The assorted scouts who assembled at Safeco Field on Wednesday to watch another gem from Cliff Lee had to be foaming at the mouth in anticipation of what the ace could bring to their respective teams: a top-of-the-line pitcher who is an instant difference maker.

It’s no secret that Lee will not be a Mariner past the trade deadline, especially when he keeps putting up starts like he did against the Cubs.

The lefty looked like a man among boys out there, while getting even tougher as the game progressed.

Lee has put up ridiculous numbers for the flailing M’s—he now leads the AL in ERA at 2.39—and playoff contenders are going to start taking action sooner rather than later.

The Mariners took a gamble on Lee, and unfortunately, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik is going to bust on this one. Lee never seemed to take to Seattle, and his chances of re-signing with the M’s took a major hit when the team started sucking.

Lee wants to win, and with the way the Mariners are configured currently , I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

The Lee situation puts Jackie Z in a dilemma, however. The fans, already frustrated with a disastrous season, will sink further into depression if the Mariners trade away their best player.

Further complicating the situation, Zduriencik knows that he’s not going to be able to bring in a big haul for Lee, a free-agent after the season who is sure to sign a mega-deal.  

So where is Lee going to land? Let’s take a look at the potential contenders.

New York: Both the Yankees and Mets are going to be bidders for Lee’s services; both have the money to sign Lee after the season, and both are in playoff contention. If the Yanks deal for Lee, they’d be reuniting him with former Cleveland teammate C.C. Sabathia and further highlighting the Yankees’ role as the Evil Empire.

The Mets need offense more than pitching, but when you’re counting on guys like R.A. Dickey, perhaps adding another proven arm would be a wise move.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Joe Torre’s club finds itself in the unenviable position of being in a division with two of the best pitching staffs in the league, San Diego and Colorado.

L.A.’s lackluster rotation could use an ace like Lee, but the real problem with the Dodgers is the nasty divorce going on between the team’s owners, the McCourts. Can the Dodgers afford to take on Lee’s salary (and future earnings) when the very public financial issues of the team are on display?

Minnesota Twins: You would normally laugh at the prospect of the skinflint Twins adding salary, but with the move outdoors to Target Field, they now have some available cash.

Sure, they can probably take the weak AL Central without the deal, but bringing on Lee would give Minnesota the playoff big gun they’ve been lacking in recent years. It would mark a seismic shift in the game’s dynamics if the small-market Twins made a large splash like this.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers are rolling right now, and bringing on Lee would pretty much salt the division away and give Texas the kind of pitcher they’ve never had. Rangers GM Jon Daniels is on record as saying he’d be open to trading within the division, but I don’t see Zduriencik handing the AL West over to the Rangers.

Plus, aren’t the Rangers owned by MLB? Doesn’t seem like they should be taking on money right now, but hey, that’s just me being fiscally responsible.

Zduriencik has proven himself an adept trader. He’ll do what he can to play the contenders against one another to get the max return for Lee.

Whoever he gets, I don’t think it’s going to take the sting away from losing a No. 1 (or 1A depending on how you rank Felix Hernandez) starter who we all thought was the last piece of the puzzle on a potential division winner.


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