In an effort to cut their losses, although still taking a $12.5-million hit, the Phillies declined the option on Cliff Lee's contract for next season. Lee immediately becomes a free agent, and instead of getting $27.5-million, he'll get $15-million less with the Phillies taking the buyout on the deal. Not picking up the option was a no-brainer for the Phillies, since Lee missed all of last season and much of the 2014 season because of an elbow injury that he suffered on July 31, 2014. He elected to rehab the injury rather than opt for surgery and was looking to return to the Phillies last season when the issue resurfaced during Spring Training.
Even prior to the injury, Lee, 37, had talked about potentially ending his career at the end of the contract, even before he suffered the injury. The other option is for him to look to sign on with a team, most likely on a minor league deal, and again attempt to return to the mound.
Lee served two stints with the Phillies. The Phillies first acquired him prior to the 2009 trade deadline in a deal with the Cleveland Indians. The Phillies got Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco for pitchers Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco, infielder Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson. Lee helped the Phillies to the World Series in 2009 and was the winning pitcher in Game One at Yankee Stadium. Just a few weeks after the World Series, the Phillies acquired pitcher Roy Halladay from Toronto and, on the same day, traded Lee to Seattle, in an attempt to restock their farm system. The trade was one of the worst made by former GM Ruben Amaro Jr. as the Phillies received pitchers Phillippe Aumont and J.C. Ramirez and outfielder Tyson Gillies in the deal. None of the players ever made any impact for the Phillies.
Two years after being dealt, Lee returned to the Phillies as a free agent, taking less money than the New York Yankees had offered him to come to New York. Lee's deal with the Phillies was for five years and guaranteed him $120-million.