On-Base Perception

Newsday's new all-encompassing baseball blog on the Yankees, Mets, MLB and more from around the sport.

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Report: Cliff Lee available

Cliff Lee delivers to the plate during a

Cliff Lee delivers to the plate during a game against the Mets. (July 4, 2012) (Credit: David Pokress)

The smart money has been on the Yankees obtaining some infield insurance before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. But after learning on Sunday that 40-year-old starter Andy Pettitte suffered a slight setback during his rehab, could the Yankees also make a play for pitching?

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said the timetable remains the same for Pettitte's return. But Pettitte's age and the volatile nature of his rehab could be reason for pause. Or calls.

If the Yankees do decide they're in the market for a starter, one interesting name has emerged: Cliff Lee.

The left-handed ace who rejected a monstrous offer to sign with the Yankees after the 2010 season in favor of Philadelphia, is back on the trade block, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.

The recent contract extension of Cole Hamels, along with the presence of Roy Halladay, give the Phillies two bona fide aces for years to come, possibly making a third expendable for a team that desperately needs to get younger and more financially flexible.

Lee, 33, can block trades to all but eight teams, with the Yankees being among those eight, according to Ken Rosenthal and John Paul Morosi.

But as enticing as the southpaw may be, a Lee acquisition may not make fiscal sense for the Yankees.

Olney tweeted that “Yankees not expected to be in the mix in Cliff Lee talks, because they don't have budget space to get involved.”

Lee has a much-publicized single win with the Phillies this season, going 1-6 overall, though that's due more to a struggling offense than his own skills eroding. He has a 3.95 ERA in 118.1 innings and his command remains a strength with a rate of 8.52 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.75 walks per nine. His 46.7 ground ball rate is a career high.

But Lee also has a career-high home run to fly ball ratio of 13.5 percent. That number hasn't been over nine in any of his previous four seasons. He's also suffering from a career-high .319 batting average on balls in play, leading to 119 hits.

Though Lee's fastball is averaging 91.6 mph in 2012, the fastest heater of his career.

Hes making $21.5 million this season and his salary jumps to $25 million from 2013-2015. A vesting option could pay him $27.5 million in 2016.

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