Cliff Lee Rumors

The Details Of Cliff Lee’s No-Trade Clause

Cliff Lee struggled in his first start back from the disabled list last night, allowing six runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings, and while that outing likely didn’t bolster his trade value much, his name still figures to be bandied about in the days leading up to the trade deadline (and in August, if he isn’t moved this month). Lee has a no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to 20 clubs, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has the full details on that clause.

The nine teams to which Lee cannot block trades are the Braves, Indians, Astros, Marlins, Twins, Mets, Padres, Rays and Nationals. Should GM Ruben Amaro Jr. look to deal Lee to any of the other 20 clubs in baseball, Lee would have the ability to block the trade.

The list of teams to which Lee can be traded without his consent includes all four of Philadelphia’s division rivals (unlikely trade partners in the first place) plus a few teams that are either in states of prolonged losing/rebuilding or lack the financial wherewithal to take on Lee’s salary. In other words, Lee likely didn’t feel the need to include any of these nine in his no-trade clause, as the circumstances surrounding his current team and contract make a deal to any of the nine highly unlikely. (The Indians might be a sentimental exception to that thinking, although Lee’s salary would certainly be difficult for Cleveland to absorb.)

What Lee’s no-trade clause does do is provide him with leverage. We’ve already seen reports indicate that Marlon Byrd would approve a trade to the Mariners if they were to guarantee his third-year vesting option, and Lee could theoretically make a similar bargaining ploy to waive his own no-trade rights (that’s just my own speculation).

Of course, Lee will very likely need to convince clubs that he’s the version of Cliff Lee that everyone is used to seeing — or at least something close to it — before any team would take on a significant of his salary. As Crasnick notes, there were some positives on Monday: Lee fired a perfect first inning on nine pitches, many of the hits he gave up were “bleeders,” and he broke a few bats as well. However, one AL scout told Crasnick:

“His fastball command was off and he wasn’t nearly as precise as usual. He threw too many hittable pitches, and his overall stuff was flatter than normal. Give him another start before rushing to judgment. He threw strikes, but not with the level of precision he typically does.”

Lee is owed $9.43MM through season’s end (that number drops to $8.2MM from July 31 through season’s end), and he’s guaranteed $25MM in 2015. His $27.5MM vesting option triggers with 200 innings pitched next season, but even if he doesn’t hit that mark, it remains a club option with an incredible $12.5MM buyout. At that point, any team that controls Lee is essentially making a $14.5MM decision on whether or not to retain his services.


East Notes: Lee, Hamels, Braves, Price, Orioles

There were plenty of scouts on hand for the Phillies‘ matchup tonight, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (links to Twitter). Among the players presumably being eyed were starter Cliff Lee, fresh off a lengthy DL stint, and southpaw reliever Antonio Bastardo. Clubs with representatives on-hand included the Tigers, Blue Jays, Orioles, Brewers, Angels, Royals, Giants, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Mariners, though Crasnick adds that all were not necessarily looking at Lee in particular. The return start for Lee did not go well for the veteran lefty, as he surrendered 12 base hits (11 singles and one long ball) and six earned runs to go with three strikeouts and a walk over 5 2/3 innings.

Here’s more from the game’s eastern divisions:

  • The Phillies are telling clubs that starter Cole Hamels is not available, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. Hamels looks to be the best trade piece on the club’s current MLB roster, but Philadelphia may well prefer to keep the 30-year-old as it attempts to avoid a total rebuild.
  • The Yankees appear on Lee’s twenty-team no-trade list, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Lee also listed New York on last year’s version of his slate of clubs to which he can decline to be dealt.
  • For the Braves, the trade deadline is likely to bring aid to the bullpen and bench, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. A left-handed reliever has long been on the club’s list, and Bowman says that the club might also look to add a bench bat that would improve the team’s anemic pinch-hitting results. As Bowman notes, Jordan Schafer and Ryan Doumit have both largely been ineffective in that role.
  • The Rays now seem more likely than ever to take the decision whether to deal David Price right up until the trade deadline, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post“I think they take it down to the wire,” an executive told Sherman. “That allows them to make sure they know who they are while making a couple teams sweat to the end that one of their competitors are going to get him. … It wouldn’t surprise me if Price actually ends up a July 31 decision.”
  • Meanwhile, the Orioles are looking at a broad array of options to bolster their club, reports MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli. In particular, the club is looking at both starting and relief arms, and has indicated to at least three clubs that righty Miguel Gonzalez could be moved. One of those teams is the Padres, who of course hold one of the better available starters in Ian Kennedy. A.J. Burnett of the Phillies is also on Baltimore’s radar, as is Jorge De La Rosa of the Rockies, though Ghiroli says that Colorado was asking for top prospect Kevin Gausman to be included. Manager Buck Showalter indicated that executive vice president Dan Duquette remains hesitant to part with the club’s best prospects, and could ultimately take things down to the wire to get the right deal. (That, of course, was the strategy that Baltimore employed in this year’s free agent market, though last year the club started buying somewhat early at the deadline.)

