M’s Acquire Cliff Lee!?!?!

Dave · December 14, 2009 at 1:06 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Okay, so, I’ve had a few hours to let this sink in. Initial reactions that are still premature because we don’t really know what the trade looks like, exactly.

1. I love our front office. How many names have we heard them tied to so far this winter, and yet not one whisper about Lee? They’re like ninjas. No one has any idea what they’re going to do next, but you can usually bet that it will be awesome.

2. I also love Cliff Lee. The command, the change-up, the way he pitches – he’s great. He’s as good as Felix. Maybe better. Not as talented, but right now, you have about the same odds of winning with either one on the hill. The M’s just traded for a left-handed version of Felix.

3. There are going to be a ton of inevitable comparisons between this deal and the Bedard deal. We can’t compare them until we know what we’re giving up, but let’s just get this out of the way – Bedard is no Cliff Lee. Lee is a significantly better pitcher than Bedard has ever been. The durability factor is just a (huge) bonus.

4. Remember when we talked about the need to add a bunch of wins at below market rates? Lee is roughly a +5 win pitcher and he’s going to make $8 million in 2009. The M’s just acquired about 1/3 of the wins they needed to add this winter at a price of $1.6 million per win. We’ll evaluate the total cost of the trade when the outgoing players are known, but from a budget/wins standpoint, this is exactly the kind of deal the team needed to make.

5. I talked about this briefly on FanGraphs the other day, but the M’s are at a point where every marginal win they add is significantly more valuable than the average. They just made a trade in which they picked up Lee and kept Halladay away from LAA on the same day that Lackey signed in Boston. This is a huge shift in talent between the Angels and M’s, and Hideki Matsui doesn’t close the gap that much. The M’s are still several players away from being as good as LAA, but they are legitimately at a point where the wins added have a real impact on their odds of making the playoffs. Between this move and the Figgins signing, the M’s have put themselves in a position to be legitimate contenders for the AL West crown in 2010.

6. I doubt they can sign Lee to a long term deal. Philly traded him in part because they didn’t like how negotiations on a long term deal were going with him, and it sounds like he wants to hit free agency. But that’s okay – he’s basically a lock to be a Type A free agent, so the M’s will be able to recoup a couple of draft picks even if he’s just a one year rental. This isn’t a situation where we’re looking at watching him walk away and get nothing.

7. You have to think that signing Figgins and trading for Lee will do something to convince Felix the M’s are serious about winning. I think we can take “he wants to see how committed management is to putting a good team on the field” off the list of things to be concerned about in negotiations.

8. One of the things that Tony Blengino said at the USSM event last January is that their goal was to “get good and stay good.” I don’t think anyone anticipated how quickly they planned on “getting good”. These guys do not mess around.

9. I love Cliff Lee. I’m going to do my best to be rational about the trade once its announced and we know all the parts, but just be warned ahead of time, he’s exactly the kind of pitcher that I am enamored with. He does everything I want a pitcher to do. I’m not sure I can be objective about him. He’s awesome.


236 Responses to “M’s Acquire Cliff Lee!?!?!”

  1. CCW on December 14th, 2009 9:51 pm

    Having just done 15 minutes of internet research, I can report that the current consensus is in fact that the M’s are only giving up Aumont and Gillies, with several references to cash as well. I concur with the folks above… I think that rumor passes the smell test (barely) if the M’s do kick in several million dollars in cash. I would think other teams with money – Angels, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox – would have matched the cash and the prospects, but maybe the Phillies didn’t want to deal with teams that they viewed as direct competitors. Maybe they see the chances of Lee hurting them in the World Series or road thereto as a Mariner to be less than with one of those other teams. Maybe I just just wait until tomorrow…

  2. cumminjb on December 14th, 2009 9:51 pm

    After reading and re-reading the ESPN report, it certainly seems that some people think much more highly of Aumont than we do.

