December 16, 2009 in Sports

Mariners aquire Cy Young winner Lee

Larry Stone Seattle Times
David Phillip photo

Philadelphia Phillies’ Cliff Lee pitches to the New York Yankees during the fifth inning of Game 1 of the Major League Baseball World Series Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, in New York.
(Full-size photo)

One of the biggest deals in Mariners history is official.

Left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2008, comes to Seattle from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for three minor-leaguers: right-handed pitchers Phillippe Aumont and JC Ramirez and outfielder Tyson Gillies.

In a related trade, the Phillies will acquire another former Cy Young Award winner, Roy Halladay, from the Toronto Blue Jays for a package of minor leaguers. That portion of the deal hit an apparent snag today with reports of a failed physical by one of the prospects, but that apparently has been worked out to the point that the Phillies have scheduled a news conference for this afternoon to announce Halladay’s acquisition.

“We are very excited to have Cliff Lee on board in the Seattle organization,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a release announcing the deal. “It goes without saying what a quality pitcher and competitor he is and what he will mean to our ballclub and organization.

“I also want to congratulate Philadelphia and Toronto on how this whole deal was handled. We gave up three very nice prospects to Philadelphia. I think they will be a nice piece of the Phillies’ future, and I want to thank Tyson, Phillippe and JC, and let them know we’ll be rooting for them as they progress toward the majors. It was not an easy decision for us, but we could not pass up the opportunity to add a pitcher of Lee’s ability to our major-league team.”

Lee, 31, was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 2000 (fourth round), and was traded to the Indians, along with Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips, for Bartolo Colon in June 2002.

Lee blossomed into a star with the Indians in 2005, going 18-5, but in 2007 he struggled with an abdominal injury, spent part of the season in the minors, and went 5-8 with a 6.29 earned-run average.

Lee bounced back in a huge way, however, in 2008, going 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA to win the Cy Young. But like Cy Young teammate CC Sabathia the year before, the Indians were forced to trade Lee last year at the July trade deadline, sending him to the Phillies for a package of prospects.

Lee was a combined 14-13, 3.22 last season for the Indians and Phillies, and went 4-0 with 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts. He earned both their victories in the postseason.

With the Mariners, Lee will team with Felix Hernandez to give the club two aces atop their rotation. Lee, however, can be a free agent after this season, during which he will earn $9 million.

Aumont, 21, was the Mariners’ No. 1 pick (11th overall) in the 2007 draft. He split last season between High Desert (A) and West Tennessee (AA), going 2-6 with 16 saves and a 3.88 ERA in 44 relief appearances. He struck out 59 in 51 innings.

Gillies, a 25th-round draft pick in 2006, hit .341 with 104 runs, 17 doubles, 14 triples, nine homers and 42 runs batted in last year for High Desert. Gillies, 21, played for the World squad in the 2009 Futures game as a native of Canada.

Ramirez, 21, went 8-10 with a 5.12 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) with High Desert in 2009. He originally signed with the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2005.

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