If Halladay stays, does Lee go?

The Indians, staying true to company form, are mum on whether or not Cliff Lee is on the block. But if what Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said today is true, and Roy Halladay is, indeed, “unlikely” to be traded, that would only serve to make Lee all the more valuable to contending clubs.

Several of those clubs, including the Phillies and Dodgers, had scouts at tonight’s game at the Rogers Centre to watch Lee, and they saw the reigning AL Cy Young winner turn in a complete-game gem against Halladay’s Jays. Lee improved to 6-9 with a 3.17 ERA in a season in which his record is no indication of how well he’s pitched.

The contenders know this, and the Indians have to know their odds of keeping Lee beyond his 2010 option year, in which he’d make $9 million, are slim to none. Of course, trading Lee in advance of that option year, with no top-of-the-rotation starters in the system or on the horizon, would surely be a major blow to any hopes of the Tribe contending next season. But trading Lee with a little less than a year and a half left on his contract would allow the Indians to pull in maximum value for the left-hander.

Teams get desperate for starting help this time of year, and it’s not every day that a club can land a bona fide No. 1 of Lee’s ilk. If Halladay is pulled from the block, as Ricciardi hints, then the desperation to land Lee only rises — and with it rises the temptation for the Tribe to pull the trigger on a trade.

— Anthony Castrovince

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