5:09pm: The Cardinals aren't on Lee's no-trade list, Morosi reports. Lee has some interest in playing for the Cards (they're close to his Arkansas home, in the NL and consistent winners), but he didn't cite him on his list since he doesn't think the pitching-rich Cardinals would need to trade for an ace. "It's not out of the question" that the Cards could pursue Lee due to his postseason record, Morosi writes, though they aren't in the market for pitching at the moment.
7:54am: As with most partial no-trade clauses, Cliff Lee and his agents at Frontline had the opportunity before the season to restructure his. Lee can block trades to 20 teams, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, and Orioles. Most of the 20 are projected trade deadline buyers, a source tells Morosi. Keep in mind that the presence of these teams does not mean Lee will automatically block a trade to them; it just means he has leverage if the Phillies strike a deal with one.
Lee, 34, has been dominant for the Phillies in 2013. His 88 1/3 innings rank second in the National League, his 2.45 ERA ranks eighth, and his 5.69 K/BB ratio ranks second. The Phillies, winners of two in a row, are 7.5 games back in the NL East and faring about the same in the wild card. Nonetheless, Clay Davenport's projections give them a 15.6% chance of making the playoffs. On May 11th the Phils were five games back, and around that time, a "Phillies insider" told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, "Every time I hear a Lee rumor, I don’t believe it. Don’t think we’d be that dumb unless what we got back in return was so overwhelming that we’d be dumb to pass it up. Will that happen? My gut is it won’t." By Sunday, however, a couple dozen executives, scouts, and players polled by Cafardo named Lee the best starter expected to be available at the trade deadline this year.
Lee signed a five-year, $120MM deal with the Phillies in December 2010. At the deadline he'll be owed about $6.25MM this year plus $62.5MM covering 2014-15, for a total of $68.75MM. That's if the record-setting $12.5MM buyout is paid on his 2016 club option, which becomes guaranteed if Lee is not on the disabled list at the end of 2015 season with an injury to his left elbow or shoulder, and has 200 innings in 2015 or 400 in 2014-15 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts). If the option vests, it will probably be a good thing, but then the commitment would become $83.75MM through 2016.
At any rate, Cliff Lee needs to start checking MLB Trade Rumors. A Lee quote from Morosi: "Every time I’ve been traded, before that every organization would say, ‘You’ll be the first one to know if we’re ever going to move you,’” Lee said, recalling that he learned of each trade while watching television. “I was the last one to know every time." It's been an odd career for Lee since becoming an ace in 2008, as he's been traded three times since. The difference this time is that he comes with a market-value financial commitment.