Phillies Outright Koyie Hill, Designate Tony Gwynn Jr.

The Phillies announced that they have outrighted veteran catcher Koyie Hill off the 40-man roster and designated center fielder Tony Gwynn Jr. for assignment. The team also announced that Cesar Hernandez has been optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The series of roster moves creates space for Cliff Lee, Wil Nieves and Reid Brignac to be activated from the disabled list.

The 35-year-old Hill appeared in 10 games and collected 22 plate appearances this season with Nieves on the disabled list. He hit .238/.273/.286 in that brief sample. As a player who has been outrighted in the past, he will have the ability to reject the assignment in favor of free agency, though Hill is no stranger to playing at the Triple-A level, so he may simply accept.

The 31-year-old Gwynn batted .163/.284/.204 in 119 plate appearances and played his typical brand of solid defense in center field (a few misplays in left field appear to have created some negative defensive marks for his brief, 33-inning sample there). It’s been a rough few weeks for Gwynn, who tragically lost his father — Hall of Famer and Padres legend Tony Gwynn Sr. — to cancer last month.

Lee will come off the disabled list to start tonight’s contest, meaning that he should be able to make at least two starts in the trade deadline (his third start would currently project to fall on the day of the trade deadline, though he could make one earlier than that if he pitches on short rest). The Philadelphia ace last pitched on May 18 and has been sidelined by a left elbow strain. He’s posted a 3.18 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 and a career-best 49.1 percent ground-ball rate in 68 innings this season. If you subtract a disastrous Opening Day outing, he’s been even better this year, pitching to a 2.29 ERA in 63 innings (nine starts). Though Lee can block trades to 20 teams, some reports have indicated that he’d be open to waiving his no-trade rights in order to move to a contending team. His name figures to be heavily discussed in the coming 10 days, though he could also be an August trade candidate.



Phillies Notes: Burnett, Hamels, Lee

Here’s the latest on the Phillies and the numerous trade candidates on their roster…

  • The Pirates had a scout watching A.J. Burnett‘s start on Friday, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.  The Bucs are known to be looking for starting pitching and Burnett is certainly a familiar quantity for them.  The veteran righty has a partial no-trade clause, though it isn’t known if he can block a deal to Pittsburgh or if Burnett would welcome a deal to a contender that is still close to his Maryland home.
  • Cole Hamels has received some trade interest from the Red Sox, though CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman wonders if this could be a tactic to restart extension talks with Jon Lester.  Otherwise, Boston’s pursuit of Hamels doesn’t make a lot of sense to Heyman — the Sox could just re-sign Lester, rather than pay a similar price to Hamels through 2018 and have to give up prospects to the Phillies to get him.
  • The Blue Jays and Yankees both scouted Cliff Lee‘s final rehab start, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes.  Lee returns from the DL to start against the Giants tonight, and scouts from several teams are expected in attendance for Lee’s two scheduled starts prior to the July 31st deadline.

