The Phillies plan to keep Cliff Lee, and won't trade him before the Tuesday trade deadline, sources say.
One person with ties to the Phillies said team higherups believe trading Lee would potentially undo most or all the good that was done by extending Cole Hamels and that the team's plan is to build around its trio of great starters, including also Roy Halladay, next year. The Phillies also gave themselves an outside chance this year with their riveting three-game sweep of the fading Brewers.
Lee's contract would be tricky to move, anyway, as it guarantees about $97 million through 2015, including the buyout for '16. The Rangers have been scouting him and have viewed a renunion for Lee as a long-shot plan shoukld they be unable to acquire another prime starter such as Zack Greinke, Josh Johnson or James Shields. Texas is not among the 21 teams to which Lee can veto a trade, as he enjoyed his time there. However, the Rangers would have sought that a large chunk of the money be offset somehow.
Lee's contract is such that he could probably clear waivers and be traded in August. But the Phillies have no plan or thought to consider a trade for Lee anytime during the year, and something would have to change for them to reconsider, sources suggest.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro wouldn't comment on specific players, and when asked about plans for Lee at the deadline Friday morning, he said, "We're going to try to improve, whether that be for this year, next year or beyond.''
One rival GM said he wouldn't blame the Phillies for not selling, saying, "If they get within five games by September I bet they make the playoffs.''
The Phillies also have a long sellout streak going, not to mention a payroll of about $170 million committed. They also just signed Hamels to a $144-million, six-year extension, and some wondered whether they'd try to trade Lee for financial reasons.
The Phillies have talked to teams about other stars such as Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. But a trade for Pence doesn't seem too likely at the moment, either. Victorino is a free agent after the year, but if the Phillies hang around the cusp of the race they have no obvious replacement for him in center field.
Amaro suggested initially that he wasn't expecting to conduct a big sale, saying, "I don't think we're going to see much movement moving forward.''
However, he didn't rule it out, suggesting the series with rival Atlanta was a key, and maybe the next one with Washington, too, though that one comes just after Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline. "These two series are pretty significant,'' Amaro said. "I think it's still fluid. We'll see how it goes.''
Amaro didn't rule out a sale, though. "I think we're still alive ... mathematically. But we have to be realistic. I think it'll be a hard road. But we're still alive.''