Cliff Lee: The Pitcher the Milwaukee Brewers Should Acquire

Jesse MotiffSenior Analyst IJune 1, 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)

The biggest topic of debate for Milwaukee Brewer fans lately has been whether or not the team should trade for Jake Peavy.

While the majority of fans seem to be against the trade, there are many that would love nothing more to see Peavy suit up for the Brewers. I fall on the side of staying away from Peavy, but I do have a thought on which pitcher the Brewers should bring in.

Doug Melvin should stick to the formula that worked for him last year. Make a trade with the Cleveland Indians for a left-hander who happens to be the defending AL Cy Young winner. Stop me if this sounds familiar.

That's right; Cliff Lee can serve as this year's addition that propels the Brewers towards a second consecutive season in the playoffs.

While Lee isn't nearly the pitcher that C.C. Sabathia was or is, he is certainly capable of coming to Milwaukee and bringing some of the strengths that would prove him just as valuable as Sabathia.

Lee has struggled coming off of his Cy Young award last season. His record sits at 2-6. However he is pitching much better than his record indicates.

Lee pitched only five innings in each of his first two starts. He gave up seven and four runs respectively in those two starts, but he has been on a tear since.

In his last nine starts, Lee has pitched at least six innings in every start. He has not given up more than three runs in any of those starts either. That's nine straight quality starts, an addition that any starting rotation could use.

Lee isn't the overpowering type of pitcher that CC Sabathia is. In 74 innings this year, Lee has only 54 strikeouts. More importantly, he has only walked 16 batters. That's fewer than any other Milwaukee starter, and Lee has significantly more innings pitched than any starter for the Brewers as well.

Lee gives up a lot of hits, but with the Brewers fielding a solid defense, he should be able to keep his run totals right around where they are at now.

The contract situation for Cliff Lee is a bit complicated but it is much more "payroll friendly" than that of Jake Peavy. He has an $8 million club option for 2010, with a $1 million buyout. If Lee pitches well, the Brewers could pick up the option and then possibly look to either decline Braden Looper's option or trade someone like Manny Parra for more help.

While the Indians haven't given up on the 2009 season quite yet, they do sit in last place of the AL Central and could become sellers very soon. Grady Sizemore was just put on the disabled list, and Victor Martinez is banged up as well.

Lee should also cost the Brewers much less in prospects than what C.C. Sabathia did. In fact, the Brewers would be best served by trying to get a "package deal" from the Indians.

If the Brewers could get the Indians to part with Lee and Mark DeRosa, it would ease several problems for the team.

Lee would slide into the upper half of the rotation, and DeRosa could become the full-time second baseman. That would allow Craig Counsell to slide back into his bench role and strengthen the bench.

So what would the Indians be looking for in prospects?

Victor Martinez is too valuable of a hitter to be a long-term answer at catcher. The Brewers could offer Angel Salome or Jonathan Lucroy as the main piece of the trade to the Indians. Each is expected to reach the majors someday as a catcher.

Hernan Iribarren could be another player that heads to Cleveland. If DeRosa comes over in the trade, he would take over for Rickie Weeks at second and block any real shot that Iribarren has at playing every day for the Brewers. Iribarren is a top 20 prospect for the Brewers, and Cleveland could give him a chance to play more in the second half of the season.

With Brett Lawrie and Cutter Dykstra both having moved to second base, Iribarren's long-term chances of playing second for the Brewers are dim. Lawrie or Dykstra could be thrown in for Iribarren if that would sweeten the deal for the Indians, although I find it hard to believe the Brewers would give up on Lawrie after only having him in the organization for a year.

The Brewers also have a lot of low-level pitching prospects that could entice the Indians as well. With five picks in the top 74 of this year's draft, the Brewers could very quickly restock their pitching pool in the minors.

This season is shaping up quite differently than last year for the Brewers. Their starting pitching has performed very well, and they don't need a savior to come into town like CC Sabathia did last season.

Cliff Lee is a strong pitcher to team with Yovani Gallardo at the top of the rotation. Those two plus a consistent Dave Bush and a solid Braden Looper would make for a foursome that would shape up quite well in a short series in the playoffs.

You can rest assured that Doug Melvin will make a trade to make the Brewers a stronger threat to make the playoffs.

Melvin needs only to look to the trading partner that helped vault the Brewers to the playoffs in 2008, for more magic in 2009.


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