I’ve gone back and forth on whether the Phillies should trade Cliff Lee. Recently I was saying that if the Phillies don’t think they can be competitive over the next two years, they should trade Lee if they can get a good deal. Then, talking with a friend, he made the point that trading Lee would really alienate the fan base as he is currently their best pitcher and a fan favorite.
Then, listening to WIP one of the hosts made a point similar to my first one, but went further. He basically said the team they have now is going to be very similar to the one they will have next year, but one year older. Does it sound like they will be competitive? Howard will be back. Rollins will be back. Chase will probably be back. Ruiz could very well be back, and, if not, probably Erik Kratz. This makes me think that the Phillies should trade Lee, if they can get a good return. What does that mean? I’m not sure, but any prospects need to be very close to major-league ready. Apparently Boston has quite a few, and they are one of the suitors for Lee. Jon Heyman of CBSsports said on the radio that the Red Sox could be a fit because they have prospects and the money to pay Lee’s full salary, or at least most of it.
Also, the Phillies can’t assume Lee can keep up this level of performance over the last three years of his contract. He turns 35 at the end of the month and not many pitchers have kept performing at a high level past that age. Just take a look at Doc. Lee’s fastball velocity is down by 1 mph since last year (which was actually the highest of his career) which isn’t that much and does match one year when he was with the Indians. However, his line-drive percentage is up about 4% from last year, too.
So, in the end, the Phillies should look to trade Lee, but only if that can get a good return. It won’t be popular with the fans, but the short term loss could be worth the long term gain. Look at the Athletics- they keep trading away talent and they are very often competitive. They haven’t won a World Series in a long time either, of course, but they also don’t have the Phillies payroll.