MLB teams tend to hold on to their star pitchers and even go to great lengths to strengthen their rotation, especially those that aspire to make the playoffs. This is why the news that Cliff Lee might be leaving the Phillies this season comes as a big surprise, as the team is in dire need of reliable starters. They’ve lost a couple to injuries and a few were transferred, so losing Lee as well will hurt their post season chances.
Having said this, Philadelphia’s management is still hoping that the 2014 results will be good enough to make it worthwhile to keep Cliff Lee. The starting pitcher is high maintenance, but he is also extremely reliable and this is not the kind of quality to take for granted nowadays. On the other hand, he is not getting younger and extending his contract can be a two-edged sword, because he won’t settle for pocket change and he is not immune to season ending injuries.
Furthermore, Lee is not the kind of pitcher to play indefinitely for a team that doesn’t win games and fails to make a deep playoffs run. This means that he might choose a better team if the Phillies keep disappointing, so there are many things at play regarding his future with Philadelphia. This is exactly what the club owners and management feel, as they left a door open for potential changes of heart.
The team was struggling last season and the fact that they had a stellar pitcher with a $25 million contract didn’t help them too much on the pitch. Lee did his part but the teammates failed to rise to the occasion and as a result the money spent on him went more or less down the drain. This can’t happen again in 2014 as Philadelphia needs all the resources it can gather to strengthen a squad that is only a shadow of its former self.
There are other prominent players that the Phillies might decide to let go throughout the season or at the end of the year, mostly those who big contracts. Such a move is obviously going to undermine their credibility as a playoffs contenderz and cast a shadow over their short term plans. Lee’s departure would certainly represent a milestone for the club and it will be very difficult to replace him with a pitcher of the same caliber.