In 2012, the Phillies pulled starter Cliff Lee back on waivers after the Los Angeles Dodgers put a claim in on Lee. In 2013, trade rumors surrounded the Phillies ace, but the Phillies did not pursue any trade opportunity for Lee. By 2014, Lee was dealing with injury and made the fewest number of starts of his professional career since he was a rookie with the Cleveland Indians in 2003. As the Phillies look at the Cliff Lee situation, trading Cole Hamels seems more and more imperative.
This morning, Lee went so far as to speculate to reporters including CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury that his career may be over after continued discomfort in his throwing elbow:
“It’s mild,” Lee said of the discomfort he felt in his elbow Friday. “But, it’s just concerning because I knew what it turned into last year. … It’s what it felt like at the start of when I started feeling it last year.”
An MRI exam on Saturday revealed swelling in Lee’s elbow in the area of the injury he suffered last year. The results of the MRI are getting a second look from James Andrews, a renowned orthopedic surgeon.
Lee is hoping that he won’t need surgery.
“It would be six to eight months out,” he said. “So basically if I have the surgery, this season will be done — and possibly my career, I guess. I don't know. We'll have to see.”
Back in 2013, Lee told Salisbury that he was likely to retire at the conclusion of his Phillies contract:
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m getting up there in age. I’m 35 years old now and when this contract’s over I plan on going home, so I’m running out of opportunities. All I can control is what I can control, and I’m going to do everything I can to help us win. That’s all I know how to do.”
Even if Lee skips the surgery, continued discomfort may be a reality going forward.
As for Cole Hamels, the Phillies appear ready to begin dealing. After telling reporters all offseason that it was "unlikely" that Hamels would be traded, Amaro took the odd step of announcing to reporters including Salisbury that a team had "stepped up" efforts to acquire Hamels. Not coincidentally, a report that morning from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe said that the Yankees "came closest" to acquiring Hamels.
Translation: Boston Red Sox, make your best offer, because the Phillies may deal soon.
The Phillies have not announced any starters beyond Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez taking the hill on Tuesday in Clearwater. Might the Phillies be looking at themselves in the mirror right now, asking themselves, "Could Cole Hamels be the next injury?" The Phillies may have to swallow hard and take the best offers out there for their ace, while they can get something. For Cliff Lee's $120 million, they may have gotten next to nothing in return.