After over a month of not pitching due to an elbow problem, Cliff Lee is set to throw a simulated game tomorrow afternoon, according to CSN Philly’s Greg Murphy. On the telecast of tonight’s Phillies-Marlins game, Murphy said that while Lee won’t rule out a return before the All-Star break, a return in the first series after the All-Star break seems like the most likely of scenarios if all goes well with Lee tomorrow and in a rehab stint(s).
Obviously we are jumping the gun a bit, but prior to his elbow injury, Lee was set to be one of the biggest names on the trade-market, assuming that the Phillies didn’t somehow remain in the race. Now that we at least have a timetable for Lee’s return, speculation on whether he could recoup his trade-value can begin to pour in with some actually validity.
Murphy did remind also pass along this evening, that Lee still feels some pain when he throws, which won’t exactly help his trade-value, even if he does pitch extremely well upon his return. Neither will the likely $37.5 million that Lee will be owed after this season.
I can’t emphasize enough that if Lee doesn’t get really hot pretty much as soon as he returns, and can’t prove that he can consistently go late in games, this whole discussion will become a moot point.
If he does, ESPN’s Jayson Stark says that clubs anticipate the Phillies trying to move Lee, and they would have a willingness to eat some salary.
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.
The problem with that plan, is who is going to give up ‘the right pieces’ for a 35 year-old, who still seems to be having some sort of discomfort at the least? Even if the Phillies eat salary, that doesn’t seem very likely to me.
While Lee had a 3.18 ERA prior to his injury, and he is normally going to allow teams to put the ball in play, opponents were hitting .287 against Lee, after opponents had not hit over .270 against Lee since 2007. That’s alarming for a 35 year-old, especially when you throw in elbow problems that don’t appear to have gone away.