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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It was reported yesterday that the Phillies and Rangers prospective trade for Cliff Lee has “less than a 1% chance of happening.” Still, that hasn’t gotten Lee’s name out of the trade rumor mill.
As they’ve tended to do in recent weeks, a story broke overnight that the Arizona Diamondbacks are looking to trade for an ace pitcher, and that ace pitcher may be Cliff Lee.
A snag in the plan however, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that the Diamondbacks are one of 21 teams that Cliff Lee has the contractual right to block a trade to.
While Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee and Seattle Mariners righty Felix Hernandez would be two leading possibilities, it is not clear whether either is the Diamondbacks’ target.
The Mariners, who have consistently and adamantly denied that they will trade Hernandez, inquired about D-backs right fielder Justin Upton earlier this month, according to a source. Those talks, however, failed to progress.
Lee, meanwhile, is clearly available – and one rival executive said early Tuesday that he had received indications that the Phillies and Diamondbacks had discussed a deal involving Lee and Upton.
Upton’s name came up last year, albeit briefly, when the Phillies were trying to add a bat at the trade deadline.
Corey Seidman of Phillies Nation explained why the deal may work for both sides.
Lee is owed $87 million through the end of 2015. Upton is owed $40 million. The Phillies have reportedly been willing to eat a large chunk of Lee’s salary. Let’s say the Phils pick up $47 million of it, and the Diamondbacks basically get Lee for the same price they’d be paying Upton. Doesn’t it begin to make some sense?
Yes, Upton is 24, a whopping nine years younger than Lee. But the D’backs have soured on Upton. He’s hitting .270 this season with a sub-.400 slugging percentage, and if Arizona has proven one thing in 2012, it’s that it can score without Upton playing at a high level. If you can acquire a legitimate ace for the same price you’re paying your struggling rightfielder, don’t you try it?
If the Phillies make the trade, they still end up with salary room to add a third starter and perhaps another small piece to next year’s team.