Cliff Lee Rumors


Olney On Dempster, Athletics, Lee, Castro

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.



Poll: Will Cliff Lee Be Claimed On Waivers?

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?



Quick Hits: Lee, Dodgers, Rockies

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...



Cliff Lee On Waivers

The Phillies have placed Cliff Lee on waivers, Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports (on Twitter). The Phillies were expected to waive Lee this month, when waivers are revocable. Teams routinely place high-profile players on waivers in August to determine other teams' interest. Executives expect the left-hander to clear waivers Friday afternoon, Passan reports.

Teams have two business days to claim players off of waivers, which suggests Lee hit the waiver wire yesterday, when the August waiver period opened. If Lee clears waivers, the Phillies might be able to trade him. Lee can block trades to 21 teams, including the Diamondbacks. The Yankees, Braves and Marlins are not on his no-trade list, however.

The 33-year-old Lee earns $21.5MM this year and $25MM per season from 2013-15. His contract includes a $27.5MM vesting option ($12.5MM buyout) for 2016. If one or more teams claim Lee despite his contract, the Phillies could attempt to work out a trade with the team that wins the claim, assuming Lee doesn’t veto the move.

Here's more detail on how teams can trade players in August.



D'Backs Tried To Acquire Ace Pitcher

5:33pm: The Diamondbacks were indeed working to acquire Garza today, Olney reports (on Twitter).

12:58pm: Lefty Patrick Corbin has been scratched from his start for Arizona's Triple-A affiliate, tweets Chris Gabel of the Reno Gazette-Journal.  Magruder has been told Corbin will not be moved, but says he guesses things could change in what Kevin Towers likes to call the "lightning round."

12:46pm: The Diamondbacks are not currently discussing a deal with the Cubs involving Upton and Garza, reports MLB.com's Steve Gilbert.  It was only Olney's speculation in the first place.

12:31pm: The D'Backs are "working hard on something big," tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.  Olney feels that an Upton-Matt Garza framework makes sense for the Cubs and Diamondbacks.  Upton does have the Cubs on his no-trade list, notes Olney.

10:56am: Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick dismissed talk of acquiring Lee, Jack Magruder of FOXSportsArizona.com reports (Twitter links).  "He is owed $100MM. If they want to keep $90MM" Kendrick said. "Really problematic to move him."  Arizona would still like to acquire a starter, but Kendrick says we should not expect front page news.

8:37am: The Diamondbacks are one of the teams to which Lee can block a trade, notes Rosenthal.

8:08am: The Diamondbacks say Upton is definitely staying and there is no truth to rumors of Lee or Hernandez, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.  That, of course, does not make Rosenthal's report of the D'Backs seeking an ace pitcher untrue.  Meanwhile, Nightengale notes that the club is likely to trade shortstop Stephen Drew today.

3:59am: The Diamondbacks are trying to swing a blockbuster for an unknown ace starting pitcher, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  One rival executive "received indications that the Phillies and Diamondbacks had discussed a deal involving Cliff Lee and Justin Upton," but that scenario is unconfirmed and it is not known whether the D'Backs are among the 21 teams to which Lee can block a trade.  Plus, Kevin Towers and company would need serious assistance covering the $95.1MM guaranteed to the Phillies' lefty through 2015.

Rosenthal notes that the Mariners inquired on Upton earlier this month, but talks failed to progress.  Given that club's repeated comments on and off record, we can probably forget about Felix Hernandez.

Rosenthal did not mention the Marlins' Josh Johnson, who is reportedly expected to stay put through today's deadline.  It's difficult to name another ace-like starting pitcher on whom a team might listen. 



AL East Notes: Shields, Wigginton, Betancourt

Links from the AL East, which remains the only division without a sub-.500 team...

  • The Rays are 'cooler' on the idea of trading James Shields, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (onTwitter). It's difficult for Tampa Bay to act as a buyer because the positions at which they might seek upgrades, shortstop and catcher, are positions of scarcity in MLB.
  • Ty Wigginton isn't at the top of the Yankees' list of potentially useful third basemen, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The Yankees are looking for someone who can provide defense at the hot corner.
  • The Yankees haven't contacted the Rockies about Rafael Betancourt, and it's doubtful the Rockies will trade him at all, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (on Twitter). The Orioles, Athletics, Rangers,Braves, Red Sox and Blue Jays have all been linked to Betancourt.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees can't take on a substantial contract, so Bryan Hoch of MLB.com says Yankees fans shouldn't expect to see Cliff Lee in navy pinstripes anytime soon (Twitter links). Cashman said it's possible but unlikely that the Yankees will make a trade before tomorrow's deadline, Hoch writes. "I highly doubt it," the GM said.
  • The Blue Jays are unlikely to complete a trade for Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The Marlins expect to keep Johnson instead of trading him.
  • Here are the latest Red Sox-related rumors.



NL East Notes: Bonifacio, Nationals, Braves, Phillies

No team in baseball has a better ERA than the Nationals (3.25), who are seeking infield depth and monitoring the market for arms as the trade deadline approaches. Here are the latest links from the NL East, starting with the 61-40 Nationals...

