With the second half of the season set to start, the Philadelphia Phillies sit 14 games behind the first place Washington Nationals in the National League East. If the team continues to struggle, Philadelphia could look to trade starter Cliff Lee before the trade deadline, with one potential landing spot being the Bronx to play for the New York Yankees.
The Yankees have expressed interest in Lee in the past, as the team almost acquired the 33 year-old veteran from the Seattle Mariners in July of 2010 before he was traded to the Texas Rangers. Following that season, the Yankees attempted to sign Lee as a free agent by offering him a seven-year deal worth $148 million, but Lee decided to sign with the Phillies for five years and $120 million instead.
Though the Yankees have pursued Lee in the past, New York's front office is trying to get the team's payroll under $189 million by 2014 to avoid paying the luxury tax. Acquiring Lee would make that goal nearly impossible, as he is owed $25 million per year from 2013-2015 with an option for 2016. Along with paying Lee's salary, the Yankees would most likely have to give up a package of top-tier prospects, which the team might be hesitant to part ways with.
However, baseball analyst Peter Gammons is not ruling out the possibility of Lee ending up with the Yankees, which would give the Phillies some payroll flexibility to sign starter Cole Hamels to a long-term extension.
"The Yankees can say all they want that they won't trade," Gammons said. "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."
While two of New York's veteran starters, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, are currently on the disabled list, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman insists that he would rather find replacement players from within the organization rather than make a trade. However, he did trade promising young slugger Jesus Montero for Mariners starter Michael Pineda before the season, so the Yankees can not be counted out of any trade scenario when a player of Lee's caliber is involved.
In 14 starts for the Phillies this season, Lee is 1-5 with a 3.98 ERA. The left-hander won the Cy Young award as a member of the Cleveland Indians in 2008 and finished 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA for Philadelphia last season.
Along with Lee, the Yankees have been linked to several other veteran starters who could possibly be traded before the deadline on July 31, including Matta Garza and Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs, as well as Wandy Rodriguez of the Houston Astros.
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