On Wednesday, the Mariners announced they acquired Lee from the Philadelphia Phillies for three Minor League players — pitcher Phillippe Aumont, outfielder Tyson Gillies and pitcher J.C. Ramirez.
The trade was part of a three-team deal that saw the Phillies acquire pitcher Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays for three Minor League players and cash.
“We’ve acquired a very, very nice piece to help this organization move forward,” Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “It’s going to be exciting to watch him pitch at the top of the rotation with Felix Hernandez.
“You’re always looking for pitching. In this case, a left-hander, in this ballpark with our defense and what he’s accomplished … it was exciting to be able to acquire him. We’re happy this was able to come to fruition.”
Zduriencik met with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. at the Winter Meetings, and the two started discussing a potential deal. The two even talked on Thursday at the airport in Indianapolis where they “shared some ideas.”
“When Ruben and I connected at the Winter Meetings, I knew he was after Halladay,” Zduriencik said. “He said, ‘Look if I’m able to do Halladay, would you be interested in Cliff Lee?’ I said I would.”
Among those trying not to wait too anxiously for word of a done deal was Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu.
“I wasn’t going to get too excited about anything until I heard from Jack,” Wakamatsu said. “So many things can happen with a deal like this. But Jack seems to like those multi-team trades.”
Last December, Zduriencik and the Mariners were part of a three-team, 12-player trade that brought seven players to the M’s.
Last week, Zduriencik signed free agent infielder Chone Figgins to form a dangerous and speedy 1-2 punch atop the batting order with leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki.
Wednesday, the pitching staff got a similar boost with the addition of Lee, a strike-throwing innings-eater who will fall behind ace right-hander Felix Hernandez atop the starting rotation.
“This is very similar to acquiring Figgins, for what he has a chance of doing at the top of our lineup with Ichiro,” pitching coach Rick Adair said. “Any time you can acquire a guy who’s done what he’s done over the last couple of years, the innings he has pitched and what he’s meant to the clubs he’s been with, it’s exciting.”
Lee, 31, is 90-52 with a 3.97 ERA in eight major league seasons. He went 14-13, 3.22 this year with the Cleveland Indians and Phillies, and went 4-0 in the postseason with two World Series victories over the New York Yankees. He won the American League Cy Young award in 2008 after going 22-3, 2.54 with the Indians, and has pitched at least 200 innings in four of the past five seasons. He pitched a career-high 2312/3 innings this year with 181 strikeouts and 43 walks.
Adair sees the Hernandez-Lee pairing easing not only the bullpen workload because of their ability to pitch into the seventh and eighth innings, but the rest of the starting rotation as well. Too often, Adair said, pitchers at the back of the rotation would feel pressure to pitch deep into games if the bullpen was worn down.
“It’s the kind of thing that snowballs if everything is clicking,” Adair said. “More than anything, this gives everybody who walks into that clubhouse everyday, with the rotation we’re building, the feeling that we have a chance to win.”
There’s already that feeling.
“We’ve now got a Cy Young winner and a guy I still feel like could have been a Cy Young winner going 1-2 for us,” closer David Aardsma said. “It’s a great feeling to know you’ve got two guys at the top of the rotation who can go with anybody at any time.”
toolsy third baseman – check