Cliff Lee has not gone so far as to announce his retirement, but he remains unsigned as of February 23rd, and now his agent has told Ken Rosenthal that he doesn't expect to play in 2016.
It seems like Cliff Lee's career is over, and if that's the case, we can call it once and for all: he will never pitch for the Boston Red Sox.
Lee was never quite the focus of one of Boston's infamous trade sagas. Fans did not see him as that perfect combination of realistic and desirable that marked the likes of Adrian Gonzalez and Cole Hamels. But that doesn't mean he was never an interesting target for the team.
Back in 2010, there was more than a little speculation that the Red Sox were the infamous "mystery team" in on Lee, either to drive the price up on New York, or to grab him for themselves before Philadelphia dispelled any doubts. He was seen as a very real possibility at the 2013 trade deadline, but the Phillies asked for the world because of course they did and nothing ever materialized. Again, in 2014, with the Red Sox' pursuit of Cole Hamels seeming increasingly unrealistic, the Sox were said to be interested in turning to Lee at the deadline. But both their season and Lee's fell apart before anything could ever materialize, leaving that potential deal dead on arrival.
Still, even after missing 2015 entirely, there was a chance that the Red Sox could finally bring Lee to Boston. At first it seemed there might not be any way to fit him in, but with the departure of Wade Miley to Seattle, the Red Sox could have swung things to open up a rotation spot for the former Cy Young winner. All it would have taken was the will from both sides.
That will seems not to have been there. Cliff Lee was looking for a perfect situation, and to him the Red Sox may not have fit the bill. Or perhaps Dave Dombrowski was simply not interested in taking a flier on an older arm like Lee after missing so much time, even in a rotation with as much uncertainty as Boston's.
Whatever the case, Cliff Lee will not be pitching in Boston, or anywhere else for that matter. It was a match we would have loved to see, but one that apparently was never meant to be.