Cliff Lee a 'possibility' for Yankees?

07/12/2012 3:14 PM ET
By Jon Lane

Cliff Lee is 1-5 with a 3.98 in 14 starts for the Phillies in 2012.(AP)


During his weekly Thursday spot for Sports Radio WIP in Philadelphia, MLB Network’s Peter Gammons suggested that the Phillies, due to their last-place standing and the changes in compensation for free agents, may explore getting into an area where they can sign pending FA Cole Hamels and trade Cliff Lee, who turns 34 next month and signed through 2015 with an option for 2016.

If that were the case, Gammons said a big-market team would go for Lee in a hurry, and one of those teams could be the Yankees. Ironically, the Yankees were this-close to trading for Lee in 2010 before the Mariners chose to do business with the Rangers. That winter, Lee turned down the Yankees’ seven-year, $148 million offer for five and $120M in Philadelphia, a place he claimed he never wanted to leave. (Lee was traded from the Phillies to the M’s in December 2009).

The Phillies are 37-50, losers of four straight and 10 of 11, and are closer to the last-place Astros in the National League than the East-leading Nationals. The Yankees have professed fiscal responsibility and are aiming for a payroll under $189 million by 2014. Lee will cost a contender top prospects and the acceptance of the left-hander’s contract. That along with Brian Cashman’s insistence he’s not looking to do anything big by the July 31 trade deadline would put the Yankees out of play.

Or would it?

“The Yankees can say all they want that they won't trade,” Gammons said (LISTEN HERE). “I do think it's not exactly in Brian Cashman’s DNA to trade young players, but it's different when you're Cliff Lee. I think there's a possibility. I really do. I think (the Phillies) can get more for Cliff Lee than for Cole Hamels.”

Lee went 13 starts this season before finally winning a game July 5 against the Mets, the longest skid by a former Cy Young winner since Greg Maddux’s 13 with the Padres in 2008. To be fair, Lee’s April ERA was a sparkling 1.96 and May’s an OK 3.71. The left-hander pitched poorly in June (0-3, 6.12) before allowing just two runs on seven hits to the Mets with one walk and nine strikeouts.

Though the Phillies have reportedly been fielding any interest in Hamels, they aren’t sellers quite yet. They’re hoping Lee’s back on his game, have Chase Utley and Ryan Howard finally healthy, and are awaiting the rehabbing Roy Halladay to return. A strong rest of July could help their chances at the second NL Wild Card, but if they continue to stumble, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will start taking formal phone calls.

I don’t see Lee ending up back in the Bronx due to his salary, Cashman’s protection of his prospects –Manny Banuelos is hurt and Dellin Betances was recently demoted to Double-A Trenton – and perhaps a desire not to entertain Lee a third time.  But if Phillies come calling and the Yankees somehow figure out the logistics, you get excited if you’re a fan. Lee’s track record, in spite of his first half, speaks for itself.

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