(Note: this scenario is presented entirely for fun. This is not an actual rumor or anything that ever figures to happen.)
The Phillies want to save some money and still compete next year. The Red Sox want to move on from Josh Beckett and still maybe contend this year. So, Cliff Lee for Beckett? Anyone?
Lee will make $25 million per year from 2013-15, plus a $27.5 million option or a $12.5 million buyout in 2016. Beckett is owed $15.75 million in 2013 and ’14. So, in making the deal, the Phillies would save $9.25 million each of the next two years and get completely out from under Lee’s 2015 and ’16 salaries.
Strictly as a baseball trade, I think it makes sense. The Phillies can contend next year, and that extra cash would prove useful in aiding the offense. Neither Lee nor Beckett is lighting it up this year, but both still have pretty good peripherals. Lee is the older of the two by almost two years. The idea of Lee being worth about $9.25 million more than Beckett next year seems right on to me. That extra $37.5 million commitment for 2015 and beyond would be a tough pill for Boston to swallow, though.
Also, a big reason the Red Sox are considering moving Beckett is to attempt to squeeze under the luxury tax threshold. This kind of a trade would likely lock them into the luxury tax for two or three more years.
Of course, even pulling off the trade itself might be impossible. I imagine Boston is one of the 21 teams on Lee’s no-trade list, and it’s doubtful he’d want to trade his comfortable situation in Philadelphia for a spot in the troubled Red Sox clubhouse. Perhaps he could be enticed if the Red Sox offered to pick up his $27.5 million option for 2016, but that’d be a huge commitment for Boston and it still might not work.
Likewise, Beckett has full no-trade protection, and there’s no telling whether he’d be amenable to such a deal.
So, yeah, this isn’t going to happen. Still, I wonder if either team has at least brought it up. All of the Lee and Beckett possibilities getting tossed around these last couple of days have included some talk of the Phillies and Red Sox having to eat salary. The one way to avoid that would be to deal for another high-priced player.