CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If only Cliff Lee had a crystal ball and not a $10 plastic Magic 8 Ball.
Maybe then he could see into the future and learn how much time he has left with the Phillies.
Lee met with reporters following Thursday's workout for pitchers and catchers at Carpenter Complex. He finished last season on the disabled list with an injured left elbow, which scuttled any chances that he could be traded this offseason. Lee has hinted in the past that he would like to leave the struggling Phillies and play for a World Series contender, but he used a Magic 8 Ball that he said he found in his locker to deflect those inquiries on Thursday.
"I brought this to answer my hard questions," he said.
Questions like, "Phillies president Pat Gillick said the team would not contend until 2017 …"
"Hold on a second," Lee said, picking up the Magic 8 Ball. "Most likely."
So what did Lee think about Gillick's comments? Lee signed a $120 million contract with the Phillies in December 2010, because he believed the club could win multiple World Series championships. Instead, Philadelphia has not made the postseason since 2011, including a last-place finish in the National League East in 2014.
Lee will make $25 million this season with a $12.5 million buyout on a $27.5 million club option for 2016. Essentially, the front office has said the team does not expect to win throughout the remainder of his deal.
Lee picked up the Magic 8 Ball again.
"Yes, definitely," Lee said, referring to Gillick's comments.
Yes, definitely he wants to be traded?
"Let me see," Lee said. "That's another tough one. I don't know if I want to answer that."
Lee looked at the ball again.
Lee's future in Philadelphia boils down to two things.
First, Lee must prove he is healthy after finishing the season on the DL. He said he feels "normal" and he expects to be in the rotation Opening Day, although he said he still felt something in his elbow during his first several bullpen sessions a couple months ago.
Second, the Phillies have to find a trade partner. It will be tricky. Not only do the Phils have to like the talent they would receive for Lee, but they would have to agree on how much of his salary they would pay to facilitate a deal.
So would Lee like the opportunity to play somewhere else and be traded?
"I can't answer that one," Lee said, picking up the plastic ball again. "Concentrate and ask again."
Then, Lee got serious.
"If you could tell me right now you have an opportunity to play on a World Series championship team, absolutely, I want to do that," he said. "I do. I think every player should want to do that. I came here to win a World Series and try to win multiple ones. Obviously, I'm running out of time to do that. This is the last year of my deal. I have an option for next year. I potentially have two more chances.
"I honestly don't want to keep rehashing this over and over. That's the way it's going to be all the time ... I don't want to discuss, 'Are you going to get traded next week?' And we're still in Spring Training. Yeah, when it gets close to the [non-waiver] Trade Deadline and we're 15 games out of it, yeah we can talk about that. Hopefully that's not the case. I'm going to do everything I can to help this team win. Hopefully, we're contending and hopefully, we're in the World Series in Philadelphia. I mean that should answer every single trade question I could possibly be faced with until whenever. Because that's the answer."
Is it the final question and the final answer? A reporter's Magic 8 Ball said, "Don't count on it."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.