Lee will stay on Yankees' trade radar 

July, 3, 2010
The Yankees will have their Cliff Lee conversations, of course, because the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and other big-money teams will always at least talk about the best players available. Lee has your basic 78-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he would improve a rotation that is already deep and talented; he would improve any rotation.

But keep in mind that the Yankees (like the Red Sox) have philosophically turned against the idea of trading prospects for a prospective free agent like Lee, which is why they ostensibly passed on Johan Santana, CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay when they were made available on the trade market. In retrospect, it appears they made the right call on Santana -- who would have cost them Austin Jackson and Phil Hughes and whose erosion has come steadily -- and Sabathia, a pitcher they ultimately landed in free agency. The jury is still out on whether passing on Halladay was a good thing.

Keep in mind that the Yankees and Mariners have had a very difficult trade history. It was just last year that Seattle dangled another left-hander, Jarrod Washburn -- who was nowhere near the caliber of what Lee is today -- and the Mariners wanted the Yankees to give up Jackson, which was a non-starter for New York. One can only imagine what the Mariners will ask the Yankees for in return for Lee, but presumably the proposed price will be catcher Jesus Montero and at least two other Grade B-plus prospects -- for a player who may be destined to sign with the Yankees in the winter, anyway.

That would be a heavy price for the Yankees to pay when they already know they can line up Sabathia, Hughes, Andy Pettitte, Javier Vazquez and A.J. Burnett for a postseason series. It's a team that's probably already good enough to win another World Series, with or without Lee.

But the American League East standings will keep the Yankees engaged on Lee, because getting to October is no sure thing -- not with the Red Sox having climbed back into the standings despite their injuries, and not with the Rays lurking as a team that all talent evaluators view as deep in talent and potential. The inconsistent Rays are capable of drifting out of contention, but if they won 20 of their next 22 games, nobody would be surprised.

So the Yankees will stay in on the Lee talks and probably make an offer for him. They probably won't get him, recent history tells us, especially if the Minnesota Twins decide to get fully engaged in the trade talks. But they will continue to hold a seat at the Cliff Lee table. Just in case.