Cliff Lee Rumors
Ned Colletti says the Dodgers’ new ownership group has encouraged bold midseason deals, even if the moves require cash, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Though the Dodgers have no intention of being reckless, they won’t hesitate to make moves that improve their roster, as evidenced by their flurry of midseason additions and waiver claim on well-compensated left-hander Cliff Lee. Here are some highlights from Heyman’s article:
- Though player salaries matter to any GM, they are not the most important variable in Los Angeles. "We're back to thinking about players in a baseball context," Colletti said. "Salary is part of the checklist. But it's not necessarily an obstacle."
- The Dodgers attempted to trade for Lee after claiming him, making the Phillies multiple offers before being shut down quickly. The Phillies would only have considered trades if they got significant MLB players in return, plus complete salary relief.
- Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says he intends to build around Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. "We feel like we have a better chance of being a championship club with those three guys at the top of the rotation," Amaro said.
- The Dodgers inquired on Adrian Gonzalez, but "it takes two to make a deal," one Red Sox person told Heyman.
The Blue Jays announced that right-handers Drew Hutchison (Tommy John surgery) and Dustin McGowan (arthroscopic shoulder surgery) will undergo operations on Thursday. Hutchison is expected to return within a year or so, but no timetable is listed for McGowan, who had previous shoulder surgeries in 2008 and 2010. Here are some more notes pertaining to MLB pitchers...
- The Phillies didn’t intend to trade Cliff Lee when the Dodgers claimed him on waivers, but the left-hander could have blocked a move to Los Angeles, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The Dodgers are one of the 21 teams on Lee’s no-trade list.
- Matt Garza has a stress reaction in the back of his pitching elbow and has been shut down indefinitely, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Garza, who hasn’t pitched since July 21st, could miss the remainder of the season. If he doesn’t return this year, it’ll affect his offseason trade value. However, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer has said he expects the right-hander to be in Chicago’s 2013 rotation.
- The Rangers need all the pitching they can get, but they don’t need distractions from Roy Oswalt, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports writes. It’s not yet time to release Oswalt, who isn’t pleased with his current role, Morosi adds.
Cliff Lee will remain a Phillie as the window on the Dodgers' waiver claim closed today. Lee responded by allowing three home runs in a no-decision against the Diamondbacks this afternoon. When asked by Zach Links yesterday, 68% of MLBTR readers thought the Phillies should have let Lee go. But, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com outlines two scenarios explaining why the Phillies held onto Lee. In other news involving teams from the NL West:
- The Dodgers have been busy wheeling and dealing the past week turning over 20% of their roster with their recent trade acquisitions. Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times writes about how the Dodgers are being forced to mesh and develop its own chemistry in the season’s final two months while battling for a playoff spot.
- The Rockies rearranged the duties of General Manager Dan O'Dowd and Assistant GM Bill Geivett this past week, but the Denver Post's Troy Renck believes the switch seems convoluted unless it leads to a major overhaul in personnel, especially in the drafting and development of better starting pitching.
- The Rockies placed struggling left-hander Jonathan Sanchez on the 15-day disabled list with left bicep tendinitis. Sanchez was acquired from the Royals for Jeremy Guthrie last month, but Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area tweets the real get for Colorado was salary relief to the tune of $1.1MM.
Last night, the Dodgers were awarded claiming rights on Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee after the nine other National League clubs with worse records declined. By claiming Lee, the Dodgers opened themselves up to the possibility of either trading for the left-hander or being assigned his contract which would saddle them with roughly $95MM in future commitments. The struggling Phillies could help kickstart their rebuilding effort and slim down their bloated payroll by letting Lee go out west, but as it stands it doesn't seem like Ruben Amaro Jr. wants to consider it. "It's irrelevant. [Lee] is not going anywhere," said the GM.
It's not hard to understand why the Phillies would be reluctant to let Lee go. The soon-to-be 34-year-old has been a bright spot for the club this year, posting a 3.73 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 18 starts. While his performance may not put him near the top in Cy Young voting this year as it did in 2011, there's no denying that Lee is still going strong and could help anchor the Phillies' rotation in 2013 and beyond.
However, Lee's contract calls for him to make $21.5MM in 2012 and $25MM per season through 2015. The committment could also extend through 2016 as he has a $27.5MM vesting option with a $12.5MM buyout. The Phillies stretched their payroll to retain Cole Hamels to a six-year (or, potentially seven-year) extension and wiping Lee's salary from the books would help restore some flexibility.
8:43pm: Ruben Amaro didn't confirm or deny the reports of the Dodgers' claim on Lee to the media (including MLB.com's Paul Hagen) but said "It's irrelevant. [Lee] is not going anywhere."
5:16pm: The Dodgers were awarded Lee's claiming rights, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. This means that all NL teams with a record worse than the Dodgers' 56-50 mark (every NL team except the Reds, Nationals, Pirates, Braves, Giants and Cardinals) first passed on Lee.
5:06pm: The Phillies don't see a trade as very likely, reports Jon Heyman. The Phils also aren't likely to just let Lee leave to the claiming team without getting anything back in return.
3:46pm: Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee has been claimed on waivers, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The Phillies can now pull Lee back off of waivers, assign his contract to the team that won the claim, or work a trade out with the claiming team. Lee can block trades and claims to 21 teams, which could limit the Phillies' flexibility, depending on the identity of the claiming team.
