As had been expected, the Phillies have declined their club option on lefty Cliff Lee, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports on Twitter. The veteran will receive a $12.5MM buyout on the option, which was valued at $27.5MM.
At one point, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Lee’s option would be exercised, both because of its unusually robust buyout price and his consistent excellence. But Lee has experienced significant left elbow issues, with a tear in his flexor tendon keeping him out of action all year. He decided against surgery in favor of a rehab route, though it’s been a while since we’ve heard an update on his progress.
All in all, there’s little question that the $15MM spread on the option was too steep a price for Philadelphia to pay. It’s not even entirely clear whether Lee will look to return, as there have been suggestions that he’ll instead retire.
In the event that Lee does look for a new contract, he’ll represent an intriguing free agent. After all, there’s good reason to believe a healthy Lee could still be a force, even at 37 years of age.
The 37-year-old southpaw put up 666 1/3 innings of 2.80 ERA pitching in the first three years of his deal with Philly. He did drop back to a 3.65 earned run average over the 81 1/3 frames that he managed in 2014. But ERA estimators were still just as enamored of his work, he maintained an excellent 6.00 K:BB rate, and a .358 BABIP-against could explain the run prevention numbers.