Phillies decide to decline 2016 option on Cliff Lee
WASHINGTON — Making moves geared to next season with a week left in this season, the Philadelphia Phillies have decided to decline their 2016 option for left-hander Cliff Lee and are shutting down rookie right-hander Aaron Nola.
Lee, 37, did not pitch at all this season because of an elbow injury but is a link to some of Philadelphia’s playoff teams of the recent past. Nola, 22, is considered a building block for the Phillies as they try to move on from this year’s worst-in-the-majors showing.
This was the final guaranteed season of Lee’s $120 million, five-year contract. The deal included a $27.5 million team option for 2016; instead, the Phillies owe the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner a $12.5 million buyout.
"I don’t think it’s any surprise to anybody," interim general manager Scott Proefrock said Sunday about the Lee move. "We have to communicate it in writing. We haven’t done that yet."
Proefrock called it "fairly obvious" that the team wouldn’t pick up Lee’s option.
As for Nola, Proefrock said the Phillies talked to him on Sunday morning, before the team’s game at the Washington Nationals.
"It was an organizational decision to shut him down. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s thrown 187 innings (in the majors and minors combined) this year after throwing about 172 last year. I think that’s a good rule of thumb," the interim GM said.
"We just felt like it was time to end on a positive note," Proefrock said, "which it did yesterday."
Nola, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft out of LSU, threw five scoreless innings in Philadelphia’s 2-1, 12-inning loss to Washington on Saturday.
He ends 2015 with a 6-2 record and a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts in the majors, with 68 strikeouts and 19 walks in 77 2/3 innings.
"He did everything we could’ve expected and more. He showed why he was drafted where he was drafted, how highly regarded he was. He’s made a very favorable impression on all of us," Proefrock said. "Hopefully he can be a big part of what we want to do here in the future."
Nola said he agrees with the team’s move.
"I learned a lot at this level and I experienced a lot that I never experienced," he said. "As a competitor, of course, I don’t want to stop or finish the year, but … throwing a lot of innings was helpful for me this year and I want to add on to that next year."
Nola said he will take "a couple months off" from throwing to let his arm rest, but will resume weight training and running in a few weeks.
He plans to work on developing a changeup this offseason.
"As a starter, you definitely have to have more than two pitches," Nola said, "and having a third pitch really helps, especially at this level, because these guys are smart."