Quick Hits: Cishek, Lee, Kendrick

Steve Cishek‘s name has begun appearing in trade talks, suggesting that the Marlins could be sellers, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. Another Marlins reliever, Mike Dunn, might also be a trade possibility, although the Marlins still do not want to trade Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins had hoped to add talent at the deadline, but they’re now at 45-52 and would have a tough swim against the current to make it to the playoffs. Cishek, a proven closer who’s making just $3.8MM this year, would be a very desirable trade target. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • The Competitive Balance Lottery will take place in New York on Wednesday, MLB.com’s Jim Callis notes. Thanks to their market size and/or revenue pools, the Athletics, Brewers, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies and Royals will each be in the running for one of six 2015 supplemental first-round picks. The Mariners, Twins and teams from the above list that miss on a first-rounder will each vie for one of six supplemental second-round picks. Callis notes that these picks are especially valuable under the current draft system, since each supplemental pick adds money to the pool from which a team is allowed to spend on picks from the first ten rounds of the draft. Teams are also allowed to trade competitive balance picks.
  • After missing two months with an elbow injury, Cliff Lee will rejoin the Phillies‘ rotation on Monday , giving interested teams a couple chances to watch him before the trade deadline, writes Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Given his contract, Castrovince notes, Lee will need to pitch very well in order to be much of a trade asset. There’s also the chance Lee could be traded in August.
  • The Blue Jays could consider the Phillies’ Kyle Kendrick if they aren’t able to make a higher-profile trade, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes. A Jays scout watched Kendrick as he struggled in his start against the Braves on Sunday. It’s unclear what sort of return Kendrick might fetch — he has struggled this season, posting a 4.87 ERA, 5.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over 125 2/3 innings. Kendrick is eligible for free agency after the season.

NL Notes: Hamels, Lee, Burnett, Colon, Padres

The Rockies, who have lost four in a row and 11 of their last 15, own the National League’s worst record and the third-worst mark in all of baseball. The franchise faces six key questions, according to the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders, including whether to trade Troy Tulowitzki and to overhaul the front office to appease the disgruntled fan base. Saunders doesn’t see either happening because owner Dick Monfort is an extremely loyal and stubborn man. Saunders writes Tulowitzki could force a trade if he is willing to be portrayed as the disloyal, bad guy. Elsewhere in the NL:

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


NL East Notes: Mets, Braves, Uggla, Lee, Marlins

The Mets haven’t decided whether they’ll be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, Mike Puma of the New York Post writes. “I think the last 10 games were important because they make the next 10 games relevant to what happens at the [July 31] trade deadline,” said GM Sandy Alderson before Friday’s win over the Padres. “[C]ertainly the last 10 games have to make us a little more optimistic.” The Mets are seven games back in the NL East and 6 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot after taking nine of their last 11. Here are more notes from the NL East.

  • Alderson seems to be leaning more towards buying, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets. “Sometimes you’ve gotta believe, right? This is a time,” Alderson says.
  • The Braves aren’t actively trying to upgrade their starting rotation right now, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets. That means they probably won’t pursue Rays ace David Price.
  • The Braves are desperate to rid themselves of outfielder B.J. Upton, a GM tells Peter Gammons (via Twitter). Upton has hit .215/.277/.343 in 388 plate appearances this season, and the Braves still owe him over $50MM through 2017.
  • The Braves will continue to pay recently released infielder Dan Uggla through 2019, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes (via Twitter). Uggla has a deferred signing bonus that means he’ll be paid $250K per year between 2016 and 2019. Of course, they also owe him $13MM in 2015.
  • Cliff Lee will rejoin the Phillies‘ rotation Monday night against the Giants, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. “I feel strong and I feel good and I’m ready to try to help the team win,” says Lee. That will only give Lee two starts before the end of July, but if the Phillies are going to move him, Salisbury points out that they could trade him in August as a waiver deal, or after the season. In any case, Salisbury writes that the Phillies want a serious return for Lee.
  • The Marlins say they won’t trade “key pieces,” Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald writes. It’s unclear exactly what that might mean, but the Marlins’ key pieces surely include Giancarlo Stanton. Spencer believes the Marlins are very concerned about avoiding last place, which likely also means that any number of other players could be off-limits as well.

Phils Not Looking To Move Hamels, Prefer To Deal Lee

10:25am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Phillies’ preference is to deal Cliff Lee rather than Hamels, though his current injury complicates that matter. Those familiar with the team feel that Lee would prioritize a winning team over remaining in Philadelphia, and that he would therefore be more likely to waive his no-trade clause. The same cannot be said for Hamels at this time, whose preference is to remain in Philly, Heyman writes.

