Cliff Lee is a soon-to-be free-agent superstar. The trade deadline is July 31. And the Yankees are the Yankees. As you can imagine, the speculation pretty much writes itself.
For example, here's the first paragraph from a column by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal:
The Yankees are going to end up with Mariners left-hander Cliff Lee. The only question is whether they land him in a trade this summer or as a free agent this winter — and a trade might not be as far-fetched as it appears.
He goes on to explain that the Phillies had approached the Yankees about Lee over the winter, but since their price was too high — they'd end up with Roy Halladay in the eventual trade — the talks never got very far. But the Yankees were apparently willing to include super-prospect Jesus Montero as part of their package.
The Mariners reportedly expect the Yankees to make an offer, but a source tells Mark Feinsand that, barring an injury, they're not interested in dealing for a starter, let alone a front-of-the-rotation talent like Lee. Of course, they would say that — and they should say that: They've got a perfectly good rotation right now, and, if they advance to the playoffs, they should be able to assemble a reliable four-man rotation this time around.
Next year's a different story: It's anybody's guess as to whether Andy Pettitte will be back (he'll actually go through with retiring one of these winters), and Javier Vazquez's contract is up after the season. Which isn't to say that they necessarily need to add an ace to replace either of them, but again, it's the Yankees. Would it surprise you at all?
It's worth noting, of course, that the Yankees aren't the only team who might be interested in acquiring Lee's services. But if it really did come down to the Yankees trading for Lee and extending his contract in July, or the Yankees just signing him next winter — if they really want him, they can just open up the Yankee vault — we'll agree with Feinsand's source: Why part with prospects if you aren't forced to? We will say this, though: If the Mariners were on the verge of trading Lee to a team interested in extending his contract at the deadline — think a mid-season version of the Johan Santana trade — we wouldn't bet against the Yankees getting involved.