  • Though the Nationals liked Emilio Bonifacio, the Marlins said a trade "ain't happening," Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter).
  • The Nationals are looking for a utility player and are focusing on players who can back up at shortstop, Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports (on Twitter). The team has discussed 15-20 players in the Marco ScutaroJamey Carroll, Nick Punto mold, Adam Kilgore reported last week. With Ian Desmond on the disabled list, Washington needs middle infield depth. 
  • The Braves have checked in on relievers and Wade Davis' name has come up in discussions, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports. However, the Rays seem reluctant to trade the right-hander.
  • The Phillies are more likely to trade Hunter Pence than Cliff Lee, but it's possible both will be moved, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter).



Cliff Lee Trade Unlikely

TUESDAY, 1:04pm: The Phillies have halted all trade talk involving Lee, tweets Stark.

MONDAY, 4:06pm: Philadelphia's discussions with Texas about Lee have all but ended, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (via Buster Olney on Twitter).  A trade sending Lee back to Texas is "not going to happen," Stark reports (on Twitter).  Such a trade would be complicated and may be easier to complete during the offseason.  Talks between the Rangers and Phillies never gained momentum, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes (Twitter link).  The Phillies offered Texas little salary relief.

1:00pm: The Dodgers are not in on Lee, hears Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  The Rangers consider Lee a long shot, while an industry source who spoke to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan puts the chances at less than one percent.

11:29am: Cliff Lee is in play in trade talks today, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.  Olney considers the Rangers the most logical landing spot, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post names them the frontrunners.  Olney says the Yankees are not expected to be in the mix due to lack of budget space.  Sherman talked to one executive who expects Lee to be dealt by this month's deadline or in the offseason, to allow the Phillies to save money and add young players.  On Friday, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote that the Phillies' lefty would not be traded this month.

Lee, 33, has a 3.95 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 1.14 HR/9, and 46.7% groundball rate in 118 1/3 innings this year.  More flyballs are leaving the yard and hits are dropping in than usual so far for the southpaw.  Lee's five-year, $120MM deal with the Phillies was one of the big surprises of the 2010-11 offseason.  It's a severely backloaded contract, so $95MM remains through 2015 assuming Lee's 2016 option does not vest.  Lee can block trades to all but eight teams.  The Rangers and Yankees are among those eight, wrote Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports last Wednesday.  At that time, Rosenthal and Morosi wrote that some executives expected the Phillies to consider offers for Lee this month, not long after they locked up Cole Hamels long-term.

Lee has already been involved in four blockbuster trades in his career: as a prospect in June '02 to the Indians, as an ace to the Phillies in July '09, to the Mariners in the 2009-10 offseason, and to the Rangers in July '10.



Phillies Could Be "Most Active Sellers"

The Phillies entered this weekend needing to perform well in a critical series against the division rival Braves. Instead, they were swept and now appear to be in the position to sell off several pieces. ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Phillies could be baseball's "most active sellers" in the next two days, and that they've laid the groundwork for several trades. Olney's colleague Jayson Stark hears from several teams that the Phillies could make 2-3 trades prior to Tuesday's deadline, though they've yet to officially declare themselves sellers (Twitter link).

CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury agrees that selling is likely, and runs down several of the possibilities for the Phillies in the coming days. Salisbury writes that Shane Victorino is the "most likely" Phillie to be dealt, and lists the Giants, Pirates, Reds and Dodgers as possible destinations for Victorino. Interest in Victorino was said to be "heating up" as recently as yesterday.

The Reds have also inquired on Juan Pierre, and both the Orioles and Cardinals are potential destinations for Joe Blanton according to Salisbury. He also says that Hunter Pence could be moved if GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is blown away by an offer, and speculates that Ty Wigginton would fit on several teams looking for bench help.

Salisbury reiterates that the Phillies are likely to keep Cliff Lee for the time being, although he could be shopped this offseason in an attempt to fill multiple holes.



The Rangers And The Zack Greinke Deal

Besides the Angels and Brewers themselves, perhaps no team was as impacted by the Zack Greinke trade as the Rangers.  Here's the latest on the Rangers' own pursuit of Greinke and how they plan to counter the Angels' newest salvo in the battle for the AL West.

  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin told reporters (including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) that the Rangers were the other finalist for Greinke's services.  The Rangers offered Leury Garcia, Chad Bell and Justin Grimm to the Brewers.
  • Had the Rangers been willing to include third base prospect Mike Olt in their offer to the Brewers, Greinke probably would've ended up in Texas, USA Today's Bob NightengaleFOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, however, reports the Brewers wanted Martin Perez and didn't "insist" on Olt or Jurickson Profar, though Texas still felt the requested package of prospects was too much (both links are to Twitter).
  • With Greinke gone, the Rangers won't necessarily try to acquire Josh Johnson or James Shields, a source tells MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.  The Marlins and Rays have put a high price tag on their aces and the Rangers may wait to see if they lower their demands.  Sullivan notes that if the Rangers weren't willing to deal the likes of Olt for Greinke, they wouldn't trade him or other top prospects for another pitcher who they didn't value as highly.
  • The Rangers also valued Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee more than they did Greinke, reports Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram (Twitter link).  Hamels just signed an extension to remain in Philadelphia and the Rangers shied away from the large salary still owed to Lee through the 2015 season.
  • The Rangers are "unlikely" to get Johnson, while they're still in play for Shields, tweets CBS Sports' Jon Heyman









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