Philly.com – The past year and a half hasn’t gone the way I would have anticipated,” Lee said. “It’s why you play the games. You never know. I don’t think anyone here is happy with the way we’ve played in that time frame. It’s due to a lot of injuries. There are some good excuses, but they’re still excuses. We’re the Philadelphia Phillies. We should play better than we have. There’s not a good excuse for it, but we have had key guys injured. It kind of is what it is.” Lee has been traded four times in his career, three times prior to the trade deadline. He understands his name will once again be floated in trade rumors as long as he’s playing well on a team that isn’t. “I definitely want to win -there’s no doubt about that,” Lee said when asked if he wanted to remain in Philly. And what if the team is still going nowhere fast a month from now? “I want to win,” Lee repeated. “I don’t know how else to say it besides that. I want to win.”
I love what Cliff Lee said here. Oversensitive fans are going to whine over how Lee wasn’t more adamant in dismissing a potential trade. Forget that. The guy wants to win. It’s obvious his preference is to do it here, but it’s even more obvious that this team isn’t even remotely equipped to do it. So what’s he supposed to say? “Yeah, you know, we just have to keep grinding. We got Michael Martinez back, so we’re good there. Bastardo has been lights out, and, you know, maybe Delmon Young will suffer a seizure in his sleep and choke to death on the foam.”
Here’s the thing. They better not trade him. It’s obvious this team isn’t even close to good enough to win and the case for trading one of the few remaining talented and/or healthy players on the roster seems obvious. Lee is an aging veteran who is still performing at an elite level and would, in theory, net a return of quality prospects while helping free up salary. It’s also completely wrong.
Lee is still due more $60 million over the next 2.5 seasons. That type of financial commitment isn’t going to net top level talent in a trade. The team would have to either trade Lee in a salary dump or eat a significant portion of the money in order to obtain upper tier prospects. I’m not in a rush to deal Lee for the second time in four years and likely eat some degree of his salary so I can get prospects like that deaf black kid with a coke problem or Phillipe Aumont–two stiffs who were both acquired in the first Lee deal.
Don’t really get everyone’s boner over freeing up salary either. Look, it’s not my fucking money and it’s not yours either. There’s no need to dump Lee’s salary with the likely departure of Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and to a lesser degree, Carlos Ruiz. That’s $40 million off the books next year. That’s plenty of money even factoring in pending raises and arbitration cases.
Lastly, don’t forget the significance of the new television deal the Phillies will make in 2015. The team has to remain competitive to maximize capital which means they can’t afford to unload every popular player they currently employ. Comcast will likely end up retaining the rights, but it’s going to take a multi-billion dollar deal to stave off the expected competition from FOX which wants to seriously challenge ESPN. People watch the Phillies and it’s going to take some serious fucking coin to broadcast them, thus, they can retool with their resources and get competitive again quickly. Even if they don’t win a World Series in the next few years, they do have a much more significant chance of remaining relevant and optimizing a bidding war with Lee and Hamels paired at the top of their rotation.
I love what Lee said. He wants to win. And he wants to win here. It’s not going to happen in 2013, but they’d have to be out of their fucking minds to trade him.