The potential interest of Philadelphia Phillies starter Cliff Lee from the New York Yankees could really start to pick up once the 35-year-old returns from the disabled list.
Lee is considered to be one of the best left-handed starters on the market along with David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays; the Yankees aren't expected to land Price even though they have been scouting him, but the Yankees have had interest in the past for Lee, as they nearly acquired him four years ago at the trade deadline.
Lee has been on the disabled list for over a month with an elbow strain, but is starting to throw again and is expected to return to the last-pace Phillies around next month's All Star break; just in time for Ruben Amaro, Jr. to start shopping him. Jayson Stark of ESPN reported on Thursday that the Phillies and Amaro are expected to heavily shop Lee next month.
"If the Phillies are out of contention at the trading deadline, they are expected to listen to offers for many of their veteran players. But other clubs have told ESPN.com that they expect the Phillies to aggressively attempt to move Lee, who is signed through 2015 and has a minimum of $50 million left on his contract over the next season and a half. That figure could grow to $62.5 million if he vests his option for 2016. Teams that have spoken with the Phillies say the club has indicated it is willing to eat a significant portion of Lee's salary if it gets the right pieces back in a trade."
Lee was 4-4 with a 3.16 ERA before landing on the disabled list and is owed the rest of his $25 million salary this season and in 2015, plus a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016 if he hits 200 innings in 2015; money that the Yankees would be able to take on and money Hal Steinbrenner has already said he'd be willing to add to the payroll if needed in order to acquire a starter at the deadline to make the Yankees a more competitive team.
Since Price and Jeff Samardzija are likely out of the Yankees trade range, Jason Hammel is available but is also drawing interest from the Toronto Blue Jays who could make a stronger offer, which leaves Lee, who realistically, makes the most sense for the Yankees.
With Michael Pineda not expected back until sometime in August, if at all, and CC Sabathia
not expected back until after the All Star break, the Yankees need for at least one starter is a great one. They've gotten by with Vidal Nuno, David Phelps and Chase Whitley helping Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda.
Speaking of Sabathia; he could play a potential factor in Lee's potential decision to accept a trade to New York
, as the two lefty pitchers were former teammates on the Cleveland Indians and still are great friends, as are their wives Amber Sabathia and Kristen Lee. Back when the Yankees nearly got Lee from the Seattle Mariners in July of 2010, Amber and Kristen were reported to be house-shopping for the Lee family in northern New Jersey before the deal fell apart and Lee ended up going to the Texas Rangers instead.
If the Yankees are willing to take on most or all of Lee's contract, a package the Yankees could float to the Phillies could begin with something along the lines of Gary Sanchez or Peter O'Brien; two of the Yankees top current prospects in their system and get one of the best lefty starters in the game and give the Phillies the salary relief they desperately need, along with a chance to start rebuilding for the future.
, CC Sabathia
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