The team(s) that claimed Lee showed a willingness to take on approximately $95MM in future commitments. Lee earns $21.5MM in 2012 and $25MM per season through 2015. His contract includes a $27.5MM vesting option for 2016 with a $12.5MM buyout. If the Phillies can assign Lee to the claiming team without his permission, they will now have to decide whether they value Lee's performance more than the flexibility they'd obtain by letting him go. If multiple teams claimed Lee, National League teams have priority over American League teams.
Lee, who turns 34 this month, has a 3.73 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 125 1/3 innings so far this year. He has averaged seven innings per start and contributed 2.7 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
Daniel Straily will make his Major League debut tonight in Oakland, starting for the A's against the Blue Jays. Straily was an unheralded minor league arm heading into 2012 but exploded to lead the minor leagues with 175 strikeouts in 138 1/3 combined innings at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, plus a 2.60 ERA and a 4.73 K/BB ratio.
Here are some more items from around the AL West...
- The Mariners weren't eager to move Kevin Millwood at the trade deadline and put a "very high price tag" on the veteran starter, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
- Though the Rangers asked the Phillies about Cliff Lee before the trade deadline, Texas didn't put in a waiver claim on the left-hander, reports MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. The Dodgers were awarded the claim on Lee earlier today. Lee would've had to pass unclaimed through every NL team and every AL team except the Yankees for Texas to win their claim, had they submitted one.
- With Kurt Suzuki now in Washington, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks the Athletics could be in the market for a veteran catcher. Slusser (Twitter links) suggests the A's could look at the likes of Yorvit Torrealba and Ramon Hernandez in waiver deals, as catchers are easier to find right now than shortstops, another of Oakland's needs.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has the latest on a pair of August trade candidates...
- MLB executives say they don’t expect Cliff Lee to be claimed by this afternoon, the deadline for clubs to submit a waiver claim on the left-hander. However, one AL exec said someone might claim him since many teams are short on pitching. The Dodgers seem like the most likely candidate to claim Lee, according to the executives Heyman surveyed.
- Lee could prevent the Phillies from assigning his contract to any one of the 21 teams on his no-trade list if he is claimed on waivers, Heyman adds. Approximately 59% of 12,000 MLBTR readers expect Lee to be claimed.
- The Yankees agreed to pay the Marlins $1MM in exchange for Carlos Lee before the trade deadline, but Lee blocked the deal as Jayson Stark reported this week. The Marlins tried to get $2.5MM from the Orioles for Lee, Heyman reports. However, the Orioles declined the offer (it’s unclear if the Orioles are on Lee’s 14-team no-trade list).
- The Astros are paying Lee all but the pro-rated portion of the MLB minimum salary, so the Marlins would have turned a profit had they completed a deal with either AL East team. Lee, who is now on waivers, could be traded in August.
At least one baseball person wonders if Ryan Dempster hurt his free agent stock by agreeing to join the Rangers, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports. The American League, referred to by one general manager as "the big boy league," features some high-powered offenses that could have impact Dempster’s numbers and diminish his leverage in offseason contract talks. Here are more notes from Olney...
- The Dodgers were interested in Dempster, but they never pushed for him, Olney reports. The Dodgers didn’t want to trade from their core of good prospects and they didn’t waver when the Cubs asked about their top minor leaguers.
- Olney suggests teams like the Red Sox and Orioles could have interest in Brandon McCarthy if the Athletics place him on waivers when he returns from the disabled list.
- Before the trade deadline, the Phillies made it clear that they would not pick up any of Cliff Lee’s salary in a trade and would also want prospects in return for the left-hander. Olney suggests it’s highly unlikely Lee will be moved in a waiver deal this month.
- Starlin Castro’s name came up in conversations between the Cubs and Diamondbacks leading up to the trade deadline, Olney writes. However, both sides moved on quickly and a deal was never close.
- Olney wonders if the Nationals could pursue in Derek Lowe given their interest in adding pitching leading up to the trade deadline.
Cliff Lee is on waivers, so MLB teams must now decide whether to place a claim on the left-hander. For the majority of teams, the decision will be simple. Lee earns far too much for most general managers to make a claim and risk taking on his contract ($21.5MM in 2012, $25MM per season through 2015, and a $27.5MM vesting option for 2016 with a $12.5MM buyout). It’s complex enough for GMs to boost payroll by a few million with a summer acquisition, so a player with $95MM on his contract will be out of the question in most cases.
But Lee could tempt a team or two. He continues to pitch effectively -- seven innings per start, five times as many strikeouts as walks and a 3.73 ERA in a so-called down year -- and there’s no better staring pitcher available. Maybe $95MM for three-plus seasons would be acceptable for a team with aggressive ownership, such as the Dodgers.
If Lee does get claimed, the Phillies could pull him back off of waivers, work out a trade, or assign his contract to the team that wins the claim (the left-hander can block trades to 21 teams). If he goes unclaimed, the Phillies will be able to trade Lee with the same restrictions they’d encounter in July or in the offseason. How will it all unfold?
Cliff Lee is on waivers, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be traded or even claimed. Teams routinely place players on waivers in August, when waivers are revocable, as a way of gathering information. Here are today’s links...
- Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports explains why teams should be willing to pursue Lee despite what is perceived to be a down year for the veteran left-hander.
- The Dodgers should claim Lee and dare the Phillies to let him go for nothing, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs writes.
- Carlos Lee is on waivers, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The Marlins considered moving Lee to the Yankees earlier this week, but he declined to approve the potential trade.
- The Rockies re-arranged their front office yesterday, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports is skeptical that the changes will really address the team's biggest concern: pitching.