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The Highs and Lows of Trading Your Team's Best Player

Seattle is on the verge of trading one of the best pitchers in baseball. Cliff Lee is striking out batters at the second highest rate of his career, but where he walked over four per nine in 2004, his 2010 walk rate is an appallingly low 0.46 per nine. At that rate, he could pitch two complete games and not walk a single batter. Just disgusting, filthy, almost sadomasochistic control. That mix of strikeouts, control, left-handedness and only two home runs allowed in 77.2 innings pitched has earned Lee 3.4 wins above a replacement pitcher. And Seattle is on the verge of trading Lee to the team that assembles the best offer.

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The trade deadline produces enough mixed feelings as is. It’s the symbolic end of the season for many clubs—or the end of contention. It’s certainly the last meaningful milestone for the Mariners who began packing for the off-season in April. Trading a talent as special and entertaining as Lee only compounds the sourness of a once hopeful now lost season.

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The trade deadline produces enough mixed feelings, but that doesn’t stop me from piling on. Pat Androila’s look at blockbuster deals from 2008 is discouraging. For many of the highest profile trades, think Manny, Sabathia and Teixeira, the team receiving the star clearly won, and the team receiving the prospects in return are left hoping someone from the haul makes the majors, much less becomes a regular, much less becomes a star.

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Maybe Seattle can get for Lee what Cleveland received from Montreal for Bartolo Colon: Brandon Phillips, Lee Stevens, Grady Sizemore and, of course, Cliff Lee. And when the deal goes down, it will be tempting to see only the best case scenario for each of the players Seattle receives. But, in reality, a top prospect and some interesting roster filler would be an equitable return, and that’s just not very sexy; not going to sooth my still burning desire to see Lee and Felix manning the one-two as the Mariners crash the postseason.