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.
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 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.