Lee should be able to make at least two, if not three starts prior to July 31 after he is activated from the disabled list. That’s not a huge sample, but it should be enough time for him to prove his health, to an extent.

8:33am: While some recent rumors have circulated regarding the Red Sox and Cole Hamels, the Phillies aren’t currently inclined to deal him, a Major League source tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber suggests a similar notion (Twitter links). A source tells him that while the Sox are open to adding front-line starting pitching as insurance in case they cannot retain Jon Lester, there’s nothing in the works with Hamels, and acquiring him is more of a concept than a reality at this point.

Recently, it was reported that Hamels could block trades to 20 teams. The nine teams to which Hamels cannot block a trade are the Dodgers, Angels, Cardinals, Nationals, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Padres. Bradford writes that the Red Sox are believed to have checked in on Hamels earlier this season, but the two sides haven’t engaged in any recent trade discussions.

Hamels’ availability — or lack thereof — will be a defining point on this summer’s trade market. The 30-year-old is owed $90MM through 2018 — a reasonable sum in today’s market given his track record of excellence — and his contract contains a $20MM club option that can vest at $24MM if Hamels is healthy and throws 200 innings in 2018 (or 400 innings from 2017-18). Should he be made available in the next 13 days, Hamels would join David Price (and perhaps teammate Cliff Lee, depending on his health) as one of the most desirable arms on the open market.


Phillies Notes: Offense, Franco, Papelbon, Burnett, Lee

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. offered a frank assessment of his team’s offense to reporters, including CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury“I didn’t anticipate our guys being this poor. Because they are. They are this poor. We think that they’re better. But they haven’t shown it. So at some point we’re going to have to make some changes.”

More from Salisbury’s piece, and some other Phillies-related notes…

  • Amaro listed Darin Ruf, Grady Sizemore and Freddy Galvis as possible players who could be recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and he wouldn’t rule out top prospect Maikel Franco either. When referring to Franco, he noted that Franco can also play first base, indicating perhaps that the struggling Ryan Howard could see his playing time diminish.
  • Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reminds that last season, one of the reasons Amaro gave for not wanting to shop Jonathan Papelbon was a lack of a clear replacement. That excuse is no longer valid, Gelb writes, due to the emergence of Ken Giles. The 23-year-old Giles has dominated Major League hitters in his first 11 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits and three walks with 17 strikeouts. Papelbon, who is pitching as well as he ever has in a Phillies uniform, could be moved if the Phils kick in $13MM to cover his potential vesting option, Gelb opines.
  • ESPN’s Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required) feels that the Orioles are the most logical landing place for A.J. Burnett in a trade. Bowden writes that while Pittsburgh and Cleveland make some sense, both are long shots. He also speculates on what it would cost each team to acquire Burnett.
  • Cliff Lee is now slated to return after the All-Star break because one of his rehab outings was delayed by rain, according to a report from ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Stark has previously reported that rival clubs expect the Phillies to aggressively shop Lee upon his return, though with a July 19 return target, he’d only have roughly three starts to impress.

Stark’s Latest: Lee, Phillies, Rays

The latest from ESPN’s Jayson Stark…

  • Phillies ace Cliff Lee threw a bullpen session yesterday and is slated to return around the All-Star break, Stark writes for ESPN.com. Lee’s next step is to throw a simulated game this weekend before heading out on a minor league rehab assignment and returning either just before or just after the All-Star break. Rival teams tell Stark that they expect the Phillies to aggressively shop Lee, and they believe that Philadelphia would eat a significant amount of the remaining $50MM guarantee on Lee’s deal in order to net the right pieces.
  • The Tigers, Pirates, Blue Jays and Angels are scouting the Phillies this week, Stark tweets. The Phillies are telling other teams around the league that this week could determine their status as buyer or sellers next month.
  • Stark also tweets that he asked an unnamed club official if any teams other than the Cubs are aggressively selling at this point and was told him that in addition to Chicago, the Rays are “definitely open for business.” Stark’s colleague, Buster Olney, reported yesterday that the Rays would deal David Price “right now” if the right offer came along.