Cliff Lee to Twins Rumors Are Terrifying If True

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If you're like me, and you were driving after 5 on your way home from work Tuesday afternoon, and flicked on 670 AM the Score, you probably heard two random talking heads flapping about the Mariners trading Cliff Lee to the Twins like it was some sort of done deal.  If you were anywhere near me on the I-94, I'm sorry for swerving like I had just been shot in the neck.  Momentarily I forgot that these were late-day sports radio hosts trying to fill time on a day after no local teams had played, and radio guys in this situation have the credibility of saaay...a talking pastrami sandwich, perhaps?
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  I was reminded of this during my in-depth scouring of the internet that turned up barely more than a trace of rumor on this trade, even on sites as dedicated to this sort of thing as mlbtraderumors.com. 

But that doesn't mean that the proposed deal doesn't make sense.  Sarah Palin will carry New York state in the general election before Cliff Lee re-signs with Seattle, the Mariners are Greek-economy-level desperate for some hitting, and the Twins have little use for highly-regarded prospect Wilson Ramos seeing as he plays the same position as the 2009 AL MVP.  This could be disastrous...beyond disastrous.

This is not to say that Cliff Lee is a God amongst men; and it's nowhere near as bad as it would be if the Mariners were waiving Felix Hernandez out for the taking, but an ace pitcher is exactly what the Twins are lacking, and it will make it even worse if they don't have to subtract anything of use to them to acquire him.

The Twins lineup is pretty fearsome (Morneau & Mauer, 5th in MLB is OPS), their bullpen is superb, they play fantastic defense (Fewest errors in baseball), and they have a pair of good pitchers at the top of their rotation in Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano.  What they lack is a playoff-proven, durable ace, and Cliff Lee is certainly that.  Rotations contributors like Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and (though not nearly as much) Nick Blackburn have been consistently decent for Twinkies, but stop far short of making their starting pitching a strength.  It'd be one thing for the Twins to add another bat, an elite defender, or even to overspend for a closer, but it's through the starting pitching staff that the Twins can transform from "the team that happens to be in front of the AL Central" to an elite competitor; a team that might not get annihilated by whichever AL East team wins the Wild Card in the 1st round.  At least not completely.

But the Mariners aren't stupid....well....um...ok...do-over.  The Marines have made some mistakes in the past operationally, but are at least looking to get their share for Lee.  And their share means more than the guy with a .580 OPS in Triple-A this season.  Because of that, the Twins will have to ponder whether they are willing to part with two elite prospects, whether they'll risk being outbid by refusing to do so, or contemplate whether they can afford to do anything after they paid Joe Mauer all the money in the world.

The Twins are typically not big buyers...ever, but especially not during the trade deadline where front offices are typically forced to overpay for the big shiny player that they refuse to leave the mall without.  Take heart in the fact that this is not the type of move the Twins are known to make, but remember that they've also opened a new stadium and thrown out a huge long-term contract this season; so this may be as good of a moment as ever for their first time.

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