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Cardinals should keep an eye on Cliff Lee

I'll be interested to see how Cliff Lee does in his return from two months on the disabled list thanks to an elbow problem.

He's been out with an elbow problem, which is more then enough to raise a few eyebrows. But before the injury he was 4-4 with a nice 3.18 ERA. He struck out 61 in 68 innings with nine walks. If he can return to that sort of form. Lee might be just the sort of guy the St. Louis Cardinals could use to fill the second spot of their rotation.

While we've all heard the David Price rumors, the cost is prohibitive in terms of prospects and the chance to keep him over the long haul seems non-existent. While the Cardinals caught lightning in a bottle in 2011 when they made an all-in deal to send Colby Rasmus to the Toronto Blue Jays, in a multi-round playoff format the odds of that sort of move paying off again are too slim to justify the deal. Especially when Oscar Tavares is infinitely more valuable than Rasmus was. Or is.

If Lee is 100 percent, he's perfect for the job of hired gun for the playoffs. He's got a much better postseason record than Price, 7-3 in 11 playoff starts with a 2.52 ERA. Price has a 1-4 record in the playoffs and his only win came in a relief appearance.

At 33, and with a recent injury hanging over his head, Lee would be a gamble. He was beaten soundly in his most recent rehab start at Class A Clearwater in which he gave up eight runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings -- although only three of the runs were earned. But those reasons -- as well as his pricey contract -- are the same reasons why Price would be affordable.

He has a $25 million contract for next season and a $12.5-million buyout if the Cardinals wouldn't exercise a 2016 team option. That sounds like a ton of money. But, when you figure that Price is going to cost a lot more in talent and then he's still going to make about $20 million next season through arbitration, the scale starts to tip more toward Lee. Get the Phillies to pick up the buyout and it seems like a slam dunk to keep Taveras, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal and pay $5 million more to rent Lee.

If Philadelphia would make the deal for one of the surplus prospect outfielders not named Taveras and a young pitcher not including the three previously mentioned or Michael Wacha, a deal could be swung. It would be a great deal for both sides because the Phillies need to trim the payroll and restock the talent pool as they try to rebuild. And the Cardinals would prefer to use cash as their trading currency as opposed to talent.