Cliff Lee just finished perhaps his best start of the season—thus proving once again that he should not be traded.
Lee (5-3), lowered his ERA to 2.55. He allowed no runs and struck out seven Cincinnati Reds batters in a complete game. It was his second complete game of the season.
Lee has been the focus of many potential trade rumors, and for good reason. He is the best player on the market right now. No disrespect to Roy Oswalt, but this is the man to get. Hopefully, the Mariners can see beyond their current struggles and realize how much value there is in keeping Lee.
Here's just a short list of his strongest features:
He Works Fast
Lee is probably the fastest-working pitcher in Major League Baseball. At one point tonight, for instance, he was on the mound to start the half inning, ready to throw again, before the opposing pitcher was back in the dugout. His quick pace is a refreshing reminder of how baseball used to be played—back when it was America's true pastime, and pitchers and batters would play the game proficiently. Now, watching a Red Sox-Yankees game is like receiving a prison sentence. Everyone should be thankful that Lee's outings save an extra hour of their lives.
He Contributes to Good Team Chemistry
Lee has never been in trouble at any point in his career. Whether in Cleveland, Philadelphia, or Seattle, he has always been a steady influence in the dugout. He takes his outings in stride and always competes.
He has Quality Playoff Experience
Lee pitched in the 2009 World Series, and if it weren't for Hideki Matsui, he could have made a push for MVP. He was as important as any member of the Phillies, not only in the World Series itself, but in helping Philadelphia get there. His second half of last season, after the Phillies acquired him, and his performance during the playoffs established him as a top-10 pitcher in the league, bar none. It caught me by surprise that Philly would give him up, even with the chance to get Roy Halladay. Now that Seattle is thinking the same way, I am in a state of shock once again.
One Bad Season Doesn't Ensure Another
Lee had one terrible season, in 2007, when he posted a 6.29 ERA. Not numbers of a man you would consider an elite pitcher at the time. He rebounded the next year, however, putting up a 22-3 record with a 2.54 ERA with Cleveland. Lee took home the American League Cy Young Award that year. He was also fourth in Cy Young balloting in 2005, going 18-5. He has shown in the past that he was great and will continue to dominate in the future.
He Pitches in Safeco Field
Safeco Field is considered a pitchers' ballpark and Lee has been solid in four of five home outings. (He hasn't been too shabby on the road, either—he has not allowed more than three runs in a game away from Seattle this year.) Safeco benefits a pitcher's performance, as Lee has proven after getting comfortable in its confines.
The Mariners have always failed to have a great No. two pitcher. The 116-win team featured guys having career years, explaining why they could not challenge the Yankees in the 2001 playoffs. If the Mariners can continue to get hitting from this young lineup, then they will have a chance to go to the postseason and reach the World Series.
With Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, the Mariners would have a legitimate shot at the title with some offensive support. Throw in Doug Fister behind them and championship hopes are more reasonable than not.
Look, the Mariners are always among the top 10 in payroll, but not always there in wins. Getting rid of a sure thing in a No. one or two starter does not indicate a winning club—it just reminds us of the pre-Griffey M's.
If the Mariners have any hopes of becoming better, they should keep the known product in Lee. It would take a ridiculous amount of talent on the receiving end to make a trade for this man. This is not the lottery; this is professional baseball, and the M's should make decisions with that in mind. Prospects are nice, but a top-notch starting pitcher for ten years with Hernandez promises a sunny outlook. We will have to see what Jack Z decides to do.