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Trade target Cliff Lee struggles against Giants

With scouts from numerous teams in attendance, Cliff Lee didn't do much to help his trade value Monday against the Giants, leaving the Phillies in an uncertain situation.

With trade rumors surrounding Cliff Lee starting to gain traction, the left-hander made his first start since May 18 for the Phillies on Monday night.

If Philadelphia is hoping to deal the 13-year veteran prior to July 31, though, Lee's performance against the Giants didn't help the club's case much. Lee battled through 5⅔ innings but couldn't hide his rust, allowing 12 hits and six earned runs. The southpaw struck out just three batters and sat around 89 to 90 mph with his fastball.

With the Yankees and Jays having scouted his last rehab start, numerous teams had scouts in attendance during Lee's outing Monday. ESPN's Jayson Stark listed 10 clubs, including contenders such as the Tigers, Brewers, Angels and Orioles.

Lee is making $25 million in 2014 and is set to earn the same salary next season, which is the type of hefty price tag that will make any deal difficult, especially if Lee again struggles in his last start before the deadline against the Diamondbacks on Saturday. The 35-year-old also has a vesting option for 2016 that would pay him $27.5 million.

Unlike last season, when the Phillies preferred to hang on to their veterans, GM Ruben Amaro has stated the club will look to deal some of its expensive stars for the right price. The Phillies currently sit in last place in the NL East, and at 43-55, possess one of the worst records in baseball. That has led to speculation that Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd and even Cole Hamels could be dealt, though nothing appears imminent at this time.

Given the woeful state of Philadelphia's farm system and its lack of young talent on the major league roster, Amaro will likely be looking for some prospects in return for any player who is traded away. The Phillies offense has been especially bad in 2014, ranking in the bottom three among MLB teams in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage, as veterans like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz have declined in recent seasons. Moreover, the club's most promising young position player, Domonic Brown, has struggled mightily after what looked like a breakout campaign in 2013.

This leaves the Phillies with a need to get younger quick, and trading players such as Lee, Papelbon and Byrd is likely the fastest way to do so.

If Lee struggles again Saturday, the Phillies could choose to wait until the offseason or next year to trade him, especially if opposing clubs are unwilling to fork over much for the 35-year-old prior to the deadline. Given the size of his contract, it is also possible that Lee could be dealt in August.

Which teams still view Lee as a viable candidate to help them this season remains to be seen. After years of consistent durability, Lee's DL stint has sapped much of his trade value, leaving the Phillies in a tough spot if they are seeking a big haul in return. Philadelphia could certainly eat a portion of Lee's salary, though that would affect the type of impact talent the team can get for the left-hander.

Even with all these question marks, speculation will surely continue regarding Lee's status right up to the trade deadline.