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New York Yankees Could Look to Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins This Summer If Philadelphia Phillies are Sellers

February 4th, 2014 at 3:25 PM
By Doug Rush

Last week, we at Yankees 101 mentioned the possibility of Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki being a potential trade option for the New York Yankees at the trade deadline, especially if the Rockies fall out of contention and if Derek Jeter's health doesn't go well in 2014.

Another team has now been brought up as a potential trading partner for the Yankees, one that has been a trading partner in the past for the Bombers and general manager Brian Cashman in the Philadelphia Phillies. Last year, the Yankees tried to acquire players from Philadelphia and their GM in Ruben Amaro, Jr. but he turned down the team's proposals for catcher Carlos Ruiz and third basemen Michael Young and so the Yankees didn't make a deal this past July with Amaro.

But if the Phillies are again sellers at the deadline, which many believe they will be given the age and lack of depth on the team, the Phillies will want to shed major payroll in order to allow themselves to rebuild for the future, and shedding two potential contracts in starting pitcher Cliff Lee and shortstop Jimmy Rollins to the Yankees would and could make sense, as A.J. Mass of ESPN New York made the case for.

"That power could well be used to lure away one, if not more, of the high-priced Philadelphia Phillies to the Bronx, should the aging National League East team struggle in the first half of the season. In particular, Olney suggests that the likes of Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee and/or Cole Hamels might each be made available by the Phillies under the right circumstances. Additionally, by claiming that extra salary, the Yankees would not necessarily be hamstrung by the fact their minor league system has fewer prospects than most organizations that they can use in a "win today" kind of trade."

Mass mentions Cole Hamels in there as well, but given that he in the middle of a seven-year, $142 million contract and is seen as one of the Phillies younger talents, they may opt to hang onto their younger, home-grown pitcher, whereas the other two veterans may be more suitable trade candidates for the Yankees.

First is Rollins, who has been a career Phillie and one of the most popular players in recent time with the fans, however, he's also 35 years old with an $11 million salary in 2014 and a vesting option for 2015 which is also $11 million that could very easily be made if he stays healthy, and considering he's played in at least 156 games over the last two seasons, Rollins' health isn't in question.

Rollins offensive production isn't what it once was considering he was the 2007 National League MVP where he hit .296 with 30 home runs, 94 RBI and stole 41 bases that season; but he can still be a very good player, just like he was in 2012, where he hit .250 with 23 home runs, 68 RBI and stole 30 bases for the underachieving Phillies.

In 2013, Rollins hit .252 with six home runs and 39 RBI with 22 stolen bases for Philadelphia last season, but if Jeter's health becomes a question and if Colorado refuses to let go of Tulowitzki, Rollins becomes a much more likely trade candidate for shortstop for at least the next two years, pending he can stay healthy.

The other trade candidate is no stranger to the Yankees considering he nearly became a Yankee in the summer of 2010 in a near-trade with the Seattle Mariners, Cliff Lee is a pitcher the Yankees have always had their eyes on, and even when they missed out on him in free agency during the winter of 2010-2011, where he spurned the Yankees to sign a five-year, $125 million deal to return to The City of Brotherly Love, it hasn't been the experience Lee had expected when he thought the Yankees were too old and the Phillies would win multiple titles. Instead, it was the Yankees who made the playoffs on a more frequent basis while Philadelphia has been sitting at home in October.

In 2013, the 35-year-old had one of his finest seasons in the majors when he pitched to a 14-8 record with a 2.87 ERA and had 222 strikeouts in 222.1 innings in his 31 starts and finished sixth in the National League Cy Young voting. Lee is still guaranteed another $50 million over the next two seasons with a vesting option for 2016 for $25 million, another very possible option that could be met if he stays healthy and more payroll the Phillies would love to shed in order to start looking towards the future and the Yankees could easily take on that kind of payroll, especially if they are looking to win a World Series in 2014.

While the Yankees might not have the best prospects to send to the Phillies like others might, what the Yankees have is the luxury of being able to take Lee's $25 million and Rollins' $11 million off the Phillies hands, giving them $36 million worth of salary cap relief over the next two seasons, something that Amaro could benefit from and really show the fan base that they are committed to the future and rebuilding, while the Yankees can load up for a playoff run and a potential World Series run.

Sure the Yankees added a big name arm in Masahiro Tanaka and spent $155 million over seven years in order to get him, but what about CC Sabathia and his future going forward pitching at an older age, plus Hiroki Kuroda being 39-years-old and breaking down at the end of last season? Trading for Lee would give the Yankees some assurance and re-enforcements in the rotation, while a guy like Rollins can help out if there are any major setbacks or injuries to the Yankees captain and shortstop in 2014.

Photo credit: Keith Allison / Foter / CC BY-SA

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Tags: Baseball, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, MLB, New York, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies

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