As the Philadelphia Phillies turned aggressive in the trade market Monday, the obvious question -- again -- was whether they would move left-hander Cliff Lee.
"Anything is possible," one club official said.
The Phillies were indeed willing to consider offers for Lee, major-league sources said. But the chances of a deal before Tuesday's non-waiver deadline at 4 p.m. ET appeared slim.
The Phils' sudden willingness to trade Lee is the logical outgrowth of the team's struggles this season and recent signing of left-hander Cole Hamels to a six-year, $144 million extension.
The team now has $134 million committed to 10 players for 2013 - not including right fielder Hunter Pence, another player whom the Phillies are talking about in trades.
The problem with trading Lee is that it would be difficult to obtain a significant return unless the Phillies contributed a significant portion of the whopping $87.5 million remaining on his contract between 2013 and '15. The Dodgers and Yankees found that the amount of money left on Lee's deal was too much even for them.
And if the Phils kicked in a massive sum, they essentially would be paying Lee to pitch for another team at a time when club officials still plan to contend every season.
Right-hander Roy Halladay's contract with the Phillies will expire after '13 if he does not meet his vesting option. So Hamels could be the team's sole remaining ace starting in '14 if the Phils trade Lee.
The Phillies won the 2008 World Series with just Hamels, but their offense was much stronger then. Hitters such as first baseman Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley were healthy and in their primes.