Is Cliff Lee a Spoiler in the Roy Halladay Sweepstakes?

Jason BurkeCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 16:  Cliff Lee #31 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the New York Yankees during opening day at the new Yankee Stadium on April 16, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. This is the first regular season MLB game being played at the new venue which replaced the old Yankee Stadium as the Yankees home field.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Roy Halladay is all the rage these days, and why not? He is 11-3, allowing only 2.62 runs per nine innings, while pitching in by far Major League Baseball’s toughest division. He has completed both games of his last two starts and four this season alone.

As of today, he is the best pitcher in Major League Baseball.

Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi knows that dealing Halladay now yields the most talent. Any team who imports Halladay has him for this season at a pro-rated $14.25 million and $15.75 million next. On another note, he is not asking for a contract extension like Johan Santana during trade deliberations with the Twins.

However, not much has been made about another ace who is dangling on the market, and it’s not because of lack of interest.  

Cliff Lee of the Cleveland Indians has been drawing interest from many takers. According to surfacing reports, Lee has drawn interest from the Dodgers, Red Sox, Phillies, and Angels. Like Halladay, Lee is also signed through 2010 (with a reasonable $8 million club option).

Lee is 7-9 with an impressive 3.14 ERA on a club that is 42-59, fourth in the American League Central.

The Angels' recent talks for Lee have heated up in the last few days. Howie Kendrick could be the centerpiece of a deal for Lee as opposed to landing Halladay for the steep price of shortstop Erick Aybar, pitchers Jered Weaver or Joe Saunders, infield prospect Brandon Wood, and another high-class pitching prospect.

The Red Sox are also looking elsewhere for the time being after being told by Ricciardi that they’d have to pay 30 percent more than any other team because they were within the same division.

However, the Red Sox are visiting a mega-deal that could net them Lee and catcher Victor Martinez. So far, the sticking point is the Red Sox are unwilling to deal Clay Buchholz, but things may change over the next day or so.

The Phillies' pursuit of Halladay has apparently stalled and has them looking at the Indians lefty for a possible match. The snag seems to be the same one in all these big deals that the Phillies are trying to make: They don’t want to part with hard-throwing righty Kyle Drabek.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, like that they probably wouldn’t have to part with Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley in a deal for Lee.

The Dodgers also have their eyes on George Sherrill and have the prospects to land both Sherrill and Lee if need be. However, they would surrender depth in the process.

Also, don’t count the Texas Rangers out of the sweepstakes. They are looking for a front-line pitcher to acquire and make a push.

So while Roy Halladay may be the sexy media story, the real contenders may be able land Cliff Lee and still have the future talent to surround him with.