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Red Sox quiet in Cole Hamels trade talks, could pursue Cliff Lee in midseason deal

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The Red Sox are probably not making a trade for Cole Hamels anytime soon, but a midseason deal for Cliff Lee could be in play if Philadelphia's other lefty proves healthy.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a complete lack of major movement in the last week month ever, the Cole Hamels saga continues to simmer away on the back burner, this offseason's mysterious background process which doesn't really seem to accomplish much of anything but somehow causes more than it's fair share of stress all the same.

Cue Jim Salisbury's most recent update on CSN Philadelphia: the Red Sox join the Padres, Rangers, and Cardinals as potential landing spots for the lefty. Nothing much new there. The Dodgers are one-time suitors no longer listed, but that's not that surprising given the current state of their rotation. The Red Sox, of course, also have their fair share of starters, and Salisbury acknowledges that they might be a long shot for Hamels:

Of the four teams most connected to Hamels, the Red Sox might be most in the background. They added three pitchers - Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson - last month and seem content to see how that trio improves their fortunes before jumping in full force on Hamels...

Also not surprising. The Red Sox can't be completely happy with their rotation as it sits, but they also haven't let themselves be forced into desperation mode. As always, the team's stance seems to be that if the Phillies come down on their asking price--possibly way down--they'll be interested. Until then, no thanks.

So that's probably for the best. Slightly more interesting is that last Salisbury quote doesn't quite end there. Here's the finish:

or maybe Lee.

Cliff Lee is not exactly a prime trade candidate at the moment. He last pitched on July 31, with his season coming to an early close due to an elbow injury. It's unlikely, then, that the Red Sox or any other team with five starters in place is going to go out of their way to displace one with the question mark that Lee represents.

That being said, a couple months into the season, we might be looking at a very different picture. At no point will the 36-year-old Lee represent the sort of trade chip that Cole Hamels is. There's too much uncertainty about his health, and Hamels' semi-lengthy contract is actually quite the positive to most teams that would trade for him, particularly those he can't force to pick up his option (as he can with the Red Sox). Lee, meanwhile, is only signed on for one more year, though he has a $27.5 million option (with a $12.5 million buyout) that vests with 200 innings pitched in 2015.  That's not the worst of scenarios--if Lee pitches 200 innings, he's probably worth quite a lot of money on a one-year deal--but it's still extra baggage on the contract of a player Lee's age.

Salisbury notes that the Red Sox have long been interested in Lee, whether they were in a position to actively pursue him or not. It's possible that those days (and Lee's best) are in the past. But if the 13-year veteran does come back strong in 2015, and the Red Sox are still in need of a front-line arm a couple months in, there might well be a match there. With Hamels, if the Phillies aren't willing to budge from an unreasonably high price in January or February, they won't be much more inclined to do so in July when contenders are only getting more desperate. With Lee, however, the ship will be ready to sail. They'll either find a buyer in 2015, or be left with nothing when he leaves, as it's hard to imagine the Phillies are in any position to risk a qualifying offer to a player on a $25 million salary.

So no, Cole Hamels is probably not coming to Boston. Not while Ruben Amaro is still doing Ruben Amaro things and the Red Sox remain an organization focused on balancing their short-term needs with long-term success. But maybe, just maybe the Phillies and Red Sox can come together on something a little further down the line.