Cliff Lee Hits New York (But He Isn't Staying)

A potential future Met or Yankee takes the hill in the Bronx

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    When we last saw Cliff Lee in New York City, he was wearing a Phillies uniform and shutting down the Yankees in Game One of the World Series.

    When we next see him in these parts he may well be wearing NY on his cap as a starter for one of our two teams.

    For now, though, he's a member of the Seattle Mariners and will take the mound for them against Phil Hughes and the Yankees at the Stadium on Tuesday night. With the Mets known to be interested in a potential trade for the ace lefty and the Yankees believed to be targeting him as a free agent after the season, Lee's start figures to be analyzed with the intensity normally reserved for films shot by Zapruder.

    There's a good chance people will like what they see. Lee has been typically outstanding since missing most of April with an abdomen injury and he's stepped his game up in June. He's 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA, three complete games and a 34/1 K/BB ratio in 42 innings. If you were wondering why team are interested in trading for him, just re-read that sentence three or four times.

    Of course, things aren't so easy as just trading for him. Lee is a free agent after the season and he's indicated that he's got no interest in signing a contract extension before hitting the open market. He's also said to be looking for a deal in the neighborhood, if not in the same exact cul-de-sac, as the $161 million, seven-year deal signed by CC Sabathia. Those are two wrinkles that the Mets would need to iron out if they wanted to bid for Lee and it might all be moot thanks to the rotator cuff injury sustained by presumed trade centerpiece Jennry Mejia over the weekend.

    Lee's desire to taste free agency is also why there's little to no chance that the Yankees will make a run at trading for him this season. In a repeat of the strategy they used during the summer of 2008 when Sabathia was acquired by Milwaukee, the Yankees will let other teams spend their prospects on a rental and then spend draft picks on a long-term acquisition if it is their fancy. Thanks to Hughes's breakout season, it is hard to argue that they need Lee desperately enough to deviate from that course of action.

    Speaking of Hughes, it will also be worth watching to see if his extended time off has any negative effect on his performance Tuesday night. He last pitched on June 19th as the team rejiggered their rotation to help limit the amount of innings the righty pitches this season. Such activities seemed to hurt Joba Chamberlain last season and everyone's hoping that things go more smoothly this time around.

    If all that isn't enough to get you to tune into the action from the Bronx, there's also Joe West working a Yankee game for the first time since he called them "pathetic and embarrassing" for how long it took them to play games against the Red Sox.

    Funnily enough, John Isner of longest tennis match in history fame is throwing out the first pitch tonight. No matter what his toss looks like, West is expected to call him pathetic and embarrassing as well.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.