It's the same story every August. The trade deadline passes, and then fans start to hear about players getting placed on waivers. This is never publicly announced, but information leaks out. When people hear "waivers," they think "available." So when they hear that a team has placed a good player on waivers, they think "well why would they do that?"
Of course, these waivers are different. For many of you, this is just review. Go here and scroll down to Trading Regulations. Waivers now are revocable, meaning players can be pulled back from off of them. Players are just placed on waivers in August for purposes of allowing for possible trades. If a player clears waivers, he can be traded to anyone. If a player is claimed on waivers, he can be pulled back, traded to the claiming team, or straight-up given to the claiming team, contract and all. It seems complicated but it's not that complicated.
Anyway, we're talking about this because it's August, and here's news!
Source: Phillies have placed Cliff Lee on waivers. Executives expect him to clear Friday afternoon, be eligible for trade.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 2, 2012
Let's assume that Passan's sources are correct, because there's no reason why the Phillies wouldn't put Lee on waivers anyway. Of all of the players who have been or will be placed on waivers, Lee might have the most interesting situation. Here is what his contract looks like:
2012: ~$7 million left
2013: $25 million
2014: $25 million
2015: $25 million
2016: $27.5 million club option, $12.5 million buyout
Here is Lee's age:
And he's a month from 34. Lee is very good, and getting up there in years. He is very expensive. This is more interesting than these things usually are.
Ignore Lee's 2-6 record; that doesn't mean anything. Lee's 108 ERA+ is the worst it's been since his disastrous 2007, but Lee's peripherals remain strong. He's posted a lower FIP than Matt Cain. He's posted about the same xFIP as R.A. Dickey. He owns the National League's second-highest strikeout-to-walk ratio. Lee's fastball still sits 90-92, and he's still thrown seven out of every ten pitches for strikes.
Right now, Cliff Lee looks more or less like Cliff Lee, which means he's an ace. An ace with years and a hell of a contract. Lee is too expensive for most teams to claim on waivers, but there might be one team that could work -- the Los Angeles Dodgers.
At FanGraphs, Dave Cameron recommends that the Dodgers put a claim in for Lee. He figures they could use the short-term boost, and they could absorb the long-term cost. The Dodgers do probably make the most sense. The question then becomes, if the Dodgers were to put in a claim, could something be worked out? Would Ruben Amaro hold to his pre-deadline demands of talent plus contract assumption? Would Amaro be willing to give Lee and his contract away?
It would be a tough call for the Phillies. It would be a tough call for the Dodgers. I don't know if anything's going to happen with Cliff Lee in the coming days. But as waiver situations go, this one's a lot more interesting than pretty much all the others.