Blue Jays: Cliff Lee, medical clearances and Shapiro ties


The Blue Jays can add Cliff Lee to a growing list of risky and aging arms, but there’s a prominent Mark Shapiro tie from his Cleveland Indians days

Stop me if you’ve heard this one at some point over the past year and a half, but it appears that Cliff Lee’s arm issues are finally behind him. Having not seen live MLB action since July 31st of 2014, the former Cy Young Award winner has reportedly been given full medical clearance and is open to a return in 2016. 

A combination of Lee’s elbow and forearm problems seemed to be subsiding entering spring training this past season, but after repeated inflammation in his throwing elbow and the eventual diagnosis of a tear in his common flexor tendon by Dr. James Andrews, Lee hit the 60-day disabled list. He was then given the option of surgery, but seemed resigned to retirement if forced to go that route.

Instead, Lee opted for rest and rehabilitation which has brought him back to this point, with the Philadelphia Phillies declining his $27.5 million option for 2016 and opting to pay his $12.5 million buyout.

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Much like our look at former Blue Jay Henderson Alvarez earlier today, we’ll let this news form a blip on the radar because of a past tie to a prominent member of the Toronto front office. In this case it’s president Mark Shapiro, who landed Lee as part of a blockbuster deal in 2002 from the Montreal Expos. Cleveland also gained Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore and Lee Stevens in that trade in exchange for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.

Lee made his debut for the Indians that season at age 23, pitching seven full seasons and parts of an eighth for Cleveland with an 83-48 record. His career ERA of 4.01 in Cleveland admits that the strongest half of Lee’s career wasn’t spent there, but the best single season was. In 2008, a 29-year old Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA. Prior to the MLB trade deadline during the 2009 season, Shapiro dealt Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Ben Francisco in exchange for Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Jason Knapp.

That’s enough linkage to be worthy of a conversation, but much of this depends on what Lee considers to be the “right fit”. For the first time in a long time, Toronto could appeal to a grizzled veteran looking for a final run at a championship considering the offense and defense they’re able to offer. The Blue Jays don’t exactly have seven lock-down starters, either, but who does? It’s equally possible that Lee is trying to squeeze a few million more out of his left arm, in which case his risk level makes this a likely non-starter.

Let us know what you think about this one, but I feel the vote will be a little more split than the Alvarez discussion. While I’d love to see Cliff Lee brought in on a flier (and I mean love), you’ve got to think that one MLB team will be willing to take on a more prominent financial risk.