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Cliff Lee scratched from Saturday's start amid trade rumors

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Cliff Lee will not be making his scheduled start on Saturday.
Cliff Lee will not be making his scheduled start on Saturday. (USATSI)

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The Phillies have scratched left-hander Cliff Lee from Saturday's start with a stiff neck, the club announced. Fellow southpaw Raul Valdes will get the ball instead.

Coincidentally -- or perhaps not -- Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports Philadelphia is willing to listen to offers for Lee in advance of next week's trade deadline. Here's what GM Ruben Amaro Jr. had to say:

"I never put any real absolutes on anything," Amaro said by phone Friday. "Although we don't have any desire to move a guy like that because we view him as someone who will be key to our future, I am a businessperson as well and I'll be a good listener.

"I can't sit here and say I'm not going to trade Chase (Utley), or Cliff, or Michael Young or Chooch (Carlos Ruiz), or any of these guys. Some guys are less tradable than others. But I think I owe it to us as an organization to listen. If teams are going to come at us and suggest things, I'm not going to turn off the faucet and stop listening to them."

Lee, 34, has gone 10-4 with a 3.05 ERA and a stellar 5.95 K/BB in 144 2/3 innings across 20 starts this season. He is owed roughly $9.5 million through the end of the year and is under contract for $50 million total from 2014-15. His contract includes a $27.5 million vesting option ($12.5 million) for 2016 based on innings pitched.

It's a hefty contract, no doubt, but there are some teams that could absorb it. The Red Sox and Dodgers jump to mind, and remember, Los Angeles claimed the left-hander off trade waivers last August but did not work out a trade with the Phillies. Philadelphia could also eat some of that money to increase the number of interested teams and make a deal more likely.

It's unclear if Lee's stiff neck is a move to protect him from getting hurt in advance of a trade -- the Cubs held Alfonso Soriano out of the lineup this week before finalizing the trade with the Yankees, for example -- or if he's legitimately hurt. This is the time of year when people jump to conclusions though, and it's certainly eyebrow-raising that trade rumors popped up and Lee was immediately scratched from his next start.

 
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