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Cliff Lee has a no-trade clause that prevents him from being traded to 20 teams without his permission.
Cliff Lee has been traded three times—from Cleveland to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Seattle and Seattle to Texas—in his career and it may happen a fourth time this season.
Philadelphia is 31-32 as of June 8, and Lee is keeping them from falling further behind the Atlanta Braves. He has 11 quality starts in 13 outings in addition to leading Philadelphia in innings (95.1) and strikeouts (83).
Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi wrote that the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles are of "particular interest" in regard to trading for Lee.
However, both teams are included in Lee's 20-team no-trade clause in his contract with Philadelphia that also features the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Lee acknowledged the possibility of being traded as the deadline approaches, via Morosi:
The way we played last year, the way we’ve started out this year, it’s getting close to do-or-die time. . . . Management is going to have some decisions to make when we get closer to the trade deadline, if we continue to play the way we have. I want to do everything I can to make sure they’re not forced to make some of those decisions. I’m just going to try to pitch and do everything I can to help the team win.
Lee told the Philadelphia Inquirer that his first choice is to remain with the Phillies, but he said his "main thing" is wanting to win.
Philadelphia would need permission to send Lee to Texas or Baltimore, but both clubs would allow him to compete for a team that it currently vying for a division lead.
Lee is familiar with the Rangers after starting 15 games for them in the regular season in 2010 and then appearing in five games in the playoffs. Texas is only half a game out of first place in the AL West.
Texas is without starting pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis, which means the Rangers would definitely give some thought to trading for Lee. Plus, a one-two punch of Yu Darvish and Cliff Lee could be deadly in the postseason.
Despite being seven games above .500 and only 3.5 games out of first place in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles have the fourth-worst team ERA. Eleven different pitchers have started at least one game for the Orioles this season.
In Baltimore, Lee would immediately become the ace, and he would provide much-needed stability in the Orioles' rotation.
Morosi wrote that the St. Louis Cardinals are one of the nine teams to which Lee cannot block a trade:
He figured they would be unlikely to trade for him because they have an excellent rotation and good pitching depth in the farm system, and he’s also said to be intrigued by the idea of playing for the Cardinals — thanks to their winning culture, their proximity to his Arkansas home and the ability to continue hitting in the National League.
With a team ERA of 3.16, three starting pitchers with at least seven wins this season and a pitching staff that has combined for 40 quality starts, the Cardinals are not in desperate need of pitching, which makes St. Louis an unlikely destination for Lee.
Between Texas, Baltimore and St. Louis, Texas would likely be the best option for Lee. He has had a relationship with the Rangers in the past. Texas made the World Series in two of the past three seasons, and the Rangers could improve in their starting pitching.
Lee would be a huge addition for Baltimore, but with four teams within three games of the division lead in the AL East, the playoffs are less likely for the Orioles than they are for the Rangers.
While it is too early in the trade rumor process to determine the future of Cliff Lee, his return to Texas makes sense. In exchange for Lee, Philadelphia could use an outfielder or a second baseman since the Phillies have been struggling to produce offensively in those positions.
Kyle Kendrick, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay would need to step up in a major way to make up for the loss of Lee, who has been Philadelphia's ace this season.