May 18, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee (33) pitches in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Rumors: Toronto Blue Jays scouting Phillies, Cliff Lee

Despite hearsay that the Blue Jays were telling teams that they would be unwilling to add salary in any deadline deals, that hasn’t appeared to stop the team from doing its due diligence on ballplayers that will carry that baggage.

According to a report from Jim Salisbury at CSNPhilly.com, the Toronto Blue Jays were among the teams that had scouts in attendance for Cliff Lee‘s final rehab start last Monday night. The Jays are again expected to be present for his return to the major leagues when he takes the hill for Philadelphia tonight.

That’s a good thing, as the results displayed during his last rehab start, when he surrendered 8 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits and a home run against Class-A Palm Beach. That said, the San Francisco Giants will likely be a much bigger test, and a better gauge of if he’s ready to contribute to a playoff contender.

The 35-year-old lefty is coming off of a strained flexor-pronator tendon in his pitching elbow that has kept him from making a start since May 18th. However, the results prior to that were not bad, as Lee had posted a 4-4 record with a 3.18 ERA and a 8.1 K/9 ratio, but was surrendering hits at a rate of 10.3 per nine innings.

Given the fact that the Phillies are in full sell mode and are in desperate need to get younger, the team is actively shopping any piece that can bring in a haul of prospects. That said, the team is said to want to find a new home for Cliff Lee rather than fellow lefty Cole Hamels.

That might be more difficult than imagined though. At 35 and starting to experience elbow issues, other teams may be unwilling to part with a big prospect package AND take on the $25 million Lee is guaranteed next season, plus the possibility of a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016.

On the other hand, there is Hamels, who at 30-years-old has more long-term upside, but is also owed $90 million over the next four seasons and also has a $20 million team or $24 million vesting option for 2019.

Now, all that could be moot if the Blue Jays are unwilling to take on salary in any deals, as both Hamels and Lee will carry a lot of money with them in any trade. However, Anthopoulos tried to dispel that notion in an interview this weekend with Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post.

That all said, while an able ace could be a huge boost to this team, especially considering the recent return to Earth for Mark Buehrle, the Blue Jays biggest need remains the line-up due to its current health situation.

Tags: Cliff Lee Cole Hamels MLB Trade Deadline Toronto Blue Jays

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