  3. CCW on December 14th, 2009 9:52 pm

    And in the time I type the post, things change. Tomorrow…

  4. daqmajor on December 14th, 2009 9:56 pm

    I’m cool with this as long a its just Aumont and Gillies. A third top-10 prospect and your pushing it. Please let Philly be providing the final prospect…

  5. budstyla on December 14th, 2009 10:03 pm

    What about the fact that even if we lose Lee after this year we get not just the picks, but more cash to spend in a much better free agency year? The $ it would have cost to get Lackey gets you much more next off season… Now we get a stud pitcher for 2010, the draft picks, and dollars to spend afte the season… Happy times!!

  6. dawsonct on December 14th, 2009 10:03 pm

    Lee doesn’t give up many HR’s, but is a fly-ball pitcher, so if we get that speedy glove in LF, we could be looking at a lot of quick, low pitch innings.

    Ohhh BABY, I hope this works! It is SO cool to have competent leadership running a team I root for!

  7. sodomojo95 on December 14th, 2009 10:05 pm

    With the BoSox recent FA signings(Lackey/Cameron) they’d be out of the Beltre running

    I think you’re forgetting that the Red Sox don’t have a budget. The Red Sox are no longer the lovable losers that get out spent by the Yankees

    So far Red Sox have spent $85 on Lackey, $15M on Cameron, and you forgot Chapman at another $15M. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are
    on the verge of trading Lowell and $9M to Texas

    Anyway, as for Cliff Lee I guess the Phillies were thinking Halladay for 4 years Aumont > Lee for 1 year Drabek

  8. snowsk8 on December 14th, 2009 10:08 pm

    It’s nice… with Z doing the dealing I get excited. Not scared like with Bavasi!

    Any chance we unloaded Silva in the deal? Yeah… probably not!

  9. Chris Miller on December 14th, 2009 10:09 pm

    We’ve seen the lefty/flyball/strikeout thing here work. Except he’s good at the strikeout part. Good pick for the park again. Love it!

    This is the kind of move I’ve dreamed of for years! We never pulled this crap off. Three way trades for star players. Can’t deny Z has some serious balls.

    I’m guessing Bavasi would have spent silly money for Lackey, or given Washburn (or some other mediocre starter) a repeat on Washburns last contract instead.

  10. hub on December 14th, 2009 10:12 pm

    so if we get that speedy glove in LF, we could be looking at a lot of quick, low pitch innings.

    I like Gardner.

  11. Jeffrey D on December 14th, 2009 10:18 pm

    Before the day started I would have thought a Lee speculation to be amoung the most idiotic/unrealistic ideas.

    What’s stupid to consider now?

  12. Jeffrey D on December 14th, 2009 10:19 pm

    I can’t even spell sight words at this hour.

  13. Typical Idiot Fan on December 14th, 2009 10:22 pm

    I like Gardner.

    I like him right where he is.

  14. Chris Miller on December 14th, 2009 10:23 pm

    What’s hilarious is this looked like Rosenthal making crap up. He even worded it like it was some gut hunch, which it seems that some writers do when they’re making crap up. I’m guessing he knew more than having a hunch.

  15. joser on December 14th, 2009 10:23 pm

    With the thought that we’re giving up Gillies and Aumont, Bobby Valentine says we’ve mortgaged the future.

    I wonder if Bobby Valentine can name any other M’s prospects off the top of his head. Before today, I wonder if he could’ve named Gillies or Aumont.

  16. mw3 on December 14th, 2009 10:26 pm

    All hail TRADE CZAR Z!

  17. sodomojo95 on December 14th, 2009 10:29 pm

    I feel like Toronto is getting jipped. As it stands, the trade isn’t a three way deal, but two separate trades.

    And for Roy Halladay (~Felix) $6M the Blue Jays get Drabek, Taylor, and D’Arnaud?

  18. henryv on December 14th, 2009 10:32 pm

    Aumont is a relief pitcher… A freaking relief pitcher… And he’s a prospect.

    What is the actual value in prospect relief pitchers? About the same as Billy Baldwin.

  19. Catherwood on December 14th, 2009 10:44 pm

    Assuming the deal – whatever the heck the deal is – goes through, then we can probably only count on Lee for one year, though, right?

    Because I can’t figure out how we can afford both Cliff Lee and King Felix with extensions (contract, that is, not hair, although Felix might look pretty boss with those). My initial thought is that Felix is the much more valuable guy to sign long-term, but is that true? Or would there be some scenario where the team could somehow cobble together the clams to sign ’em both?

