When the Mariners re-signed Felix Hernandez, fans rejoiced. For many, Felix is like our son, a boy we've watched grow and develop. We grieve and celebrate in time with the emotions that he wears on his sleeve. When Felix is on fire, there's almost nothing more fun than watching him pitch, as he smokes through the strikeouts and roars with glee.
Then came 2010 and with it the trading for Cliff Lee from the Philadelphia Phillies (much to Lee's chagrin). Suddenly Mariners fans had a new, exciting pitcher to watch, and although Felix days were still filled with Sunshine and Lollipops, Lee days are now considered must-watch baseball. On Tuesday night, Clifton pitched his third complete game in as many starts, taking the New York Yankees down in a 7-4 victory for Seattle.
Watching the Mariners defeat the Yankees is always a glorious event for any Mariners fan, so watching our lefty ace take the mound in all nine innings made it even sweeter. But even the most frenetic fan of Lee needs to stop short of getting his face (or pitching arm) tattoo'd on his or her body. After winning the AL Cy Young award with the Cleveland Indians in 2008, and helping guide the Phillies to two World Series victories in 2009, it's a safe assumption that Lee is not happy with his current situation, given that the Mariners are sitting last in the division.
With the Mariners out of contention, it's only logical that they deal away their star before the season ends and he becomes a free agent. After all, the club doesn't have hundreds of millions to spare on a new contract for Lee (even though Jeff at Lookout Landing made the point that 180,000 fans could give $100 to the Mariners and we'd be able to hold on to Cliff). The question is, what can we get in return? We'd only be giving up 2-3 months of his pitching, so is it really fair that we receive many shiny toys and coins as compensation?
Yes. Lee is the best pitcher in baseball right now, and in most teams' eyes, he's wasted here in Seattle, where he can't help a team push for the title. But with so many other clubs racing for a spot in the playoffs, there will be plenty of competition for a player like Lee, who can genuinely be a difference maker on the team. It's simple economics: a large amount of competition for a tiny supply will drive up the price.
Other writers have speculated as to who we might get in return for Cliff, and I'd just be copying their insights if I did the same here. Take comfort in the belief that Jack Zduriencik will be working his magic and relying on economic theory to bring us something pretty in return. Instead of speculation I just want to say this -- I hope you watched last night's game, because at this point, we don't know that we'll see another with him in Seattle colors. If we get another Lee start, enjoy it, revel in it, because unlike the old adage, we DO know what we've got, even before it's gone.
Just no tattoos, please.