THE LEAST SHOCKING news of the still-early Phillies offseason: The team has cut ties with former All-Star pitcher Cliff Lee.

The Phillies officially declined the $27.5 million club option in Lee's contract on Monday, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock confirmed Tuesday. This wasn't exactly news, however, as Proefrock announced the Phillies' intentions on Sept. 27.

The Phillies simply made the roster move official. As a part of Lee's contract, the pitcher receives a $12.5 million buyout and automatically becomes a free agent.

But it's likely that Lee, who turned 37 in August, will retire instead.

Signed to a five-year, $125 million contract as a free agent in December 2010, Lee pitched in only 13 games since the end of the 2013 season because of elbow woes. He didn't pitch in a single game for the Phillies in 2015.

Lee was first diagnosed with flexor pronator strain in May 2014.

After being shut down twice during the 2014 season, Lee attempted to rejoin the rotation at the outset of spring training in February. But Lee was shut down in mid-March and placed on the 60-day disabled list before the season began.

Lee declined to undergo surgery last spring and instead opted for rest and rehab for the second straight year. But he never came close to advancing to the point of going on an official rehab assignment during the course of the 2015 season.

Lee, a veteran of 13 big-league seasons, went 48-34 with a 2.94 ERA in 118 starts with the Phillies (2009, 2010-14). He represented the Phillies at the All-Star Game in both 2011 and 2013.

Lee, the 2008 American League Cy Young winner, was paid $25 million during the 2015 season. Only two big-league pitchers - Detroit's Justin Verlander and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw - earned more.

If Lee does officially file for free agency, he'll join fellow Phillies pitchers Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, Chad Billingsley and outfielder Jeff Francoeur as free agents. Free agents can sign with any team beginning Saturday; the Phillies have exclusive rights with their own players until then.

Among the aforementioned players, only Francoeur, a productive bench player and positive veteran clubhouse presence, is likely to return.

Pitchers and catchers

Pitchers and catchers will report to Clearwater, Fla., on Feb. 18 for the official beginning of spring training. The first full-squad workout is on Feb. 23.

The Phils announced the spring exhibition schedule Tuesday: The first game will take place on Sunday, Feb. 28, at Bright House Field against the University of Tampa, while the Grapefruit League season opens two days later against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Phillies break camp on March 30 and return to the Northeast for a new addition to the exhibition schedule: games against their own minor league players.

The "Phillies Futures Series" begins on March 31 at 6:05 p.m. at Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium. Following an exhibition with the Baltimore Orioles at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, April 1 (6:05 p.m.), the Phils will play the second game of the "Futures Series" at their home ballpark on Saturday, April 2, at 1 p.m.

Fan interested in trips to Clearwater can purchase three-game ticket packs from the Phillies beginning on Nov. 20. Individual exhibition game tickets go on sale on Jan. 7.

Otero claimed

The Phillies claimed righthander Dan Otero off waivers from the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday.

Otero, 30, went 2-4 with a 6.75 ERA in 41 games (all in relief) with Oakland in 2015. Selected in the 21st round of the 2007 draft by the San Francisco Giants, Otero is 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 158 big-league games; he has 108 strikeouts and 29 walks in 184 2/3 innings.

Otero also pitched in five postseason games with the A's in 2013 and 2014.

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