Twenty four hours ago, I thought Cliff Lee would be in pinstripes. Although I was very hesitant to give up Jesus Montero, Lee is one of the top left-handed pitchers in the game, and a rotation featuring three lefties in Lee, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte along with Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett would have been nearly unstoppable. I had images of dominant second half running through my mind.
As we now know, with the deal 99.9 percent done and with the teams’ already having exchanged medicals, the Mariners pulled out. Ostensibly, they got cold feet over David Adams’ ankle, and that’s an excuse I don’t buy for a second. Players recover from ankle sprains, and Montero — not Adams — was the key piece to the deal. But somehow, the Rangers came a-knockin’, and for Justin Smoak and three others, Lee was theirs for the next two and a half months. Maybe he can bring the franchise their first playoff series victory since joining the league as the Washington Senators in 1961.
The fallout from the Mariners’ dealings have been wide-reaching. The Yankees, as Tyler Kepner writes, are mad at the Mariners. A year ago, Seattle asked for Austin Jackson for Jarrod Washburn; this year, they could have landed Jesus Montero for Cliff Lee. By now, I’m sure Brian Cashman has grown tired of the Mariners’ antics, and the prevailing sense in the organization is that Seattle used them to get Smoak.
Although a general manager is obliged to make one last call before signing off on a deal, others in baseball feel the Mariners went to far, says Joel Sherman and George A. King III. The Yankees, say the two well-connected Post reporters, believed the deal to be done pending acceptance of physical reports, but the Mariners on Friday started to ask around for Eduardo Nunez instead of David Adams. The Yankees were hesitant after agreeing to a framework of a deal the night before. “The Yankees do not do business that way,” a Yankee official said to the Post. “When we say something is a deal, it is a deal.”
In the same article, Cliff Lee said that he spoke with CC Sabathia on Thursday night, expecting to rejoin his former Cleveland teammate in pinstripes. Sabathia mentioned yesterday that Lee was looking forward to being a Yankee, and Lee speculated that the media coverage made the Rangers up their offer. Generally, that’s the way these trades work, and the Mariners would have gone back to the Rangers whether The Post had broken the story or not. For what it’s worth, Torii Hunter, who wants to be a GM one day, believes the Mariners broke an unwritten rule when they traded Lee within the division. Of course, he’s saying that because now the Angels have to go through Lee and the Rangers to reach the playoffs.
Interesting, in all of the coverage of the prospects, the Yankees now seem more willing to trade Jesus Montero than they were a few months ago when Roy Halladay was available. With the emergence of Austin Romine and the depth at catcher which includes a 17-year-old Gary Sanchez now with the Rookie Leagues and probably three or four years away, the team is loaded at that position. Club officials are not confident that Montero will stick behind the plate even as they believe he could bring an impact bat to the lineup. As trading him would have been a reasonable move, keeping him is just as positive for the future of the franchise.
For now, the consensus around baseball is that the Yankees will get their man a few weeks after the World Series ends. If it’s only a matter of money for Lee, the Yanks’ offer will trump all others. They didn’t get their man yesterday through no fault of their own, and now they might have to go through him to reach World Series title number 28. They’ve done it before; they can do it again.