Cliff Lee
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The Phillies, unsurprisingly, won’t pick up Cliff Lee’s $27.5 million option for 2016

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The Phillies won’t pick up starter Cliff Lee‘s $27.5 million option for the 2016 season, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. They will instead pay him a $12.5 million buyout as the lefty will likely head into retirement.

Lee, 37, hasn’t started for the Phillies since July 31 last season. He was shut down with a left flexor pronator strain, but both he and the team believed he could rehab without surgery and return for spring training. Lee made only one spring training start before his elbow issue flared up again. The Phillies shut him down in mid-March, and an optimistic timetable had him potentially returning for a few starts at the end of this season, but that obviously isn’t happening.

Lee, over parts of four seasons with the Phillies after signing a five-year, $120 million contract, compiled a 2.89 ERA with a 1.085 WHIP and a 739/114 K/BB ratio over 747 2/3 innings.

Cliff Lee is still at least another month from throwing

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It’s been a while since there was an update on Cliff Lee’s progress taking the rest-and-rehab route to avoid surgery on a torn flexor tendon, but it sounds like not much has changed.

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that Lee has been resting at home in Arkansas since spring training and traveled to Philadelphia earlier this week to be examined, with the team telling him afterward to wait another 3-4 weeks before trying to do any throwing.

Here’s what general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Salisbury:

He’s doing well. He’s in great shape. He’s taking care of himself, but he’s not really prepared to start throwing yet. We’ll see what happens over the next month or so. Probably in another month or so we’ll know a little more. Best-case [scenario] he’d be throwing right about now. He’s not ready to do it.

Surgery would knock out Lee for ninth months and at age 36 could mean the end of career, which is why the former Cy Young winner is avoiding it at all costs. He’s being paid $25 million this season and the Phillies will buy out his 2016 option for $12.5 million, making him a free agent.

It’s looking more and more like we’ve already seen Lee in a Phillies uniform for the final time.

The Phillies place Cliff Lee on the 60-day disabled list; will attempt rest/rehab

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The Phillies have just released a statement on Cliff Lee, announcing that they have placed him on the 60-day disabled list with a right forearm strain. They characterize it as the same injury that disabled him in 2014. Basically, the tear in his flexor tendon.

The statement goes on to say that surgery has been recommended. However, since that would end his 2015 season, he and the team have decided to go with rehabilitation once again rather than lose the year. He will immediately be shut down and will go home and the team will check on him periodically to see if he has responded well to the rest.

Unspoken in that statement is that Lee is under contract through this season, so if he goes under the knife his career with the Phillies is over. From the Phillies perspective, if he rehabs, they may at least get something from him during the course of the season. From Lee’s perspective, if he rehabs, he may be able to at least go out on the mound, as an active player, given that it is not particularly likely that anyone would take a chance on him after this season. And he may not want to pitch after this season anyway. So this route makes sense as, perhaps, the only possible way in which Lee’s career can continue. And even then, only for a short time.

Brush away all of the calculations, and it’s hard to take this announcement as anything short of an acknowledgment that Lee’s career is over at age 36.

Cliff Lee continues to feel discomfort in left elbow

Cliff Lee
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Phillies starter Cliff Lee, dealing with a tear in the flexor tendon in his left elbow, threw on Thursday but continued to feel discomfort as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. If the discomfort leaves Lee unable to pitch, he’ll have to undergo season-ending surgery.

Lee, 36, is entering the final year of a five-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies. They owe him $25 million for this season plus $12.5 million as part of a buyout for the 2016 season. The lefty made only 13 starts last season with elbow-related issues. In the three seasons prior, Lee had compiled a sterling 2.80 ERA and a 667/102 K/BB ratio across 666 1/3 innings. If Lee has to miss the rest of the season, his two-inning stint against the Astros on March 5 will have been his final appearance in a Phillies uniform.

The Phillies had hoped Lee would be healthy and productive during the spring in an effort to eventually trade him as part of their rebuilding process. As it stands now, they’re not likely to get anything of value before his contract expires.

The Yankees are “lucky” they didn’t land Cliff Lee? Really?

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Joel Sherman in the New York Post, where all stories in baseball are viewed through the lens of Yankees fandom whether it has anything to do with the Yankees or not:

The current rotation concerns of the Yankees and Rangers could be worse — Cliff Lee could have accepted one of the two highest total bids in December 2010.

The argument is that, now that Cliff Lee is breaking down, it sure would’ve been a bad thing to have signed him. Which, frankly, is kind of silly.

Cliff Lee’s contract is not fantastic — and as I mentioned yesterday, giving anyone an option buyout of $12.5 million is silly — but it’s not like Cliff Lee has been chopped liver over the life of his deal. Between 2011 and 2013, Lee averaged 31 starts, 222 innings, 222 strikeouts and a crazy-low 34 walks. His ERA over that span: 2.80. Do you not think that the Yankees could’ve used that in 2011 when they lost in the LDS or 2012 when they lost in the LCS? You don’t think one more ace may have gotten them to another World Series?

More fundamentally, would the money left on the back of Lee’s deal plus whatever was lost last season when Lee had to have been shut down really changed the Yankees’ fate today? They already have tens of millions in bad money sitting on the books. Would a few million more make a difference?

Sometimes it’s not all about the Yankees. And even if it is, it’s not always as dramatic as the all-about-the-Yankees crew likes to make it sound.