It is no secret what the situation is right now. The Seattle Mariners are a last place but have the best pitcher in the American League in the last year of his deal. Cliff Lee has made is quite clear that he is going into free agency and is looking to hit the bank. Although recent contract history has said that Cliff Lee might be looking at offers ranging from 5 years 80 to 90 million dollars, the 2008 Cy Young award winner is looking for Johan Santana and CC Sabathia type money.
The other part of this situation is the Minnesota Twins and the rest of Major League baseball. If you are within 5 games of a playoff spot it may be wise to make a run at the Seattle All Star. This is where it gets tricky. There are a lot of teams in competition right now. Most notably; Minnesota, Texas, New York Mets, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York Yankees among 3 or 4 others. Each one of these teams can create a hefty package to send to the Mariners. In fact if you have a subscription to Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein wrote a great article of every team in the hunt and what prospects could be up for grabs in a trade .
But it gets tricky after that. I have made it clear since spring training that I thought the Mariners were not going to be good and that the Twins should do whats necessary to acquire Lee. And if the current rumors are true they have done that. So far rumors have floated that Minnesota has made 3 separate offers over the course of the month all build around blocked catching prospect Wilson Ramos:
*Wilson Ramos, Brian Duenseng, Low Level Player to be Named
*Wilson Ramos, Aaron Hicks
*Wilson Ramos, Kevin Slowey
All three of these deals are quite hefty so there is no sense in bashing Bill Smith right now because he is doing his job. Jack Zduriencik is like Dr. Evin from Austin Powers. He has been frozen away for so many years that he thinks that 1 million dollars is enough money to take over the world. Just not going to happen Rumors have said that he is looking for deals bigger then the ones that the Twins have already offered which is just ridiculous.
If that is the case teams like the Reds and Rays who build their teams around their farm will quickly back out of the running. The Yankees would be willing to overpay but they would much rather go after an outfielder. The Phillies will absolutely not part with Dominic Brown so they will be out. The Tigers and White Sox who now lead the division would still be interested, but I am not sure if their farm systems are loaded enough to spawn a deal that Seattle is looking for. That leaves 3 teams. The Mets, Twins and Rangers.
The Mets desperately need pitching help and have the money to resign Lee once the season is over. But they have grown quite attached with their 20 year old phenom Jenry Mejia. Wilmer Flores would also be a great piece to start something with, but at the rate Jack Zduriencik is going he will want both of them. Tough to see that happening. Texas has a loaded farm system (pre ranked number 1 by Baseball America). And they know they will not keep Lee after the season so they already know what the risk is. They have big prospects and players such as Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez, Derek Holland, Blake Beavan, Chris Davis, Justin Smoak, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Texas desperately wants Lee but how would they feel giving up the farm with in the division. May be weird to see if Seattle has a good team in 2 years built around a rotation that includes Martin Perez who is regarded as the next Johan Santana. Or a lineup with Justin Smoak who is compared to Justin Morneau and Mark Teixera.
I still think the Twins are the front runner. They have reportedly already made offers which other teams have not rumored to do. Bill Smith and Terry Ryan have had histories playing pickle to the last second and still getting things done so I am still confident that it will at a reasonable price. Like this article is titled, if Jack Zduriencik thinks he is going to get 2 top prospects or more for a 2 month rental he can lack for a better word "drop dead". All in all its not worth it to to trade future stars for a rental, not matter how good that rental is. The price for Cliff Lee is much higher then I anticipated at the beginning of the season all the way up until now. As every day goes by in theory the price should go down because a trade partner will be getting less and less days in the season with Lee on their roster. So lets see how how it plays out. There is roughly 3 weeks left until the deadline.
The Twins are sadly a 3rd place team because they are doing a great job playing down to their competition. A spark of Cliff Lee may rejuvenation the team to make a playoff run similar to what the Brewers did with CC Sabathia 2 years ago.