Jul 252012
 
Cliff Lee 2

Just the thought of Cliff Lee back in a Rangers uniform brings chills.  Cliff was at the heart of what was the most magical season in franchise history.  Many years from now, even if the Rangers have multiple World Champion flags flying in the Ballpark, we’ll always think back on 2010 as the turning point – and what a vital role Cliff Lee played in that season.

Could the Rangers really bring Lee back just two seasons later?  Who’s the Smoak and Beavan of 2012 that could lure Lee away from his current squad?

With the Phillies and Cole Hamels finally reaching a long-term agreement, the Phillies may look to move Lee to free up some funds and plug some holes with young talent.

Clifton Phifer Lee

The Player

Potential Trade Target Profile: Cliff Lee

While it’s not even certain that the Phillies are shopping the left handed veteran pitcher, it makes sense that they would at least field offers given their positioning in the NL East race (as noted in the Hamels profile).  With Hamels garnering a larger contract than Lee, and the hopes of much good coming out of 2012, the Phillies could deal Lee in hopes of refocusing those funds during the off-season and adding some young talent to prepare for the future.

Unlike both Hamels and Greinke, Lee would not be merely a rental since he is under contract through 2015 with a vesting option for 2016.  So, one could assume that the asking price, similar to the Justin Upton scenario, would be higher.

Lee is a three-time All-Star and has finished in the top seven of Cy Young voting four times in his career (2005, 2008, 2010, 2011).  He was also the 2008 AL Comeback Player of the Year after bouncing back from sub-par campaigns in both 2006 & 2007.

Lee is making $21.5M in 2012 and will be paid $25M/year between 2013 and 2015. The 2016 vesting option would pay Lee $27.5M.  Lee is 33 years-old now, so the contact carries him through age 36 unless the vesting option is picked up, in which case it would take him through age 37.

Lee has been involved in four big trades in his career, three of which he was the prized centerpiece.

  • June 27, 2002: Traded by the Montreal Expos with Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore and Lee Stevens to the Cleveland Indians for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.
  • July 29, 2009: Traded by the Cleveland Indians with Ben Francisco to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson.
  • December 16, 2009: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the Seattle Mariners for J.C. Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies.
  • July 9, 2010: Traded by the Seattle Mariners with Mark Lowe and cash to the Texas Rangers for Matthew Lawson, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Justin Smoak.

Cliff Lee is an “Ace” and would fit the bill as the front line starter that the Rangers desire.

The Measurables

 

Year Age Tm W L ERA G CG IP H HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP SO/BB
2002 23 CLE 0 1 1.74 2 0 10.1 6 0 8 6 260 1.355 0.75
2003 24 CLE 3 3 3.61 9 0 52.1 41 7 20 44 122 1.166 2.20
2004 25 CLE 14 8 5.43 33 0 179.0 188 30 81 161 80 1.503 1.99
2005 26 CLE 18 5 3.79 32 1 202.0 194 22 52 143 111 1.218 2.75
2006 27 CLE 14 11 4.40 33 1 200.2 224 29 58 129 102 1.405 2.22
2007 28 CLE 5 8 6.29 20 1 97.1 112 17 36 66 72 1.521 1.83
2008 29 CLE 22 3 2.54 31 4 223.1 214 12 34 170 167 1.110 5.00
2009 30 TOT 14 13 3.22 34 6 231.2 245 17 43 181 131 1.243 4.21
2009 30 CLE 7 9 3.14 22 3 152.0 165 10 33 107 135 1.303 3.24
2009 30 PHI 7 4 3.39 12 3 79.2 80 7 10 74 124 1.130 7.40
2010 31 TOT 12 9 3.18 28 7 212.1 195 16 18 185 133 1.003 10.28
2010 31 SEA 8 3 2.34 13 5 103.2 92 5 6 89 168 0.945 14.83
2010 31 TEX 4 6 3.98 15 2 108.2 103 11 12 96 113 1.058 8.00
2011 32 PHI 17 8 2.40 32 6 232.2 197 18 42 238 160 1.027 5.67
2012 33 PHI 1 6 3.72 16 0 111.1 107 11 22 106 107 1.159 4.82
11 Yrs 120 75 3.65 270 26 1753.0 1723 179 414 1429 116 1.219 3.45
162 Game Avg. 15 10 3.65 34 3 222 219 23 53 181 116 1.219 3.45
CLE (8 yrs) 83 48 4.01 182 10 1117.0 1144 127 322 826 108 1.312 2.57
PHI (3 yrs) 25 18 2.93 60 9 423.2 384 36 74 418 134 1.081 5.65
TEX (1 yr) 4 6 3.98 15 2 108.2 103 11 12 96 113 1.058 8.00
SEA (1 yr) 8 3 2.34 13 5 103.2 92 5 6 89 168 0.945 14.83
AL (9 yrs) 95 57 3.88 210 17 1329.1 1339 143 340 1011 111 1.263 2.97
NL (3 yrs) 25 18 2.93 60 9 423.2 384 36 74 418 134 1.081 5.65
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/25/2012.

So, looking at what he’s done so far in 2012, throw the wins and losses out the window – the Phillies have been extremely inconsistent offensively and have been without many of their big bats due to injury.

Focusing on more of the individual pitching metrics, we see that his ERA and WHIP are both elevated compared to recent performance and his K/BB ratio is down.  Again, this is only over half a season – half a season in which not much has gone right for anyone wearing a Phillies uniform.

  • Lee’s current WAR 1.9, which is down from a career high of 8.3 in 2011 and below that of Darvish, Harrison and Greinke (just to name just a few).
  • On the list of players with similar performance to Lee are Dan Haren, Justin Verlander and Josh Beckett – pretty salty.
  • Historically, Lee has pitched slightly better in the second half of the season.
  • Lee has started 14 games at Rangers Ballpark in his career, accumulating a mark of 6-5 with a 5.07 ERA  and a 1.149 WHIP.
  • Lee has started against the Angels 12 times in his career, going 7-4 with a 2.95 ERA and a 1.042 WHIP – lowest ERA against any AL opponent that doesn’t play their home games in Oakland.

Could Cliff be a Ranger?

Potential Trade Target Profile: Cliff LeeSo, will the Phillies put Cliff on the trading block?  I don’t know that they’ll come out and publicly announce they are looking to move him, but I would never expect Phillies GM Ruben Amaro to do something like that – he’s been known to have ninja like qualities like our beloved JD.  I would think that if the right offer for Lee comes along, the Phillies will jump on it.

What would the Rangers have to give up for Cliff?  Mike Olt…plus.  Given Lee’s contract situation (locked up through 2015), a package for Lee would include Olt and two additional strong prospects (think Martin Perez caliber).  There is some thought that the Phillies could also have some strong interest in Leonys Martin, given the potential of losing center fielder Shane Victorino after the season.

Cliff is a long-shot, primarily because of his contract situation.  If the Phillies are willing to listen, I’m sure the Rangers could put forward the best offer over the other contenders in the trade market (Angels, Red Sox, Dodgers, Reds, etc.) because of the depth they have in their farm system.

I’d put better odds on a deal for Greinke or Marlins starter Josh Johnson occurring.

Speaking of Johnson, his profile is on deck, so stay tuned.

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