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Cliff Lee's Possible Trade from Mariners Akin to Randy Johnson's in 1998

NEW YORK - JUNE 29:  Cliff Lee #36 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on June 29, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Jeff EngelsContributor IJuly 3, 2010

The Mariners lost 6-1 last tonight at the hands of the Detroit Tigers.

This game was not very exciting for a Mariners fan with the exception of a lone home run by Franklin Gutierrez.

The win puts the Tigers a game back in the AL Central.

The Mariners are stuck 14 back in the AL West. As many of you know, there are really two Mariners games going on these days: One on the field and one surrounding the Cliff Lee situation.

While I was watching the game, I was reminded of a monumental trade when I saw Carlos Guillen on the field.

He was part of the infamous Randy Johnson trade in 1998.

While I realize this was a different situation and era, there are still some parallels to the current Cliff Lee situation.

I clearly remember being at the Kingdome on July 31, 1998 watching the home dugout all night to keep an eye on Johnson in the hopes we would not trade him.

Sadly, I remember in about the sixth inning Johnson leaving the dugout. Then, hearing on the radio that he had been traded to the Houston Astros.

I am not sure fans ever got an accurate story about why we traded him, though there was talk about concerns over his back issues.

There were also some comments floating around that Johnson was not giving 100 percent towards the trade deadline, which knowing Randy Johnson, I never believed.

It was definitely a difficult time for most of the fans I know. I still think it was a huge mistake, which even Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln would probably admit today in private.

When it was announced that the Astros were giving us a young pitcher named Freddie Garcia , an infielder named Carlos Guillen, and a player to be named later, most fans were even more stunned.

I recall  Ken Griffey Jr. saying in an interview: “I wonder what they would get for me. A bucket of baseballs?”

At the time, the Houston Astros were making a run for the playoffs.

They gave up these two top prospects, along with John Halama , in order to try to win a championship.

As it turns, out the Astros did go on to win 102 games that year, only to be knocked out by the San Diego Padres in the first round of the playoffs.

Randy Johnson went 10-1 for the Astros after being traded, though if I recall he wasn’t spectacular in the playoffs.

The Astros took a gamble and lost.

Even though Johnson pitched well, they didn’t make it to the World Series or re-sign him the next year.

The Mariners did get a great year out of Freddie Garcia in 1999 as he went 17-8. Garcia would go on to be a big part of the Mariners success in subsequent years.

He was then traded in 2004 to the White Sox with catcher Ben Davis for Mike Morse, Miguel Olivo, and Jeremy Reed.

Garcia has been up and down since leaving the Mariners. He is now back with the White Sox and having a good year at age 35 with an 8-3 record last I checked.

Guillen was also a valuable asset to the Mariners at shortstop from 1998-2003. However, it appears his trade in 2004 to the Tigers was another poor decision.

Guillen has played well in Detroit, being named to three All-Star teams in 2006 along with accumulating a career .287 average.

The third player John Halama, stayed with the Mariners until he was traded to Oakland in 2003. Halama was 36-27 as a Mariner and was 14-9 in 2000.

He appears to be trying to make one more shot as the 38 year-old actually pitched a game against Tacoma in AAA this year.

To bring this all together, it appears that the 1998 deadline trade, as difficult and unpopular as it, turned out to be a decent deal for the Mariners in the long run.

With a little luck and cunning Jack Z, the Mariners should be able to have another good trade with the Cliff Lee situation. Houston made the playoffs, though not the World Series in 1998.

The Mariners picked up some great talent in exchange for a player that only pitched part of a season. There are several teams out there that, like Houston in 1998, may get giddy enough with the thought of a World Series that they will mortgage their future for a shot at the glory of winning it all.

Of course this was all in the pre-economic crash days when Americans loved to buy now and pay later hoping later would never come. We all know where that sort of thinking got us.

While I would love to keep Cliff Lee, I think it would be even sweeter to wait it out for the Mets, Reds, Dodgers, Twins or some other club to break down at the last minute and give us some players like we got for Randy Johnson.

On July 4, the Mariners end their series with the Tigers and tomorrow start a series with the Royals.

As the season continues, so does the guessing game that will just get more interesting as the days go by.

Tagged: carlos Guillen , Cliff Lee , Freddie Garcia , John Halama , Mariners , Randy Johnson

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