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June 24, 2010 at 8:20 AM

Mets, Twins appear to be two frontrunners in Cliff Lee sweepstakes

Quite the outing by Cliff Lee yet again, leading the Mariners to a sixth win in a row. By the way, have you ever seen a team have so much trouble picking up even a single game in the standings? It’s getting ridiculous.
And at 13 games out, the Lee trade talk is not dying down. It’s picking up. I said a couple of days ago that the Twins, Rangers and Mets looked like the biggest suitors and you can now cross the boys from Texas off because a bankruptcy ruling on Tuesday makes it next to impossible for the Rangers to add significant payroll.
Better luck next time.
That leaves the Twins and Mets. The Twins have been seen as favorites because they have a blocked top catching prospect in Wilson Ramos that they could make a centerpiece to a deal along with a mid-to-back-end starting pitcher. Seattle has apparently let teams know that acquiring a good catching prospect is high on their priority list.
But the Mets have some pretty good young players of their own. Not catchers, mind you, but if the rumors coming out of New York are true, the M’s might have to ship Lee off to the Big Apple.
That’s because the rumors — and they are only rumors, but with some logic — say the Mets might offer top pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia (photo above) and current major league outfielder Angel Pagan in a Lee swap. Wow, that one would be tough to decline.
Photo Credit: AP

Let’s start with the fact that Mejia is only 20, was rated at the team’s No. 1 pitching prospect by Baseball America, throws 98 mph and has already posted a 3.25 ERA in 30 big league relief outings. He’s been sent to the minors to be stretched out as a starter and — some suggest — showcased as a trade chip. His command needs work but that’s a serious prospect to get for a half-season rental.
Sounds like another crack at a Brandon Morrow type, only much younger. I also can’t help but think back to 1989 when my Montreal Expos traded this tall, lanky lefthanded prospect (and two other pitchers) for a half-season rental of Mark Langston. Yeah, Seattle did OK in that deal.
Not saying Mejia is going to turn out that great. You never know with prospects. But his arm would be an exciting one to have in the system and — maybe fairly soon — in the big league rotation.
As for Pagan, who turns 29 next week, he could get squeezed out of the Mets outfield by the return of Carlos Beltran.
But you look at his numbers and you start to think of a guy who, while blocked by more established stars, could emerge as a very good everyday player. Maybe not as good as Franklin Gutierrez, but something in the same undervalued area code.
Hitting-wise, he’s got the on-base percentage, at .350 last year — in 376 plate appearances — and ..363 this year in 289 plate appearances already. You know the Mariners will love that. He slugged .487 last year and is at .443 this year, which, combined with his OBP, would easily make him one of the best Seattle hitters right now.
Though he’s a right handed bat (well, some of the time anyhow, because he’s a switch-hitter — my mistake), he gets his slugging through doubles and triples gap power and speed, which would help him at Safeco Field.
He scores above average defensively in both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved as well. Very important.
In other words, he projects as a very good all around major league outfielder.
He’s a center fielder mostly, but could become the every day left fielder in Seattle. Michael Saunders, while showing home run power, has yet to find day-to-day consistency.
So, that’s something to think about.
Bring in a guy like Mejia, with Michael Pineda in Class AAA, and you’ve all of a sudden got two pretty imposing starters right on the cusp of the majors to add to your rotation of the future.
And a possible every day left fielder in Pagan to solve that positional problem.
Now, as I said, that’s the rumor of the day. Take it with a mound of salt, please. This item from yesterday, in the New York Post, suggests the Metts are unlikely to deal Mejia. But that’s what teams always say before they deal a guy. Who knows? Would the Mariners have to send more than just Lee to New York? Possibly. But those two names certainly pique one’s interest. This trade buzz is almost as much fun as watching the games.



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