee—with caution.