While many of us are enjoying seeing the Phillies’ current win streak, I think we are well within our rights to be skeptical in terms of how long this playoff-esque level of play will continue. Nationally, the Phillies have become the face of this trade deadline, despite the fact that most people think that large contracts will prevent them from really having a firesale, so this win streak hasn’t changed the fact that names on the Phillies’ roster are being discussed in trades.
Cliff Lee, who has been out since May 20th with elbow issues but has started throwing bullpen sessions again, was the latest Phil to be thrown back into trade speculation.
This morning, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News cited the fact that Lee would give the Yankees another legitimate arm behind rookie of the year/Cy Young/MVP candidate Masahiro Tanaka, if he could return at top form, as a reason that Lee would be a fit for the Yankees. Feinsand thinks that even once CC Sabathia returns, expecting him to return at his old form wouldn’t be fair, so adding Lee would place less pressure on both Sabthia and Hiroki Kuroda, and give the Yankees four legitimate starters heading into the pennant race.
Feinsand also projects that if the Phillies can move Lee, they will look to do so without trying to land the blue-chip package of prospects that the Cubs will ask for in any potential deal for Jeff Samardzija.
Lee’s injury issues — he’s been on the DL for the past month but hopes to return before the All-Star break — might make him the ultimate risk-reward candidate, as the Phillies could look to deal him for pennies on the dollar prospect-wise in order to save themselves a few billion actual pennies.
On paper, that idea makes sense. Paper doesn’t take into account that recent success could fool the Phillies’ into thinking they can make a playoff run this year. Even if they do fall back, which wouldn’t necessarily take much, I’d be surprised if the Phillies find the right mix of top-notch prospects and a team taking on a majority of Lee’s salary, that will lead them to actually move him.
Unless Lee comes back and immediately pitches the way that Cole Hamels has recently, my best bet is that the Phillies hold onto Lee. They could still move him in an August waiver deal, in the off-season, or next trade-deadline in that scenario. Or they could decide, as only the Phillies would, that he will be part of a team that will “compete” for the playoffs in 2015, and hold onto him. Yeah, that seems like the most likely scenario.