Why Would The New York Yankees Trade for Cliff Lee Now?

There was a recent NY Post report by columnist George King which portrayed the New York Yankees as being interested in the services of left handed pitcher Cliff Lee of the Seattle Mariners. Lee is an outstanding pitcher, one of the top five pitchers in baseball.

The report states that Seattle expects the Yankees to attempt to obtain Lee, with information gathered from a person “familiar with Seattle’s thought process.”  The Mariners are preparing for the Yankees to try and trade for Lee, and has scouts in attendance at various Yankees minor league games.

The Mariners, therefore, are assuming the Yankees have interest now.

Recently the Mariners have had two scouts at Low A Charleston and two in Reading, PA checking in on the Yankees Double A squad, the Trenton Thunder.

Possiblities in Charleston include pretty much nobody, except OF Slade Heathcott and C/DH J.R. Murphy, last years first and second round picks. Those two aren’t going anywhere. You want to say, maybe, Charleston RHP Jose Ramirez might be wanted, then OK, because he might have that proverbial upside. Otherwise, Charleston really offers nothing of value.

But Double A does offer real value for another team. Reportedly the Mariners like RHP David Phelps, 3B/1B Brandon Laird and C Austin Romine. Well, who doesn’t, right? You don’t have to be a pro scout to figure out that these three are the top players.

Phelps gets guys out and doesn’t walk anybody, Laird hits for great power and average, plus doesn’t strike out much. Romine is an above average defensive catcher who hits for a high average. Three solid players who will all get to the big leagues…for some team.

The Mariners are starting with a combination of one of the Yankees top catcher (either Jesus Montero or Romine) and Triple A shortstop Eduardo Nunez.

But just because the Mariners are scouting the Yankees prospects does not mean the Yankees are interested in trading any of them right now for Cliff Lee.

Knowing their 2010 season is shot, Seattle is probably getting a list of players they like for a proposal to the Yankees. The Mariners would like a few players in return for Lee who could help on the offensive end*.

 *The funny thing about Seattle and their new defensive first concept is that it worked well for one year because it took everyone by surprise. Now they improved their defense again by adding 1B Casey Kotchman and 3B/2B Chone Figgins, plus re-signing SS Jack Wilson. But a team can save all the runs they want, but you still need to hit or the lack of consistent run production will add to the tremendous amount of pressure already on the pitching staff.

When a pitching staff knows it cannot give up 3 or more runs a game, the pressure to make every pitch count becomes unbearable.

While there is lots of talk regarding a trade of Lee to the Yankees, it doesn’t seem like the Yankees have initiated any of this talk of a trade. No one from the Yankees camp has ever said they want to trade with the M’s for Lee.

The Yankees M.O. is to wait and be patient until impending free agency, and not to trade prospects for veterans, especially when the veteran can walk that off season after the trade. Think what GM Brian Cashman did when Johan Santana was on the block prior to the 2008 season.  

The Yankees refused to trade RHP Phil Hughes, RHP Joba Chamberlain and 2B Robinson Cano (among other players) in several possible deals with Minnesota for Santana. Cashman was ripped for not making a trade for Santana, especially after the Yankees did not make the playoffs in 2008.

Instead Cashman went out and signed a free agent pitcher in CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett that following off season.

They did not make the playoffs in 2008, but the team won the World Series in 2009 and is now better in the long run.

Much of the talk now, though, is that the Yankees will trade for Lee. FoxSports Ken Rosenthal picked up on the story and quoted a rival executive saying the Yankees will trade for Lee because he is a “top of the rotation starter.” Many of these national writers don’t have any original ideas, but use only what comes from their sources.

They very rarely use analysis to figure out what would be good for the teams and why teams would do, or should not do certain things.

For example, for several reasons it is a flat out given that Cliff Lee will sign as a free agent with the Yankees in the off season.

1) Lee is really good friends with CC Sabathia, and CC has told him how great it is to play in New York.

2) Lee is really good friends with AJ Burnett, both are from Arkansas, and share the same agent.

3) The Yankees have five really good starting pitchers right now. Even with Hughes on an innings limit this season (about 180, but it keeps going up), they only need to fill maybe five extra rotation starts during the season. That is assuming that no starter gets hurt. 

Seattle is the impatient group here, not wanting to worsen an already terrible trade they made for Lee. They really needed a bat, probably two. Not that the players the Phillies got back from Seattle are any good either. Seattle did not give up much for Lee, and the players are all struggling this season in the Phillies system.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is blowing smoke out there wanting to have other teams think the Yankees will attempt to get Lee this season. Similar to how agents let it be known the Yankees want to sign their free agents (even if it is not true), Zduriencik wants to drive the price up for his biggest trade bait. There are already stories out there asking why don’t this team or that team now try and get Lee. Even Red Sox fans are wondering if Lee would be good for them.

I know the Mariners GM is doing his due diligence and seeing what the market can bear for his ace starting pitcher. But rather than approach other teams, it might be best to let other teams come to them. That way you can get more because the other teams are the needy ones.

But Seattle would be best to take the picks from Lee’s departure (although if it was the Yankees signing him, it would be lower picks) and use them in what already appears to be a really good draft pool of talent next season.

By not trading for Lee this season, theYankees do not give away any players and only need spend money to sign Lee next year.

And by that time, they can then decide what to do with free agent to be Javier Vazquez and get feedback from Andy Pettitte with what he will do about a possible retirement.

This trade does not make sense from a Yankees stand point, unless one of their starters gets hurt–then the entire ballgame MIGHT change.

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