Discussion

Safeco Field an ideal ballpark for Lee

Newly acquired left-hander should give the Mariners' rotation an extremely big boost

Originally Published: February 2, 2010
By Rob Neyer | ESPN.com

Editor's note: Hot Stove U. is a six-week course devoted to higher learning, a series consisting of 30 need-to-know topics for 2010.

The setup

In modern baseball, you really do need a scorecard to keep track of the players.

Well, that or you can just look at their jerseys. Or the scoreboard. Which is a good thing, since these days it's not always easy to find a scorecard.

But you get the idea. Thanks to free agency and the necessary focus on payrolls, if a team isn't spending money in the offseason on free agents, it's cutting loose players to save money. Or, in the case of many franchises, both.

Every winter, then, there are dozens and dozens of players who can be had, via free agency or trades. And every single team enters the winter with one goal in mind: getting better. We may assume that every team likes the players they eventually acquire -- if they didn't like them, they wouldn't acquire them in the first place -- but obviously some teams do better than others.

Yes, they often do better because they spend more, whether in money (for free agents) or talent (in trades). But they also do better because they're better able to evaluate their targeted players, in terms of overall ability and specific "fit" with their prospective new team.

Two fantastic starting pitchers changed teams this winter, and both in the same deal: a four-team, nine-player megatrade that sent Roy Halladay from Toronto to Philadelphia and Cliff Lee from Philadelphia to Seattle.

Halladay's arrival in Philadelphia made the biggest splash, and for good reasons: Halladay quickly signed a long-term contract with the National League champions, and he's arguably the best pitcher in the major leagues.

Nevertheless, in terms of "fit," the Mariners just might have come out ahead with Cliff Lee.

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