You know by now that there are two pretty appetizing starting pitching options on the Mets’ radar right now. 

Those two, obviously, are Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt.  Both are outstanding pitchers on underachieving teams that are trying to dump them in order to clear payroll or to acquire young talent. 

But which one is better for the Mets, both for now and down the road?

If this Mets team was a World Series or bust team, the decision would be pretty apparent: Cliff Lee.  He’s comparable to Johan Santana in how he can dominate a game, and would add a third lefty to go along Santana and Jon Niese, in a division with lefty sluggers such as Chase Utley, Jason Heyward, and Ryan Howard.  Add Mike Pelfrey to that mix, and you have a deadly starting rotation. 

But right now, the Mets are not a World Series or bust team.  They’re a team that has a legit shot at a postseason birth, both this year and in the years to come.  Remember, outside of Rod Barajas, all the important cogs in this Mets lineup and starting rotation will still be here. 

For a Mets team that could make some noise for a while, it makes more sense to go with a pitcher that gives the Mets more roster security.  That pitcher is Roy Oswalt. 

The thinking behind this is that the Mets would get more value for their dollar if they go after Oswalt, who is under contract until after the 2011 season with a team option for 2012.  He’d most likely cost fewer prospects than Lee. 

The biggest downfall on the Mariners ace is his contract is up after this year, making him a free agent.  It’s hard for the Mets to justify sending three or four good prospects to Seattle for only three guaranteed months of Cliff Lee.

Now, I can’t argue that Oswalt is a better pitcher than Lee.  Lee is more consistently dominant, and all of his numbers outside of strikeouts so far this season are better than Oswalt’s.  We’re talking WHIP, walks, ERA, BAA, everything.  The facts lie in the stats. 

That said, Oswalt is a better option than Lee.  While not up to par with Lee this season, the fireballer would still fall in very nicely behind Santana and Pelfrey. 

Oswalt is more likely to become a Met for two reasons: One, is that his contract extends past this season, and two, he would cost a reasonable amount less to acquire than Cliff Lee would.  It’s completely feasible the Mets could pass on Lee this summer, acquire Oswalt, and then court Lee in the offseason.

We’ll find out which way the Mets will go relatively soon. There are reports out of Seattle that Lee might make his final start for the Mariners as soon as Wednesday.  Oswalt has yet to rescind his request to be traded. 

The trading deadline is about five weeks away.  The Mets have two targets sited.  It’s just a matter of whether they play it safe or take a little gamble.

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