SEATTLE – A blockbuster, three-team trade that would send former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee to the Mariners was nearing completion late Monday night.
The deal between the Mariners, Phillies and Blue Jays would also send Cy Young winner Roy Halladay to Philadelphia and a package of prospects to Toronto. Seattle was said to be giving up a group of prospects, among them former No. 1 draft pick Phillippe Aumont and Class A outfielder Tyson Gillies.
Lee, 31, is under contract for one more season at $9 million and had indicated to the Phillies he’d be interested in testing the free-agent market after the 2010 season.
His addition would give the Mariners, who already have staff ace Felix Hernandez, one of the best top-end rotation punches in baseball and leave Seattle the option of dealing Lee next summer or likely collecting two compensatory draft picks if he leaves as a free agent.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik declined to comment Monday night. But Zduriencik was expected to speak to the media today to introduce newly acquired third baseman Chone Figgins.
The Mariners also used Monday to solidify their catching situation, signing Eliezer Alfonzo, 30, who hit .238 in 155 big-league games with San Francisco and San Diego, to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training. Seattle had sought veteran insurance at the position in the event Rob Johnson wasn’t sufficiently recovered from off-season surgeries.
As rumors of the pending deal swirled Monday, the list of potential trade candidates from the Mariners’ side grew larger and larger. There were also reports the deal was still ongoing, with Toronto seeking top Philadelphia outfield prospect Dominic Brown, but being offered outfielder Michael Taylor instead.
ESPN reported Monday night that Taylor was indeed headed to Toronto and that parts of the deal had been revised. Instead of heading back to his native Canada to pitch for Toronto, Aumont instead was now headed to Philadelphia.
Gillies, also a Canadian, was reported by ESPN to be on his way to the Phillies as well. The Jays were said to be getting Taylor, catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud and one of two pitchers, J.A. Happ or Kyle Drabek.
It was not immediately clear whether the Mariners would have to give up more than former No. 1 draft pick Aumont and Gillies, the latter named to the Futures Game last summer. Sources had indicated that J.C. Ramirez, a Class A starter in the Mariners system, might also be part of the trade. But that could not be confirmed.
There were also unconfirmed rumors that one of either pitcher Brandon Morrow, left fielder Michael Saunders or Class AA shortstop prospect Carlos Triunfel could be added to Seattle’s trade package.
The office of MLB commissioner Bud Selig on Sunday granted the Phillies a 72-hour window to negotiate a long-term deal with Halladay, who has reportedly agreed to a three-year extension with that club through 2013. Philadelphia attempted to acquire Halladay – a free agent after 2010 – last July, but after talks broke down, dealt for Lee instead.
The acquisition of Lee, regardless of whether he eventually becomes a free agent, could dramatically impact the balance of power in the American League West in 2010. The three-time defending division champion Angels suffered a triple blow on Monday, learning the Mariners were about to land Lee and that their own staff ace, John Lackey, had agreed to a free-agent deal with Boston.
The Angels had also been vying to land Halladay and now appear to lack a front-line starter.