Mariners trade for Cliff Lee

In what will certainly go down as one of the biggest single sports days for Seattle sports fans, the Mariners added to the euphoria every Husky football fan was feeling when they reached agreement with the Philadelphia Phillies Monday to receive left-hander Cliff Lee for prospects.

Lee, 31, a former Cy Young award winner with the Cleveland Indians in 2008 when he went 22-3 with a 2.68 ERA, was available after turning down an extension offer from the Phillies over the weekend.

Not to mention the fact that the Phillies were in serious talks with the Blue Jays once again to pry away another Cy Young pitcher in Roy Halladay.

The two deals began as one three team trade but eventually morphed into a companion set of deals as the prospects being traded to the Blue Jays began to take shape.

Early on it looked like Mariners AA pitching prospect Phillippe Aumont, a Canadian, was set to go to Toronto while the Phillies would send minor leaguers C Travis D’Arnaud and OF Michael Taylor in return for Roy Halladay. The Mariners meanwhile would send minor leaguers OF Tyson Gillies and P Juan Ramirez to the Phillies in exchange for Lee.

However, Toronto continued to hold out for the highly touted Phillies prospect P Kyle Drabek. As that began to take shape, the deal reformed sending Aumont instead to Philadelphia essentially making this 3-way deal instead two companion trades.

As it stands for the M’s, this trade garners them a dynamite No. 2 starter to insert into their starting rotation behind ace Felix Hernandez. And while Lee only has one year left on his contract that pays him $9 million for 2010 and appears to be dead set on entering the free agent market, the Mariners also did not overpay to get a player of Lee’s caliber with only one year of control.

When you consider that neither Aumont (20), Gillies (21) or Ramirez were on the Mariners 25 man roster or projected to be on the team entering the 2010 season, it doesn’t hamstring the team in the way the Bedard trade did two years ago.

On the contrary, Seattle General Manager Jack Zduriencik held onto players like pitcher Brandon Morrow, catcher Adam Moore, outfielder Michael Saunders and shortstop Carlos Truinfel — unanimously considered Seattle’s top bargaining chips.

And while Lee is in essence a rent-a-player, the Mariners now have a dynamic starting rotation that has perhaps the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball and the flexibility to do whatever they wish with Lee in the coming year.

For example, if things don’t go as planned they could deal him mid-season for essentially what they paid for him today or let him walk in free agency (if unable to reach a deal) for two compensatory draft picks that would also be near equal in value.

At the end of the day, this is a deal that the Mariners simply could not pass up and had to make. What it does for the Mariners future is provide immediate hope for a postseason berth that has been unattainable since 2001.

What happens with Hernandez’s and Lee’s contracts in the coming year remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is the Seattle Mariners now have two of arguable the top five pitchers in all of baseball under their control.


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