Cliff Lee
Cliff Lee
41-Year-Old PitcherRP
 Free Agent  
Free Agent
2019 Fantasy Outlook
There was no outlook written for Cliff Lee in 2019. Check out the latest news below for more on his current fantasy value.
$Signed a five-year, $120 million deal with a vesting option for a sixth year with the Phillies in December 2010.
May be ready for retirement
PFree Agent  
Elbow
February 23, 2016
Lee's agent suggested that the lefty will likely retire, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports.
ANALYSIS
Lee has been medically cleared to resume pitching, with a report from December even suggesting that he hoped to play in 2016. He's apparently now considering retirement, which isn't all that surprising for a 37-year-old pitcher that hasn't played in a game since July 2014.
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Lee was diagnosed with a tear in the flexor tendon of his throwing elbow last spring. He missed all of 2015 while opting to try to rehab the injury rather than undergoing surgery as recommended by doctors. The Phillies declined their 2016 option on Lee, paying him a $12.5 million buyout. During the offseason, Lee indicated that he is seeking an opportunity to pitch for a contender, as he was medically cleared to get back on the mound. It's hard to believe that he carried a sub-3.00 ERA and racked up 222 strikeouts in 2013, but he's only logged 92 innings in the last two seasons as a result of his injuries.
Lee made just 13 starts last season due to an elbow injury. He tried to rehab the injury during the season but was able to return only briefly before being shut down for the season due to continued discomfort. Lee has been told surgery is not required, so he will continue to rehab during the offseason with the goal of being ready for the start of spring training. His ratios were more or less in line with his career numbers when he was able to pitch last season, though he did lose a full strikeout off his K/9 and about one mph off his fastball. Those two issues may be directly related to the elbow injury, though Lee could also be experiencing age-related decline as he heads into what are likely to be the final few years of his career. It was revealed in mid-March that Lee is still dealing with a torn flexor tendon, and injury that will require a six-to-eight month recovery if he undergoes surgery. As a result, his career is in jeopardy, as Lee has previously expressed the possibility of retiring if he is dealing with a significant ailment.
Lee was drafted to be a fantasy ace last season and he delivered on expectations. His ERA, WHIP, strikeout rate and walk rate were excellent and his 6.94 K/BB ratio was the best in baseball. The only concern from last season was the loss of one mile per hour off of his fastball. It didn't hurt his numbers, obviously, but it may serve as an early warning of further skills loss to come. Lee will turn 36 this season and he will eventually start showing more signs of inevitable decline. That said, there are not any other red flags in his profile, so he should continue to provide plenty of value as a near-elite starter, and one that will come at a lower price than the elite options currently in their respective primes.
Lee did not pick up his first win of the season last year until July, and finished with just six wins on the season. The lack of wins hurt fantasy owners, but Lee provided plenty of value elsewhere. His K/9 remained very strong at 8.8, and he continued to display the best control in the majors with a 1.2 BB/9 ratio. Lee will turn 35 late in 2013, but he still looks like a safe investment. He's had short stints on the disabled list in two of the last three seasons with oblique strains, so there is a little injury risk here. That said, he's topped 200 innings for five straight years.
Lee proved to be worth every penny the Phillies gave him last season as he finished third in the National League Cy Young voting behind rotation mate Roy Halladay. Lee saw his strikeout rate spike last year with the move to the NL and he continued to display his excellent control. His only real disappointment to Phillies fans was his playoff performance. Lee should remain one of the safer investments in fantasy leagues again this year but you'll have to pay top dollar to obtain him.
Lee lifted Texas to an appearance in the World Series after a midseason trade from Seattle. His lone struggles during the regular season came as he was battling some back issues, and he entered the offseason as the premier pitcher on the market. He decided to sign with the Phillies following a long courtship by both the Rangers and the Yankees, and gives the Phillies a dynamic rotation behind Roy Halladay and ahead of Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. He's been among the most durable and dependable starters since 2008 and there's no reason to think he won't remain so for several more seasons.
Lee proved that his Cy Young season in 2008 was no fluke with very similar ratios in 2009. The only real difference was that his BABIP rose from .305 in 2008 to .326 in 2009, which helped to bump his ERA up a bit. Instead of signing a long-term deal with the Phillies, Lee was interested in testing the free-agent market after the 2010 season, so the Phillies traded him to Seattle for three prospects and elected to make a separate deal to acquire Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays. Back in the American League, Lee will likely slip back closer to the 6.5-7.0 K/9IP mark that he had with Cleveland from the 8.4 K/9IP he posted with the Phillies in the second half of 2009. Still, he figures to be a Cy Young candidate again with a strong defense and an improving club around him on the west coast.
