Phillies ace Cliff Lee returned both to the mound and to to trade rumors on Monday night, in a loss to the San Francisco Giants. While Lee was almost predictably rusty, many scouts were in attendance. In negotiating Cliff Lee's contract, Lee retained the rights to pick nine teams to which he would accept a trade, much like Cole Hamels' contract allows. Lee's, however, makes him virtually untradeable.
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN released the list of teams to which Lee will accept a trade today. He might as well have a full no-trade clause. Lee and his agent have strategically picked the nine teams to which the Phillies are least likely to trade Lee and made them his nine.
The teams are:
- Atlanta Braves
- Cleveland Indians
- Houston Astros
- Miami Marlins
- Minnesota Twins
- New York Mets
- San Diego
- Tampa Bay
- Washington Nationals
Lee's approach is much different than that of Hamels. While Hamels picked contending teams that he could go to and be an instant difference maker towards a championship, Lee has picked nine teams that the Phillies almost absolutely would never trade Lee.
Here's why these teams will NOT trade for Lee:
- Atlanta Braves - The Phillies will not trade a Lee-calibur player in-division most likely. The Braves also have little chance of affording Lee.
- Cleveland Indians - If the Indians were able to afford Lee's contract, he would not be a Phillie in the first place. Cleveland might be a dark horse candidate for a Lee return, but the Phillies would have to pay most of his salary.
- Houston Astros - They are in the early stages of a rebuild. No need for Cliff Lee.
- Miami Marlins - This is the team that in the past laid off Billy the Marlin and did not hire an organist to save money. Will they trade for Lee? No way.
- Minnesota Twins - The Twins are fledgling. There is no need for Cliff Lee right now.
- New York Mets - See the Houston Astros.
- San Diego - No money here, either.
- Tampa Bay - Definitely no money here.
- Washington Nationals - Besides the fact the Nationals are division rivals, the Nats already have arguably the best rotation in the game with Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark. The number five starter, Roark, has been one of baseball's best pitchers since his debut.
So there you have it. No New York Yankees, no Detroit Tigers, no Boston Red Sox... nobody who has a need or the means for Lee. Unless Cleveland wants to bring back another former son bad enough that they'll mortgage their future, forget about it.
Cliff Lee stays.