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Cliff Lee plans to retire once his contract with the Phillies is up

Sep 28, 2013, 6:05 PM EDT

Phillies' Lee reacts during Game 2 of their MLB National League Divisional Series baseball playoffs against the Cardinals in Philadelphia

Phillies starter Cliff Lee was the tough-luck loser last night against the Braves. The lefty allowed just one run — an eighth-inning Chris Johnson solo home run — in eight innings while striking out 13 and walking none. It was part of an historically-great month of September and an overall productive season in Phillies red pinstripes.

For all his personal success, however, he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to win a championship. After signing a five-year deal with the Phillies after the 2010 season, he pitched in the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals, but the Phillies were ousted in five games. That was the last time the Phillies were post-season contenders, and it seems like that may be the case through the remainder of Lee’s contract. Lee is owed $25 million in each of 2014 and 2015, and he has a 2016 option for $27.5 million which vests based on playing time and health.

Per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, it sounds like Lee might call it quits once his contract is up, either after 2015 or ’16:

“I’m getting up there in age. I’m 35 years old now and when this contract’s over I plan on going home, so I’m running out of opportunities. All I can control is what I can control, and I’m going to do everything I can to help us win. That’s all I know how to do.”

[...]

“Right now, I don’t [see myself pitching beyond this contract],” Lee said. “There are a lot of things that can happen between now and then, but I just know that my kids are 12 and 10 and I’ve basically missed the first half of their lives.

“I’m financially able to shut it down, so … that’s how I feel right now. But when the time comes I might look at it differently.”

Lee ends his 2013 season 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA, leading the league with a 6.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a walk rate of 1.3 per nine innings. Since the start of the 2011 season, he has a 2.87 ERA, the third-best among pitchers who have logged at least 500 innings over the last three seasons. He has certainly performed well enough to merit his salary.

  1. skerney - Sep 28, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    If this turns out to be true, it’s a shame. I like watching Cliff Lee pitch.

  2. dondada10 - Sep 28, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    The Phillies could easily move Lee’s entire salary and get back a solid haul.

    • paperlions - Sep 28, 2013 at 7:05 PM

      How? Few teams have the cash to pay $27.5M/year for 3 years for the age 36, 37, and 38 seasons of a pitcher….fewer still have both the cash and a “solid haul” of prospects, and probably none are dumb enough to take on that contract AND give up decent prospects for the pleasure. Teams just don’t pay twice in trades anymore, they will take on money or give up prospects, but they rarely do both….and when they do, the trades usually turn out poorly….an a couple of years that Jays/Marlins trade is going to look fantastic for Miami.

      • djpostl - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:56 AM

        Yeah, I don’t see that happening. Would have to be one or the other. Both will be a deal breaker for any team who doesn’t have Ruben Amaro Jr. as their GM, hence Philadelphia’s pickle.

        P.S. Miami already won that trade lol. Mets too in their deal with Toronto.

      • paperlions - Sep 29, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        Amaro being on the other side of the deal even makes a deal less likely….because he won’t understand why the other team isn’t willing to pay in dollars and prospects.

      • djpostl - Sep 29, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        Yup. Phils need to unload him first, then order next GM to trade Lee for a ton of prospects if possible, eating as much salary as they need to.

        Amaro is at that point where he won’t unload any pieces that they’d need to win now and would rather “cross his fingers” and hope for the best.

  3. moogro - Sep 28, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    “All I can control is what I can control, and I’m going to do everything I can to help us win. That’s all I know how to do.”

    Saying he can’t control pitcher wins makes him sound like he doesn’t have tWtW.

    • cadillacjosh - Sep 28, 2013 at 7:44 PM

      +1 from me.

      The Will To Win joke is my favorite running joke on HBT.

  4. DelawarePhilliesFan - Sep 28, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    “hasn’t had much of an opportunity to win a championship”

    I respectfully disagree (note, I said “respectfully” ;) )

    He was in the World Series twice, not to mention the Phillies would have won the 2011 NLDS had he held a 4 run lead. Ernie Banks didn’t have much of an opportuntiy – heck, Mr. Halladay hasn’t had much of a shot. Lee has had his shots

    • bleedgreen - Sep 28, 2013 at 11:30 PM

      The 2 opportunities that Halladay did get, he threw a No-No and has a 2.37 ERA over 5 games and 38 innings. He did everything he could. Too bad the rest of the team forgot how to bat.

      • djpostl - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        Roy never got in the Series itself though. Lee did so he had a couple of good shots.

        Series vs Yanks in 2009 he was 2-0 with a 2.89 so he held up his end.

        Series vs Giants in 2010 he was 0-2 with a 6.94 so..not so much.

  5. jimeejohnson - Sep 28, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    Shut it down, Cliff. Your kids will only be kids once.

  6. dirtycrumbs - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:09 PM

    what’s the HOF debate surrounding Lee? no way? maybe? – depending how it ends.

    does he have to put up as his career winds down to get serious consideration?

    he hasn’t compiled big numbers, but has been one of the top 2-3 dominant starters for stretches in his career…

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:21 PM

      A – 3307.0 IP; 3.86 ERA, 117 ERA+, 2.8 BB/9, 6.6 K/9
      B – 2075.1 IP, 3.51 ERA, 119 ERA+, 2.0 BB/9, 7.6 K/9

      [intentionally leaving out wins] B is Cliff Lee, and A is Andy Pettitte. Lee’s peripherals are slightly better, but Pettitte pitched in a harsher run environment, and has more than 1000 innings on Lee (which won’t be made up).

      Personally I think Lee has the peak, but not the longevity. If he were to get another 2-3 years beyond his current deal, I could see voting for him. Just to note, Lee has only pitched for 12 years in the bigs, first two years he threw only 62.2 IP, and his “6th year” he got sent down to the minors.

      • greymares - Sep 29, 2013 at 9:09 AM

        Where do you factor in Pettitte’s drug use.(cheaters don’t belong)

      • djpostl - Sep 29, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        Except it wasn’t cheating since HGH wasn’t banned at the time. But other than that you’re soooooo correct.

        We won’t get into the whole “steroids should be banned but HGH should be allowed to recover from injuries” angle (though that is something MLB should consider) either.

  7. rje49 - Sep 28, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    I always say it’s fine to make plans for the future, but you never know how you’ll feel about things in the future, when the time comes.

  8. dlhouse18 - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    There’s just a point in time where we all lose tWtW.

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