Rangers turning up the heat for Cliff Lee?

July 04, 2010 - Detroit, MI, UNITED STATES - epa02236804 Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Cliff Lee trows against the Detroit Tigers during the second inning at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan, USA on 04 July 2010.

MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports that talks between the Rangers and Mariners are heating up for pitcher Cliff Lee, although nothing is imminent at this point and there is still plenty of time before the July 31 trade deadline.

The Rangers have been actively looking for a front-line starting pitcher, they have made no secret that Lee is their top priority and they have the Minor League prospects to get him here. As far as talent in the farm system, the Rangers openly believe they are in far better position to acquire a major piece before the Trade Deadline than most any other team.

The club is still limited by financial constraints but Daniels admitted last week there is still some flexibility in the budget for the Rangers to do something before the July 31 Trade Deadline. The club has not been involved in the International amateur signing period for Latin American players this month in attempt to hold back final resources for the Trade Deadline.

There is little doubt that the Rangers have the talent to make the deal. The Mariners are reportedly looking for a big bat for their lineup and the Rangers have both Justin Smoak at the Major League level and Chris Davis at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

The Rangers are also deep in Minor League pitching although indications are they are not interested in talking about Tanner Scheppers or Martin Perez. But Derek Holland and Blake Beavan could be two names that might interest the Mariners.

I’ve maintained that Roy Oswalt would be a great fit for the Rangers, although the same hurdles (i.e. Texas’ financial restrictions) still apply. I would have to imagine that Oswalt would come cheaper (in terms of prospects) than Lee, but it’s tough to speculate what the asking price would be for either pitcher.

Here’s some food for thought when it comes to any deal involving Oswalt: At least one GM has stated that Houston’s Ed Wade is a tad difficult to deal with when it comes to trades. In a recent poll conducted by ESPN’s Buster Onley, it was said that Wade is always willing to talk, “but it seems like he’s never willing to put himself in a position to risk anything.”

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Report: Twins offer M’s two prospects for Lee

Cliff Lee

According to Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse, the Twins have offered the Mariners prospects Aaron Hicks and Wilson Ramos for left-hander Cliff Lee, although the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the two clubs aren’t close to striking a deal.

At first glance, it appears that the Twins are offering too much. Hicks was selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and has a .792 OPS over three years in the minors. Ramos, although blocked by Joe Mauer at the big league level, has a .281 average over five seasons in the minors and reportedly has decent pop.

If Fletcher’s report is true, then the Mariners would have a hard time rejecting the Twins’ offer. At 34-48 and currently sitting in last place in the AL West, Seattle is out of contention and is desperate for young bats. Lee also becomes a free agent at the end of the year and the M’s aren’t expected to retain him with a long-term contract so they have to get something for him at this year’s trade deadline or be out of luck.

That said, the Mariners are going to take their time because they’ll have plenty of suitors for Lee. This would be one hell of an offer, but one would think that they would wait until closer to the deadline to move him in hopes that a desperate team overpays for his services.

Besides, rumors like this are usually denied about 34 seconds after I get the post up, which really, really makes me happy.

Report: Cliff Lee not on the trading block yet

May 11, 2010: Cliff Lee for the Seattle Mariners pitches during a game against the hometown Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. The Mariners beat the Orioles 5 - 1.

Despite rumors stating that several teams are interested in the ace, the Mariners have yet to put Cliff Lee on the trading block according to the New York Daily News.

“It is the same thing with (Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik) as it has been all along,” the source said. “He knows to contact teams when he’s ready to deal. He hasn’t done that yet, but that could change any minute.”

According to people familiar with the Mets’ thinking, Lee remains the team’s top choice of all potentially available starters. Therefore, the Mets’ pursuit of pitching help will accelerate along with the lefty’s availability. Despite losses by R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi this week, the Mets remain content – for the moment – with the middle of their rotation, and are not interested in Kevin Millwood, Jake Westbrook or any of the other mid-level starters available.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Phillies are also interested in acquiring Lee (or re-acquiring Lee I should say), although GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “will not cut off his nose to spite his face.” In other words, Amaro remains open to the idea of trading for Lee but he’s not going to give up a small fortunate of players for him, which might be exactly what it will take to pry him from Seattle.

He might not be on the trading block now, but I don’t think there’s any chance that the M’s hang onto Lee all season. When they acquired him from the Phillies last offseason, they thought they’d be contenders in 2010. But they haven’t been, and now they need to get something for him before he hits free agency in 2011. It wouldn’t make sense for the Mariners to hang onto him, continue to lose, and not recoup some of the prospects they lost when they made the deal for Lee last winter. (Not the actual prospects that they lost of course, but some prospects.)

Cardinals interested in Mariners’ Cliff Lee

And this week’s Cliff Lee rumor is brought to you by…Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse and Rotoworld!

Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse has confirmed that the Cardinals are indeed interested in Mariners lefty Cliff Lee.

Where the talks currently stand is anyone’s guess. The Cardinals have a very thin farm system and really only boast one top prospect: 19-year-old potential ace Shelby Miller, who has struck out 60 batters in 44 1/3 innings at Single-A this season. If a deal is to happen, he will need to be part of it. Lee, 31, has a 2.39 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and an incredible 76/4 K/BB ratio through 11 starts this year. He has thrown four complete games, one shutout.

The Mariners are looking for young bats in exchange for Lee and as Rotoworld points out, the Cards are a little thin in that area. If (and that’s a big if) the Rangers were able to overcome their financial restrictions and get involved, then it would be hard for St. Louis to match the compensation that Texas could offer out of its farm.

That said, the Cards have already shown that they’ll do whatever it takes to add missing pieces, as they proved last year by trading for Matt Holliday (who provided much-needed protection behind Albert Pujols). If there’s a deal to be worked out and St. Louis is seriously interested, then expect the Cards to be major players in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Baker: Mariners can’t keep Cliff Lee

Despite their recent hot streak, Seattle Times columnist Geoff Baker writes that it’s too late for the Mariners to keep starter Cliff Lee.

Recent play aside, Cliff Lee is likely to be shopped. The Mariners need to start filling holes for next year and beyond and the Lee trade is the best place to start since there is no way he will sign here beyond 2010. He’s in line for a $100-million contract, which he probably has a better shot at getting now than he did last off-season, and is not going to take the massive (try 50 percent) discount the M’s would need to get to keep him. Why would he give them that? He’s been here only two months. … We can dream and dream about a 1-2 punch in the post-season, but this lineup is not good enough to get the M’s there.

Coming into the 2010 season, the Mariners believed that if they pitched well enough and played good defense that they could mask their deficiencies on offense. But seeing as how they’re 13 games back in the AL West and have scored the third fewest runs in baseball, that game plan is shot to hell. Not even Lee and Felix Hernandez can save them.

Baker’s right: at some point, the M’s are going to have to go out and get a big popper for the middle of their lineup. What good is it to have Ichiro on base all the time if he has nobody behind him to knock him in? It’s hard to fault Jack Zduriencik for building the roster around pitching and defense based on the park they play in, but clearly the M’s don’t even have enough offense to be a .500 team.

They need to get a bat in exchange for Lee – that should be Zdurienkcik’s main priority as the trade deadline approaches.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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