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On Cliff Lee And The Texas Rangers

With the Philadelphia Phillies looking like they'll lock up Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee could become a valuable trade piece at the trade deadline.

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For the past month, baseball fans, beat writers and analysts have been focused on the starting pitching market as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaches. Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Francisco Liriano are the most common names flying around in various rumors.

It's almost a certainty that Dempster and Liriano will be dealt, and with Milwaukee being swept over the weekend, it looks like Greinke will almost certainly have a new uniform come August 1.

Hamels, however, doesn't look like he's going to be moved. The Phillies are doing everything they can to sign their homegrown left handed ace, and 2008 World Series MVP. It appears that the Phillies are willing to give Hamels six years, and over $130 million to stay -- which seems like it should be enough.

Assuming a deal is consummated, Philadelphia would have over $120 million dollars in payroll committed to Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels in 2013. That's Yankees-esque.

It might make sense for the Phillies to consider trading Cliff Lee, who they just signed prior to the 2011 offseason, despite trading him to the Seattle Mariners after the 2009 season. As a part of his contract, Lee can block a trade to 21 teams in the league, but the Rangers are not one of those teams.

From Texas' perspective, a reunion with Cliff Lee could make a lot of sense. Lee is locked up through the 2016 season, and will make $25 million between 2013-15, before earning just $12.5 million in 2016. It's likely that the Phillies would have to eat some money in a trade.

Money aside, Lee would, again, give the Rangers a top of the rotation pitcher, and one that has proven he can succeed in Texas. Though Lee has just one win this year, he has pitched pretty well. In 111 and 1/3 innings, Lee has been worth 2.7 WAR, and his FIP (3.04) and xFIP (3.14) are a good bit better than his actual ERA of 3.72 -- so Lee is likely to pitch better as the season goes on.

Again, it's unknown if 1.) the Phillies would trade Lee and 2.) what the Phillies would want for Lee, but it seems logical if Hamels is locked up to a long-term mega deal that they'd at least listen on Lee.

It's also unknown how heavy Texas' interest is in Lee. With recent injuries to Roy Oswalt and Colby Lewis, in conjunction with the inconsistent play of Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, you'd think there would be a little urgency from Jon Daniels to add a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher, as the Rangers look to not only win their third consecutive pennant, but capture their first World Series title.

It's pointless to speculate what the Rangers would offer, but there's plenty to like in the No. 1 farm system in all of baseball. As I've stated time and time again, Jurickson Profar should be the only untouchable in the system. Even taking Profar out of the equation, there's enough depth and talent that the Rangers, if they want to, should be able to acquire a top of the rotation starter.

We'll see if Daniels agrees in the next week, and we'll see if Cliff Lee ends up on Texas' radar. It certainly wouldn't shock me.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.