Seattle Mariners Reel in Lee, Getting Best of Three-Team Deal

Ben AikeyCorrespondent IDecember 16, 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 reported by ESPN, a three-team blockbuster deal is all but done. The deal will involve the Blue Jays sending Roy Halladay to the Phillies, the Phillies dealing Cliff Lee to the Mariners, and a handful of prospects going in all different directions. Call me crazy, but there’s only one winner in this deal—the Mariners.

The Phillies are already loaded. They already have Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, and J.A. Happ. This is arguably the best starting rotation in the NL East.

Cliff Lee would have rounded out their rotation, if not for this deal. While Halladay automatically becomes the ace of this already deep staff, the trade really doesn’t make the Phillies any better.

The NL East is nowhere near as strong as it once was. Sure, the Marlins like to think they’re competitive, and the Mets, for some reason, trick themselves into thinking they are there year every year. The Braves are not really rebuilding, as they are dealing like they’re playing blackjack.

And the Nationals? They couldn’t win the Little League World Series.

So why are the Phillies trading away prospects and the 2008 AL Cy Young winner to get a different Cy Young-winning pitcher of the same age?

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So they can lock him down with a long-term contract at a lower price than Cliff Lee. It’s good for economics, nothing more.

Moving on to the Blue Jays, this trade fails to make sense for them as well. Prospects may have potential, but I don’t care who they trade for—as long as Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein are other general managers in your division, your only ambition is being third-best. And in case the Jays have forgotten, only one Wild Card team makes the post-season in Major League Baseball.

Now as far as the Mariners are concerned, this is an absolute steal. Lee’s arrival gives them a quality No. 2 starter, something they didn’t have last year.

In 2009, only Felix Hernandez won double-digit games, pitched over 100 innings, had more than 100 strikeouts, and had a shutout.

That’s right. No other Mariner pitcher was even relevant last season, with the exception of closer David Aardsma. Even throwing close to 240 innings, King Felix had the best ERA on the team, a shockingly low 2.49.

Not only does this strengthen the pitching staff of the Mariners, it may be the missing piece that finally returns them to the playoffs.

Let’s face it—the Angels are bleeding.

Last season, they were injury-ridden but still managed to win the division by 10 games. In the off season, they have already lost ace pitcher John Lackey to the Red Sox, and their speedy lead off hitter to, you guessed it, the Seattle Mariners.

Lee and Figgins join shortstop Jack Wilson as star players entering their first full year in Seattle. Wilson came as a surprise at last year’s trade deadline, and alongside Figgins, catcher Kenji Johjima, quietly solid second baseman Jose Lopez, and first baseman Russell Branyan, they form a talented infield.

Of course, there’s no need to forget a talented outfield, composed of Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, and fan favorite designated hitter, Ken Griffey Jr.

With another ace added to the staff, the Mariners should improve drastically this year. In fact, considering the inactivity of the Rangers and Athletics, as well as the decline of the Angels, it’s the Mariners’ division to lose this year.

The only thing that could stand in their way is the absence of a third pitcher to complete the much needed three-headed monster. Granted, Ian Snell lost more than he won in Pittsburgh, but he went 5-2 last year after arriving with Jack Wilson, and only time will tell if he has what it takes to become the third starter.

However, one thing is certain. With Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, the Mariners have the best one-two punch in their division, and possibly the entire American League.