One year ago today, the Milwaukee Brewers sat in first place of the NL Central with a record of 41-35. They held a one game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, and there was speculation that if the Brewers could add reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, they could make a return trip to the postseason.
Fast forward to today.
The Brewers have a record of 34-42, and sit in third place of the NL Central, eight-and-a-half games behind first place Cincinnati. However, there is still talk that Lee could come to Milwaukee, but not in the same capacity most Brewer fans would like.
The Brewers scuffled their feet on a potential Lee trade last season, and the Phillies quickly acquired him and rode him all the way to the World Series.
It's no secret Jack Zduriencik and the Seattle Mariners are shopping Lee, and once a deal tickles Zduriencik's fancy, Lee will be finding himself right in the middle of a playoff push. While the haul for Lee this year won't nearly be what it was last year, the Mariners will likely still come out winners by trading the lefty.
Rumors have circulated recently that the Brewers, despite their poor start to this year, could acquire Lee. Two scenarios have been discussed to bring Lee back to the National League.
The first trade proposal has Corey Hart being sent to the Mariners for Lee. Hart has more than twice the home runs (17) of any player that has been on the Mariners roster all year. Recently acquired Russell Branyan has 10, but he only has 24 RBI compared to Hart's 60.
Hart would fit in very nicely to the middle of the lineup, and he would be under team control through the 2011 season.
The other proposal would also send Lee to Milwaukee, but for Mat Gamel and one or two other prospects.
Gamel has returned from an injury in Spring Training and is hitting .281, with three home runs and 23 RBI in 40 games played this year. He was also coveted by Zduriencik last year for Jarrod Washburn, but Brewers GM Doug Melvin refused that offer.
Both scenarios would be tempting to each team, but neither would see Lee stay in Milwaukee very long. A third team could get involved for Lee's services, and Milwaukee could immediately deal him for the young pitching Melvin so desperately desires.
It would be a great coup to keep Lee in Milwaukee with a long-term deal, but that is highly unlikely, especially with Randy Wolf having signed a three-year deal this past winter.
If Melvin could find a taker for Wolf, it could happen, but few if any teams will be willing to take on Wolf's two-plus years and over $20 million still remaining on his contract.
The best deal for the Brewers would be to trade Hart for Lee. Hart is having a career year, but he has a very streaky past. It would be smart on Melvin's part to sell high on Hart and get Lee. The hard part is trying to find a team with good young pitching to deal for Lee.
In addition to finding a team with good young pitching, they will also have to be willing to give it up for just two months of service for Lee. The Giants could fit that billing, but they need hitting more than pitching.
The Braves also are in a similar position as the Giants, but they might be willing to make a deal and go for broke in Bobby Cox's last season.
The Brewers missed their best chance for Lee by not acquiring him last season. Bringing him to Milwaukee now would be for nothing more than a cup of coffee to ship him right back out of town.
The team would be better off just trading Hart and other veterans for young pitching and let the contending teams fight over Lee.
To read more by Jesse Motiff, click here.