Lee is a name that the Red Sox have considered in the past but have never been able to acquire. This past December, Boston offered to send center field Jacoby Ellsbury to the Phillies in exchange for Lee, but the Phillies rejected it, according to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly (h/t WEEI):
According to multiple sources, the Red Sox approached the Phillies about a Jacoby Ellsbury for Cliff Lee deal and were told that Lee was not available, ... The Phils won’t break up their Lee-Cole Hamels-Roy Halladay trio. (Check back in July if the team is not in contention.)
It’s not July yet, but it’s not too early to start thinking about what could happen over the next two months. The Phillies currently sit in third place of the NL East at 13-16 and don’t seem to be playing their best baseball right now.
While Lee has been fine, for lack of a better term, through six starts, that trio that Philadelphia didn’t want to break up yet has been a bit of a disaster.
The Red Sox could become interested in the left-hander should the current rotation start to falter as the season drags on. Sure, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester have both been outstanding, and Ryan Dempster has looked good so far, but will Felix Doubront or John Lackey hold up the rest of the way?
Should Boston look to acquire Cliff Lee this year?
Lackey has already dealt with biceps problems just a couple of starts since undergoing Tommy John surgery, and Doubront continues to have pitch-count issues—averaging less than six innings per start despite throwing over 100 pitches.
Boston could have Alfredo Aceves and/or Franklin Morales ready to go in an emergency situation, but having Lee on the mound instead gives the Red Sox a much better opportunity to win.
All Boston has to do is keep winning and hope that the Phillies continue to lose, and the Red Sox may have a decent shot at acquiring him. Salisbury wrote Friday:
The Red Sox inquired about Lee before the winter meetings and were told he was not available because the Phillies believed they needed him to make a run in 2013 ... If that run fails the Phils will likely change their mindset and Lee will become the prize of July trade market. Lee has a limited no-trade clause, but these things have a way of being resolved.
Salisbury also talks about how, although Lee is a very expensive option—owed $25 million this season and $62.5 million the next three seasons—teams would be interested for one reason: “To win the World Series.”
Lee has veteran leadership and has been a good postseason pitcher over the course of his career, despite only a handful of trips to the playoffs.
The question remains as to what the Phillies are going to want in exchange for a player of Lee’s caliber. Philadelphia said no to Ellsbury, one of Boston’s best trade chips, last season, but the price could drop depending on whether the Phillies are ready to restart the rebuilding process.
The main idea of Salisbury’s article is to talk about how the Phillies have inquired about Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, but they don’t have a great farm system in order to acquire him. As Salisbury puts it, “Close-to-major-league-ready pitching is the Phillies’ strength, but the team could be reluctant to move too much of that supply as the core of its big-league pitching staff gets older.”
So what if Boston offered Philadelphia some prospects that would allow the Phillies to keep their top pitching prospects and still enhance the likelihood that they’d acquire Stanton?
Now we’re talking.
Where will Giancarlo Stanton finish 2013?
In a sense, the Phillies need to acquire talent that would interest the Marlins. Boston has that type of talent. In my estimation, Miami should be all set in the outfield, at catcher and somewhat on the mound. The Marlins could use a middle infielder and probably a corner infielder as well.
Hypothetically speaking, Boston would receive Lee, Philadelphia would receive Stanton, and Miami would receive a bunch of top- to mid-level prospects that would likely include the likes of Rubby De La Rosa, Bryce Brentz, Garin Cecchini and maybe even Jose Iglesias. But hey, maybe the Marlins want even more than that.
The point here is that the Red Sox need to provide the Phillies with the assets to potentially acquire Stanton down the road—or at least convince them they’ll have enough to do so by dealing Lee to Boston.
If the Red Sox are going to win the World Series this season, they’ll likely need to add at least one “big” piece at or before the trade deadline. Lee could end up being the guy who helps bring another title to Boston.