SEATTLE – Step by step, the proposed monster trade that would bring former Cy Young-winning pitcher Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners came closer to being finalized Tuesday.
The general structure of the multiple-team trade was put together Monday, with several reports saying the Mariners would to send three minor league prospects – pitchers Phillippe Aumont and Juan Ramirez and outfielder Tyson Gillies – to the Philadelphia Phillies for Lee.
Nothing would get done, however, without final details of a trade sending pitcher Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Phillies. Most of that deal appeared to fall into place late Tuesday after Halladay and the Phillies, according to reports, reached agreement on a contact extension that would pay him about $20 million each year through 2013.
The next step would be approval of medical reports on all players involved, and that could be completed in time for an announcement today.
A fourth team, the Oakland A’s, came into play on Tuesday when ESPN.com reported that the Blue Jays would send outfield prospect Michael Taylor, who they’d get from the Phillies, to the A’s.
As it stood Tuesday, the arrangement that’s being called one of baseball’s biggest trades – with two former Cy Young winners changing teams – appeared like this:
•The Mariners would get Lee from the Phillies in exchange for Aumont, Ramirez and Gillies. Both Ramirez and Gillies played for the Class A Everett AquaSox in 2007.
•The Phillies would get Halladay and send three minor leaguers to the Blue Jays – pitcher Kyle Drabek, catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Taylor.
•The Blue Jays would then send Taylor to the A’s in exchange for third base prospect Brett Wallace.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik refused to discuss the trade during a news conference at Safeco Field introducing newly signed infielder Chone Figgins.
“No comment,” Zduriencik said. “Today is all about Chone Figgins.
“We have a lot of balls we’ve been juggling. We’ve had a lot of discussions going on, a lot of options, looking at them and investigating, and at this moment in time this (Figgins) is one that’s in the fold.”
Asked if he could understand fans’ thirst for some kind of confirmation of whether the rampant online reports of the trade had merit, Zduriencik again was quick with an answer.
“Absolutely,” he said. “And I have no comment on that.”
Neither Zduriencik nor anyone else with the Mariners offered a denial of the trade talk, and there was an air of enthusiasm at the ballpark that went beyond the formality of Figgins pulling on his new No. 9 jersey.
Figgins was excited at the possibility of Lee pitching for the Mariners.
“I hope,” he said, admitting that he has followed reports online the past two days. “I’m a baseball fan first, so I keep up with all of it.”
The trade would give the Mariners what’s being described as the best 1-2 pitching punch in baseball with staff ace Felix Hernandez, who went 19-5 with a 2.49 earned run average, and Lee, who was 14-13, 3.22 with the Cleveland Indians and Phillies.
Lee, who won the American League Cy Young in 2008, went 4-0 in the postseason this year and beat the Yankees twice in the World Series.
The deal isn’t without risk to the Mariners, even though they apparently won’t lose any major leaguers (outfielder Michael Saunders and pitcher Brandon Morrow were mentioned in early reports).
Lee is signed only through the 2010 season, at $9 million, and the Mariners could find themselves in the same situation at this time next year that’s leading the Phillies to trade him away – with two high-priced starters.
Hernandez will be a free agent after the 2011 season, which would set the Mariners up for a huge outlay to two pitchers if they have both he and Lee.
Zduriencik has said his goal in acquiring players is for the moves to make sense for the longterm. He has avoided “rent-a-player” situations since becoming the Mariners’ GM last offseason, even though he traded in July for shortstop Jack Wilson, who had an $8 million option for 2010. The Mariners and Wilson worked out a two-year, $10 million deal last month.
Even with Lee and Figgins, the Mariners would be far from reaching their offseason goals. They would like a power hitter and have openings for a left fielder, a right-handed-hitting designated hitter to pair with Ken Griffey Jr. and a first baseman.
Considerable speculation this offseason has linked the Mariners with free-agent outfielder Jason Bay. While his offense would be welcome, the Mariners reportedly have only lukewarm interest because Bay is considered a below-average fielder.
Zduriencik said he may not be able to land a power hitter.
“One thing we do have is a reasonably good athletic club we can run out there,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to win baseball games. You can score a lot of runs or prevent the other team from scoring runs.
“I’d like to be able to sign a 30-home-run three-hole hitter and a 40-home-run four-hole hitter, but you have to be realistic. Where are you at and what’s available out there, and how can you fit it into the organization and your budget?”