By placing such a high trade cost for teams attempting to deal for former Cy Young Award-winner Cliff Lee, the Philadelphia Phillies are putting themselves in a win-win situation regardless of what Lee's fate is after Wednesday's non-waiver MLB trade deadline expires.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com recently reported that the Phillies would require three or four prospects of their choosing in exchange for Lee, along with the hefty salary the pitching ace has in his current contract.
It would surprise Heyman if anyone would pay the vested option following the end of Lee's lucrative deal along with valuable young assets:
#phillies have no obvious bidder for cliff lee. surprised if anyone gave up 3 top prospects & spent $70M 2 for lee— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 31, 2013
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal cited a rival executive, who said it would take, "a lot!!!" to get Phillies general manager Rubén Amaro Jr. to pull the trigger and part ways with Lee.
Parting ways with Lee and building for the future makes sense for Philadelphia, but only if the club can get enough young assets to justify letting a talent like Lee go relatively early.
The 34-year-old southpaw still has at least two years left on his deal, with a club option available for 2017. His salary is $25 million, which is justifiable for a hurler of Lee's caliber.
In 2013, Lee is 10-4 with a 3.05 ERA and is showing no signs of slowing down despite not having the strongest arm in the big leagues.
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that everyone is on the trade block aside from Domonic Brown, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, a former World Series MVP who sports just a 4-13 record this season. What's also noted by Salisbury is that Philadelphia wants Lee to stay and headline the 2014 rotation along with Hamels.
There is still a fairly promising nucleus at the core of the Phillies, who could still return Roy Halladay if he's healthy due to the team having a club option in 2014 to pick him up for $20 million.
Will the Phillies be World Series contenders in 2014?
Halladay reportedly feels as good as he did 10 years ago after undergoing surgery on his right throwing shoulder (h/t CBS Philly). If that is indeed the case and the Phillies can get a bounce-back year out of him and Hamels along with a solid one from Lee next year, there's no telling how far Philadelphia could go.
Making a run with that trio of pitchers is at least worth one more shot, especially with a key power hitter in Ryan Howard missing from the lineup since early July with a torn meniscus. The production from Philly's batting lineup can't get much worse, either, considering it ranks 25th in the MLB in runs scored thus far.
Unless the Phillies were to be offered an absolutely ridiculous crop of prospects, a young and superior superstar or both, a move involving Lee shouldn't be on the cards.
One source told Jim Bowden of ESPN that Lee indeed won't be shipped anywhere:
Cliff Lee is not getting traded today according to #source— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) July 31, 2013
It's probably in both parties' best interests for Philadelphia to keep Lee.
Despite the fact that the postseason is bleak after a recent eight-game losing streak, there is still reason for Lee to stick around and contribute to what could be a legitimate World Series contender in 2014.