A rebound season could have been expected but nobody saw this one coming. Lee picked up the AL Cy Young award after a dazzling season. He had shown flashes of this back in 2005 as a 26-year-old but hadn’t come close to approaching those numbers since. He made his greatest strides in limiting right-handed batters to just a .245/.279/.343 line. If the improvement against righties is for real instead of being some year-long fluke, he could hold onto most of the gains he made, but it's hard to see a repeat performance. He'll be back at the front of the Indians' rotation in 2009.
Lee was slowed by an abdominal strain in the spring which kept him sidelined for the first month of the season. From that point forward, it was a large dose of ugly until he was sent to Triple-A at the end of July. He didn't go out on a high note, losing his last four starts with an 11.70 ERA to bring his season to a close with a 5-8 record, 6.29 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP. It's pretty clear his 2005 was an outlier and he heads into spring having to battle Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey and possibly Adam Miller for the last spot in the Tribe rotation after the team picked up the contract option on Paul Byrd. He's a decent rebound candidate if he can win and hold onto the fifth spot out of spring training but don't expect him to regain the form he had in 2005.
Lee is the type of pitcher that drives fantasy owners nuts. He was abysmal for three months last season, while being unhittable in the other three. He will be given every opportunity to work himself back into 2005 shape and is entering his late 20s, were left-handers usually take the next step. Assuming he is destined to ramp up his game, Lee would most certainly be a worthwhile gamble come draft day.
Had the Indians overcome the odds and made it to the playoffs with their late drive, Lee would have been a shoe-in for the Cy Young Award. Keeping his walks and home-run totals down, Lee turned in a beautiful 18-5 campaign that included a 9-1 record after the All-Star break. His peripherals promote caution, as his 1.218 WHIP, falling strikeout rate and 3.79 ERA display some fortunate bounces among those 18 wins. Post-season surgery on a hernia is expected to be healed in time for the spring.
It was a tale of two seasons for Lee in 2004. Cleveland's young lefthander was 9-1, 3.81 before the All-Star break and 5-7, 7.91 afterward. Despite being lit up for 10 weeks, it was a positive season for Lee. He stayed aggressive in the second half, walking 30 men in his final 15 starts after dealing 51 walks in his first 18 starts. Lee ranked 11th in the AL in strikeouts and tied for eighth in wins. He has good stuff, a nice motion, and is on an up-and-coming team. Lee may need another couple of years to develop into a big winner, but that is where he is headed.
Lee is highly touted for good reason, and was 10-4 between Triple-A and the majors, showing the ability to strike people out at both levels. As with any young pitcher, he will need to work on getting the ball over the plate on a consistent basis. Look for him to compete for a starting job in the spring, with the possibility that he bounces between Cleveland and Buffalo at the beginning of the season.
Lee has ranked among the toughest pitchers to hit in the entire minors in both 2001 and 2002. Though he's a bit older than you'd like for a Double-A prospect, he possesses four quality pitches and above average command. He rocketed through the Indians' organization after the Bartolo Colon trade.
More Fantasy News
Cliff Lee: Medically cleared to pitch
PFree Agent  
Elbow
December 3, 2015
Lee (elbow) has been medically cleared to resume pitching and hopes to join a team for the 2016 season, Dayn Perry of CBS Sports reports.
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PPhiladelphia Phillies  
Elbow
November 3, 2015
The Phillies officially declined their 2016 option on Lee (elbow) making him a free agent, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports.
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Cliff Lee: 2016 Option Declined
PPhiladelphia Phillies  
Elbow
September 28, 2015
The Phillies declined their 2016 option on Lee (elbow), the Philadelphia Daily News reports.
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PPhiladelphia Phillies  
Elbow
June 18, 2015
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said Lee (elbow) will not start throwing for another three or four weeks, CSN Philadelphia reports.
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PPhiladelphia Phillies  
Elbow
March 17, 2015
Lee (elbow) said he does not plan to pick up a baseball for at least two months, the Philadelphia Daily News reports.
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