Cliff Lee On Waivers?

This story was interesting.  Two years ago, the Phillies signed Cliff Lee to a huge contract.  This year, the Phillies are out of it.  They placed Cliff Lee on waivers, the Dodgers claimed Cliff Lee, but the Phillies decided to keep Cliff Lee.

When a team is out of it like the Phillies, it’s common to trade players in the last year of their contract.  Overpaid players are also traded away from losing teams.

In MLB, teams can trade players until July 31.  In August, teams can still trade a player, but he has to clear waivers first.  If a player is claimed off waivers, then a trade can be arranged, but only with the team that claimed the player.  The team can revoke their decision to waive a player, and put him back on the roster.

The team also can let the waived player go for nothing.  In that case, the claiming team is fully responsible for the contract.  Cliff Lee has a huge contract.  It would have been a good opportunity to get rid of an overpaid player.

Waivers are supposed to be confidential, but it usually leaks.

Cliff Lee is owed $88 for 3 years or $100 for 4 years, depending on his vesting option for a 4th year.  That’s a lot of money for an aging pitcher.

Cliff Lee is 2-6 this year, mostly because the Phillies didn’t score runs for him.  His ERA is only slightly better than the league average.  Is it worth $25M+/year for an average pitcher?  He may have had a bad year, but Cliff Lee is getting older.

I’m surprised that the Phillies didn’t let the Dodgers have Cliff Lee.  They made the “sunk costs” fallacy.  They don’t want to admit they overpaid for Cliff Lee, so they didn’t let the Dodgers have him off waivers.

Presumably, the Phillies tried to trade Cliff Lee before the trading deadline, but couldn’t get anything.  They already knew that his huge contract was untradable.  Why not let him go?

Even if the Phillies lost Cliff Lee to waivers, that isn’t a tragedy.  They could use that money to sign other free agents.

If the Phillies wait to trade Cliff Lee, they might be forced to pay some of his salary in the trade.  It was a good opportunity to dump his contract.  If a player is overpaid, it isn’t a tragedy to lose him for nothing off waivers.

The Phillies made a mistake, by not letting the Dodgers have Cliff Lee off waivers.  Cliff Lee is getting older.  Did he have one bad season?  Is he an aging player starting to decline?  The Phillies didn’t want to admit they overpaid for Cliff Lee.  They could easily have explained it to fans as “We’ll spend that money on other free agents.”

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