Phillies trade rumors: Cliff Lee market heating up

USA TODAY Sports

After a deal involving Lee looked unlikely all month, things are starting to get interesting.

Throughout the month of July, reports out of Philadelphia have indicated that Phillies' ace Cliff Lee was unlikely to be traded this summer.

As the slow market for starting pitching progressed and saw teams receive major prospect packages for lesser pitchers like Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza, the Phillies showed a reluctance to discuss the lefty, thinking that they still had a chance at contending in 2013.

After losing eight games in a row, things have changed.

Following a report over the weekend from Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com that the Phils were willing to "listen to offers" for Lee, it now seems like they are in active discussions with teams about the left-hander, who is unquestionably the prize of the trade market again this year.

One National League executive even went as far as telling Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that he expects the Phillies to trade Lee before Wednesday's deadline.

The Phillies' asking price for Lee is said to be insanely high, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says that the Phillies are looking for "three or four of a team's best prospects" in addition to the $70 million remaining on Lee's contract through the 2015 season.

While teams are not yet looking to give up that kind of return for the 34-year old, the Phillies will surely lower the price if they are serious about wanting to rebuild.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe notes that the Red Sox have engaged the Phillies in talks for both Lee and third baseman Michael Young, but cautions that the Sox refuse to part with top prospects in any trades. Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Garin Cecchini sit atop the Red Sox' system, and are widely considered to be untouchable in trade talks.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com tweets that Boston is still discussing Lee with the Phillies as well as Jake Peavy with the White Sox, but also says that prices across the board are too high.

The Red Sox currently sit a half game behind the Rays for the AL East lead, and would likely love to pair Lee with starters Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster for the stretch run.

Other teams that could have interest in Lee include the Dodgers and Cardinals, who are both on the lookout for starting pitching. Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reported that as of Monday morning, Los Angeles had not discussed the possibility of acquiring Lee from Philadelphia, and reports throughout the day painted the Cardinals as a team that is likely to stand pat as the deadline passes.

The Red Sox remain the most likely team to land Lee if they are able to come to a reasonable compromise with the Phillies before 4 PM on Wednesday.

In addition to Lee and Young, closer Jonathan Papelbon is "very much available" in trades, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. The team could move a number of different players before the deadline, but Salisbury says that Domonic Brown, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels are the only players who the Phillies consider untouchable in talks.

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