Phillies willing to talk Lee, deal unlikely

The Phillies, pushed into sell mode after they were swept over the weekend in Atlanta, indicated to teams Monday morning that they were willing to discuss Cliff Lee, sources say.

A Lee deal is highly unlikely, however. The Rangers were the team most interested, and a source said Monday afternoon that a Lee deal was "probably" not going to happen. The obstacles to a deal were too high, in part because Lee's contract is so big and in part because the Phillies will want so much in return.

The Dodgers are a team that would seem to have the money to absorb Lee's contract, but's Jon Heyman reported Monday that they weren't interested at this point.

The Phillies have told Lee in recent weeks that he won't be traded, and reported last Friday that the Phils were telling other teams the same thing. And now it appears he won't be, at least not before Tuesday's 4 p.m. non-waiver deadline.

Because of Lee's contract, there's a real chance he could pass through waivers and be dealt in August. Or the Phillies could look to trade him this winter.

Lee's contract allows him to block trades to 21 teams. The Rangers, however, are not one of those teams.

If the Phillies do trade Lee at some point, they won't be heading to rebuilding mode, but instead would be trying to position their roster for a better run at contention next year. As of now, the Phillies have more than $45 million committed to just three starting pitchers next year (Lee, Hamels and Roy Halladay), and have another $35 million committed to the right side of their infield (Chase Utley and Ryan Howard).

Trading Lee could yield players who help them win next year, while also freeing up money to allow them to play on this winter's free-agent market.

Lee would give the Rangers the high-end starter they have been searching for all this month. The Rangers preferred Hamels, but he signed back with the Phillies. The Rangers also pursued Zack Greinke, but he was traded to the Angels.

The Rangers also considered James Shields and Josh Johnson, but it appears now that the Rays won't trade Shields, and the Rangers' interest in Johnson cooled considerably.

Lee makes $21.5 million this year and $25 million each of the next three years, with a $12.5 million buyout or $27.5 million option in 2016.

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