By Todd Zolecki, MLB.com
The Phillies will scatter across the Americas following their final game of the season Oct. 4.
Cliff Lee scattered long ago.
He has been home in Arkansas since March, when the Phillies announced his second attempt to rehabilitate a torn common flexor tendon in his left elbow did not work out. Lee said he planned to rehab the injury a third time, acknowledging he needed a miracle to pitch again. He never did.
Lee’s time with the Phillies unofficially ended in March. It officially ends no more than five days following the World Series. It is then the Phillies must inform Lee, who made $25 million this season, if they plan to exercise his $27.5 million club option for 2016.
They will not. But they will pay him a $12.5 million buyout, which is due Nov. 30.
“He was all about winning,” said Phillies interim general manager Scott Proefrock, who helped bring back Lee to Philly in Dec. 2010. “He helped us make the World Series in ’09 and the postseason in ’11. He pitched very well in ’12 and ’13. It just didn’t work out. I’m sure he would have preferred things would have worked out differently because he is a great competitor.”
Lee, 37, went 41-30 with a 2.89 ERA in 106 starts from 2011-14. His ERA ranked fourth out of 90 qualified pitchers in that span. His 1.08 WHIP ranked fourth. His 6.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio easily ranked first. Clayton Kershaw’s 4.74 placed second.
But then Lee got hurt in 2014. He went on the DL in May and returned to make three starts in July before getting hurt again.
“It was a situation last year where we were looking to trade him and obviously his injury short circuited that,” Proefrock said. “The one thing about Cliff is, we met with him at the end of the 2013 season and he said the only thing he wanted to do is win. This was going to be his last contract. He wanted to win and he wanted to talk about what we were going to do. And in ’14 we tried. Then he got hurt. We had to make an adjustment.”
Lee quietly visited Philly a handful of times this season, essentially to meet with doctors to discuss his rehab. But his rehab never really went anywhere. Doctors recommended surgery, but Lee declined because he seemed uninterested in pitching past this contract anyway.
“It was still worth pursuing because it was the only thing left to do,” Proefrock said of Lee’s rehab.
The Phillies will recoup some of the $25 million they paid him this season because they insured his contract. How much is unclear.
Regardless, Lee returned to Philly in December 2010, with great fanfare. He said he hoped to win multiple World Series with the Phillies. It turns out the Phillies only made the postseason once while he was here.