It’s the beginning of June and while the Yankees are in the midst of a pennant race with the Rays, that hasn’t been the buzz of the area lately.

Nope. The buzz belongs to the possible trade destinations of the Seattle Mariners’ left handed pitcher, Cliff Lee.

Before the start of the season, I honestly thought Seattle would be a major contender in the division and they would hold onto Lee for the 2010 season. Hell, I even picked them to win the A.L. West this season, especially when they got Lee back in the winter.

Currently, Seattle is 23-37, in last place of the A.L. West and 10 games out of first place, and isn’t showing any signs of being a contender this year.

Oops. Shame on me for that one.

Because Seattle is doing so badly, everyone is expecting Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik to start entertaining offers for Lee.

The team that a lot of people expect to have the most interest for Lee is the Yankees, which makes a lot of sense. They are two games out of first place and adding Lee to their pitching staff would almost guarantee a playoff spot, considering how good their rotation is already, especially with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte carrying the load from the 2009 playoffs and now adding a dominant Phil Hughes into the mix.

Here’s the dilemma: Lee is a free agent after 2010 and most expect him to hit the free agent market.

Yankees featured columnist Joseph DelGrippo just did a story questioning why the Yankees should trade for Lee as opposed to just waiting until the end of the season.

He made a lot of great points, for example that in a deal, Seattle could ask for top catching prospects Jesus Montero and/or Austin Romine, but if the Yankees waited until November, they wouldn’t have to trade away prospects.

There is also the possibility that the other New York team in town, the Mets, could show an interest in Lee as well. The same Mets who swooped in at the last minute and got Johan Santana for practically nothing over the Yankees and Red Sox in 2008.

The Mets could use another arm in their rotation to go along with Santana and the emerging Mike Pelfrey, but many also wonder if Omar Minaya is as willing to deal away his top prospects for practically renting two months of Lee, because there is no guarantee that he will re-sign with them.

We’ve heard reports saying both that the Yankees will be interested in Lee once he is on the market and that the Yankees won’t be interested in Lee.

If you look at the Yankees’ trading history, they aren’t known to make major trades at the deadline. Their biggest one of recent was for Bobby Abreu from the Phillies back in 2006, and Philadelphia gave him away because it was a salary dump.

But the Yankees are still the Yankees, and they are always contending. You know they don’t want to sit in second place all season long and have the Rays win the division and fight off the Red Sox for the Wild Card. That’s not the Yankees’ philosophy. Their philosophy is win big and let teams come to them.

So does Lee get traded? One A.L. executive told the New York Post’s Joel Sherman that he expects him to get dealt in the next month or so, especially since now would probably get Seattle the best possible return package rather than waiting until July 31.

It also looks highly likely since it has also been reported that the Seattle scouts were attending the Yankees A, AA and eventually, the AAA minor league teams to scout their talent pool because they expect to be in negotiations and talks with the Yankees in a deal for Lee. Sending scouts to any team pretty much means that Seattle is preparing to deal away the former Cy Young winner.

The only question now becomes: Do the Yankees deal away prospects to get Lee? Or do they gamble and wait until November and just sign him as a free agent?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Personally, I think Yankees GM Brian Cashman will wait until the off-season, because now he is more committed to holding onto top prospects in the middle of a season rather than trading them, especially with Lee hitting free agency in five months.

Plus, in DelGrippo’s story, he made a couple of valid points to guarantee Lee coming to the Yankees.

First, Lee and Sabathia are good friends from Cleveland and CC has already told Lee how great it is to play in the Bronx. That makes a ton of sense, especially since if it weren’t for the Yankees, Lee would have been a World Champion in Philadelphia.

Second, Lee and Burnett are good friends from back in Arkansas and, in fact, share the same agent, Darek Braunecker. Having hometown friends is another reason to come on board.

The last involves the unknown futures of Pettitte and Javier Vazquez after 2010. Many, including myself, feel that Pettitte will retire after 2010, especially if the Yankees make another deep October run and win another title.

Many also feel that Vazquez will not be back in New York next season and will likely go back to the National League where he had more success and better numbers.

When this is all said and done, I still feel that when it is time to put up our Christmas trees (and maybe even the 28th World Series banner) in December, Lee will be fitted for pinstripes and coming to the Bronx.

But as far as Lee coming to the Bronx in the summer time, I don’t see Cashman parting with major prospects, especially ones like Montero or Romine, to get two months of Lee and then hope to re-sign him back for 2011 and beyond.

But, I’ve seen crazier things happen with this team, and anything can happen. Stay tuned to see how this story and drama unfolds.


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