Phillies Ace Cliff Lee Only Costs Mariners P Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies

Andy AugerContributor IDecember 15, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 02:  Starting pitcher Cliff Lee #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in Game Five of the 2009 MLB World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 2, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies won 8-6.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

As of this morning, the Seattle Mariners are finalizing their parameters as a part of  baseball's arguably biggest blockbuster trade of all time

As is well documented, the Seattle Mariners are likely some minor haggling and a physical away from landing Philadelphia Phillies ace Cliff Lee in a three-team deal also involving fellow Cy Young award-winning ace Roy Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays.

The latest proposed structure of the deal heading into this morning stands as:

Toronto Blue Jays would receive prospects OF Michael Taylor, C Travis D'Arnaud, and P Kyle Drabek from the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Philadelphia Phillies would receive ace Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays and prospects P Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies, and an additional prospect, thought to be JC Ramirez, or Michael Saunders, from the Mariners.

Seattle Mariners would receive ace Cliff Lee from the Phillies.

As you step back and look at this trade, the Mariners and Phillies appear to have committed highway robbery at the expense of the Blue Jays.

The Seattle Mariners are giving up what amounts to one of their top pitching prospects, Phillippe Aumont, and Single-A OF Tyson Gillies for a recent Cy Young winner and the ace for recent World Series participants in Cliff Lee.

The Mariners have a top pitching unit already saturated with young, talented arms such as Felix Hernandez, Mark Lowe, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Morrow, Doug Fister, Luke French, Ian Snell, Ryan Rowland-Smith, and Jason Vargas. Losing Aumont won't even amount to the Mariners ever feeling a pinprick.

Gillies was a rising prospect currently playing for the Mariners' class-A affiliate. With the current personnel on the Mariners' major league roster, it would have been quite a long time, if ever, until we saw him starting over any of the current three projected OF starters. Another pinprick that will never be felt by the Mariners at the major league level.

While seemingly having managed to hold on to top prospects P Brandon Morrow, SS Carlos Triunfel, and LF Michael Saunders, general manager Jack Zduriencik has pulled off another outstanding move for the Mariners in acquiring a left-handed ace while literally not taking anything away from the MLB roster.

Let's not give all the credit to the Mariners. If this deal goes down as it currently stands, the Phillies also come away with what seems like a nicer haul than the Blue Jays' cut is. In addition to receiving the Cooperstown-bound Halladay, the Phillies are also essentially replacing Toronto-bound prospects P Kyle Drabek and OF Michael Taylor with Mariners imports Aumont and Gillies.

So when all the dust settles, the Phillies could be seen as seemingly receiving Roy Halladay for Cliff Lee and C Travis D'Arnaud.

I don't even know how to grade Toronto. Out of the three teams, they are the ones with the biggest potential for "ripped off" status. Trading the franchise's icon for a top pitching prospect and a couple prospects with a few years before making an impact in the majors, has me scratching my head, but as a Mariners fan, that's fine by me.

The deal will likely be finalized tomorrow. The swap of two Cy Young award-winning aces looks to make this arguably the biggest trade in the modern baseball era.

There were other moves, along with this blockbuster deal, that have seriously good ramifications for the Seattle Mariners' further offseason activity.

With the Boston Red Sox signing former Angels ace John Lackey to a five-year, $85 million contract, they helped out the Mariners by stealing away their archrival's top pitcher. In addition to helping the Mariners by further gutting the Angels, the Red Sox also made it clear they are way out of the Jason Bay sweepstakes when they also signed his replacement in former Mariners CF Mike Cameron.

In regards to Bay, only the Mets have made their four-year, $65 million offer to him public. It seems the Mariners' only other competition appears to be those poor Angels.

Or are the Angels even Bay bidders anymore? With the loss of Lackey, the Angels struck back by signing DH Hideki Matsui to a one-year, $6.5 million contract to boost the offense. Matsui takes up what amounts to over half of the Angels' rough $12 million offseason budget.

Unless they were to almost double that proposed figure, they would have a zero percent shot to land Bay, and that's not even counting other moves, like acquiring a starting pitcher, this increasingly depleted Angels team needs to make in the wake of losing Lackey.

Unless a surprise team pops up, the bidding seems to be down to the Mariners and Mets. With the Mariners getting the ace they desired (at half the cost of Lackey, I might add, and no subtraction from the MLB roster), they are still loaded with $33 million of the $50 million in salary space cleared after the 2009 season.

With another staff ace added to what was arguably already the American League's best pitching staff, and the potential departure of Adrian Beltre taken care of by signing All-Star Chone Figgins, the Mariners can now afford to outbid anyone they please to sign the power bat they so desperately need in Jason Bay.

The Mariners have a larger budget and a better, younger, more promising team than the laughingstock the sorry Mets have become. The home field advantage the Mariners hold with the Seattle resident could act as any potential tiebreaker between bids.

Seeing how the Mariners have been operating this offseason, they could probably offer Bay less than the Mets end up offering and still acquire him if his desire to play for Seattle is as high as reported.

Also, the factor of already acquiring All-Star players Figgins and Lee, in itself, could also have a major pull effect to the Pacific Northwest for Bay as he sits and watches the Mariners collect well-regarded All-Stars, contrasted by the Mets' inactivity in the market so far.

What a fantastic offseason so far, guys. What started as quibbling from Mariners fans about failing to grab Rich Harden or pull off a trade for CF Curtis Granderson has now turned into the signing of an All-Star third baseman, the steal of a Cy Young award-winning ace from the NL's World Series representative, and the potential to do much more—all at the ultimate expense of their main foes in the AL West.

Not only did the Mariners sign away the dynamic 3B Chone Figgins, they also blocked the Angels from acquiring their most desired trade targets in Lee and Halladay by also stealing Lee from their grasp while not sacrificing any players at the major league level.

Now they have a chance to steal away a rumored Angels target in LF Jason Bay by seemingly outbidding them, or any other team if they so please.

So far having acquired Figgins and Lee, coupled with the very likely Bay signing, at the Angels' expense, would be sending a very strong statement to the Angels that this squad is no longer the team known for those five-for-one prospect gift drives run by Bill Bavasi.

This team is real. They are adding significant pieces at very reasonable cost and are not close to even being done fine-tuning a roster that just finished improving by 24 wins in one season under the new, and incredibly effective, Mariners brain trust run by arguably the game's top GM.

If the latter two end up becoming Mariners officially, it would leave the Mariners roughly $17 million free just from their offseason salary purging to pursue a No. 3 starting pitcher (Erik Bedard?), re-sign Russell Branyan, and perhaps add someone like 1B/DH Nick Johnson into the fold.

After breaking even from 2009's payroll, after loading the roster, the Mariners could begin talking contract extension to the game's most valuable pitcher in hurler Felix Hernandez. The floating rumor of a six-year, $100 million contract would be a good place to start.

Now armed with baseball's top duo of starting pitchers, and the certainty to add much more, the Mariners have sent the sports world a clear message: They are real, and they are ready to make the jump from pretender to contender.

In Zduriencik we trust.


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