It seems pretty clear that Cliff Lee will be available on the trade market in the month of July. He is in the final year of his contract, he likely will not be returning to the Seattle Mariners next year, and the club could use an infusion of young talent to help it rebuild. That means any team in a pennant race at the trade deadline will want to add Lee for the stretch run. That list would include the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, New York Mets, and maybe even the Atlanta Braves. Really any team looking to make a run at a division title will want him, and that will likely drive the price for him up.
Normally a guy who has been traded as many times as Cliff, a trade to a new team will be his fourth team in the last two year, would be damaged goods. However in Lee’s case I think he has tremendous value, and he has been on a series of struggling teams. Of course the Philadelphia Phillies chose Roy Halladay over Lee, but for the most part Lee has been dealt by bad clubs to help them get prospects or for the team to dump a large salary.
So even though he would be a rental player, I think the minimum price he would fetch on the trade market would be a team’s top pitching prospect, and very likely a top position prospect as well. Most clubs will want a chance to negotiate a new contract with him before paying such a price.
There is no clear leader in the Lee sweepstakes yet, but with at least two if not three AL Central teams looking to add an arm, it seems the Mariners will likely get two top prospects for their star pitcher.