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Cliff Lee Reportedly On Waivers: Your Move, Dodgers

Despite having just two more wins than Stephen Fife this season, Cliff Lee is still a great pitcher.
Despite having just two more wins than Stephen Fife this season, Cliff Lee is still a great pitcher.

The non-waiver trading deadline has come and gone, and the Dodgers added four new players, in Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Randy Choate, and Brandon League. But even though we are past July 31, that doesn't mean deals still can't be done.

"They don't slam the door on July 31," said general manager Ned Colletti on Tuesday. "They close it, but they don't slam it."

In August teams can still make trades, but players on 40-man rosters have to be placed on waivers first. There will be scores of players placed on waivers this month, and there will be many we simply don't know about. But one player we do know about is Cliff Lee, who was reportedly placed on waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies.

But what does that mean?

When a player is placed on waivers, teams have 48 hours to claim him. In Lee's case, that time ends on Friday afternoon. If a player is not claimed by any other team, his original team can then trade him to anyone. No-trade clauses, like the one Lee has, still apply.

If one team claims the player on waivers, the original team has the option of simply letting the player go with no compensation, with the claiming team assuming the rest of the salary. For instance, the White Sox claimed Alex Rios and the roughly $63 million remaining on his salary from the Blue Jays in August 2009.

Or the two teams could try to work out a trade. If a trade cannot be agreed upon, the team can pull the player back from waivers. The team could put the player on waivers again, but this time the waivers would be irrevocable, meaning they can't pull the player back.

If more than one team claims the player, the priority lies with teams in the same league first, and in reverse order of record.

For instance, all National League teams have priority over American League teams in claiming Lee from the Phillies.

Then there is the matter of Lee's contract. He is making $21.5 million this season, which means just under $7.2 million remains for this year. Lee is also due $25 million in each of the next three seasons, and he has a $27.5 million option for 2016 with a $12.5 million.

Taking on Lee would mean paying roughly $94.7 million for the rest of this season and his age 34-36 years, or possibly $109.7 million for this year and his age 34-37 years. Either way Lee is expensive, but are there better options out there?

Lee is just 2-6 this season with a 3.73 ERA, but his peripherals are much stronger. He is striking out nearly a batter per inning (119 in 125 1/3 innings) and still walking fewer than one in every 20 batters he faces (4.7%). Lee is 16th in the majors in FIP (3.31) and fifth in xFIP (3.12).

The big three starting pitchers in the upcoming free agent market is down to just one, as both Matt Cain and Cole Hamels signed long extensions. Zack Greinke is the big fish in the free agent market, and he will likely sign a five- or six-year contract that begins in his age 29 season.

Greinke would be a worthy investment, but he doesn't help the team now. Acquiring Cliff Lee is the exact type of difference making move that would not only improve this year's team but for at least the next three years as well.

I'm not going to pretend to know what the Dodgers' budget is, but the new ownership group has definitely shown a willingness to spend money. They extended Andre Ethier for $85 million, they spent $42 million on 21-year old Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig, and they took on more than $37 million when they traded for Hanley Ramirez.

Colletti said if a move made baseball sense he has the freedom to do it.

There are few things that make more baseball sense than adding an ace pitcher to your staff. Make the claim for Cliff Lee.

As Dave Cameron noted at FanGraphs (in a much more thorough analysis), "Maybe the Phillies won’t let him go for nothing, but they should at least dare Ruben Amaro to have to make that call."

It's probably best for Lee too, as he would no longer have to face Elian Herrera.