Cliff Lee's name has been raised in countless trade rumors since the Philadelphia Phillies brought their beloved mound man back via free agency three off-seasons ago (December 15, 2010). Depending on his team's short-term fortunes, the possibility of a contract extension shouldn't be ruled out.
This strike zone czar has a guaranteed deal through at least 2015. An innings-based vesting option could also extend his Philadelphia-based financial arrangement through 2016.
The 35-year-old doesn't have a full no-trade clause, but can block moves to a handful of teams each season if the Phillies do try to trade him. Of course, many baseball men have agreed to various transactions based upon money and opportunity in other places. So, it's far from certain that Lee will pitch in red pinstripes past this summer's trade deadline, at the earliest.
Having a dominant left-handed starter (Cole Hamels) in the prime of his career didn't guarantee a playoff spot during the past two seasons. Lee was part of the same rotation, also pitched well and didn't taste postseason champagne either.
If Ruben Amaro, Jr. and Ryne Sandberg are able to find a way to push their veteran squad toward legitimate contention this season and next, the likelihood that Lee will receive an extension should increase.
Obviously, there are plenty of variables that will determine whether another large financial commitment would be made to an aging pitcher. But, Lee's positive health history and smooth delivery method enable his productive career to extend through this decade. As to where that takes place remains a debatable question.