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?