The Boston Red Sox are in hot pursuit of pitching help before the MLB non-waiver trade deadline on Wednesday, July 31, but the franchise would be foolish to meet the demands set for Philadelphia Phillies star Cliff Lee.
Lee isn't the only top pitcher on Boston's radar, as noted by Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.com:
Sources: Red Sox remain engaged in talks for multiple pitchers, including Cliff Lee and Jake Peavy.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 29, 2013
Peavy could be a terrific addition at the right price, but Lee is another matter.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has reportedly set an exorbitant price tag on Lee, as noted by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com:
"He's telling people it'll take you three or four best prospects, plus you'd have to take all the money," one competing executive said of Phillies GM Ruben Amaro. Another executive put it thusly, "You'd have to give up your first born, second and third born, too."
Is Lee worth the Phillies' asking price?
Giving up "three or four best prospects" is brutal enough, but the real issue here is Lee's massive contract.
The 34-year-old star pitcher is set to earn $25 million in each of his next two seasons and has "a vesting option for another year with a $12.5 million buyout," as noted by Heyman, that would pay Lee $27.5 million if he remains with his current team (via Spotrac.com).
Lee will be 36 years old in 2015, and given the amount of wear and tear he has put his arm through since coming into the league in 2001, his massive contract is loaded with risk.
It's easy to see why the Red Sox are interested in landing Lee, however.
He's been a stalwart for the Phillies this season as the team struggles to win half its games, with Lee posting a record of 10-4 with 131 strikeouts, just 22 walks, an ERA of 3.05 and a WHIP of 1.009.
Amaro doesn't really want to part with his star pitcher, but he's willing to take calls and listen to offers, as noted by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
Adding Lee would certainly put a charge into Boston's faithful fanbase, but there's no guarantee his presence in the starting rotation would be the ticket to another world championship. If Boston were to meet Amaro's demands, shipping off its top prospects while absorbing Lee's contract, then the move could easily backfire.
The price tag for Lee's services is simply too high.
The Red Sox would be smart to look elsewhere for pitching help.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78