  20. CCW on December 14th, 2009 10:50 pm

    I doubt they have the money to sign both guys to long-term deals, but it sure helps to have two options. Helps with leverage and helps with flexibility.

  21. Chris Miller on December 14th, 2009 10:58 pm

    I’d sooner get Lee at 1 year at $8 mil than $20 mil at a bazillion years or whatever it’d take to extend him.

  22. huhwhat on December 14th, 2009 11:01 pm

    So the third player seems to be JC Ramirez? I guess if that’s all the M’s are giving up in 2 A-Ball Prospects and a young RH Relief Pitcher for 1 year of Cliff Lee and at least Type A comp at the end of it, I can’t say I have any issue with the deal.

  23. 3cardmonty on December 14th, 2009 11:01 pm

    Churchill says it’s Aumont, Gillies, and Ramirez. Un-freakin-believable.

  24. Typical Idiot Fan on December 14th, 2009 11:12 pm

    And for Roy Halladay (~Felix) $6M the Blue Jays get Drabek, Taylor, and D’Arnaud?

    That’s three good -> great prospects. Drabek projects well. Taylor hits for average, power, and plays good defense. d’Arnaud should be an offensive catcher.

    I’m not sure we have prospects that really compare.

  25. Paul L on December 14th, 2009 11:15 pm


  26. Briggstar on December 14th, 2009 11:29 pm

    If you’re like me, salivating, panting, red-faced after plowing through Dave’s post and all 225 comments (so far), how does this number grab you:

    Cliff Lee is 29-3 lifetime versus the AL West.

    29 AND 3 = a .906 winning percentage. Granted, that includes a handful of games against our beloved M’s. Hmm, taking that into account, maybe it’s even sweeter. Oh, and as mentioned earlier, 5-1 at Safeco.

    After lurking on this site for about 3 years, today I had to bite the bullet and join the fray. I’m officially joining the Z bandwagon too.

    ps: big shouts to my buddy, Dave C.!)

  27. joshman12 on December 14th, 2009 11:39 pm

    Just read an article by Jack Daniels(real name?) on Bleacher Report. He wrote that getting both Figgy and Lee will cost M’s $17 mil leaving $33 mil to spend this offseason. Is that even possible??? That’d get you Jason Bay and go a long way to getting maybe Beltre back in M’s blue. That’s like fantasy/playstation baseball! The article also mentions Morrow going in the trade for Lee, but I haven’t seen his name anywhere else so it’s probably not all correct, but it gets me really excited as a M’s fan.

  28. Mike Snow on December 14th, 2009 11:41 pm

    Cliff Lee is 29-3 lifetime versus the AL West.

    Actually, the correct win-loss record is 23-9, of which 9-1 is against the Mariners.

  29. 3cardmonty on December 14th, 2009 11:47 pm

    Briggs, you’ve been lurking for three years but you still think Lee’s win% against the AL West is a meaningful statistic? Sorry, don’t want to come off as harsh, but, yeah. I remember Bavasi using that statistic as a justification for signing Silva.

    Josh, I’m pretty sure those figures are wrong. Dave addressed this in the comments recently because some writers have been tossing around the $50M figure. He showed how he arrived at his figures and explained the mistakes involved in the $50M number. I don’t remember the specifics but I definitely trust Dave’s math more than Jack Daniels/Bleacher Report’s.

  30. Briggstar on December 15th, 2009 12:15 am

    Corrections noted Mike. (My alibi? Mild dyslexia and restrained euphoria plus 10 Firefox tabs of statistics and hot stove reports make for a toxic brew.)

    3card: Silva is to Lee what Bavasi is to Jackie Z. I stand by my excitement, tempered only by having muddled the numbers a bit in my delirium.

    I’ll chalk it up to a friendly rookie hazing by the both of you. I look forward to a spirited tickle after the game from Griff too.

  31. joser on December 15th, 2009 12:23 am

    Yeah, that $50M is just lazy math and a sign of a writer you shouldn’t pay much attention to (if it sounds like “fantasy/playstation baseball!” it probably is). You can arrive at a number like that by taking the ’09 payroll, just subtracting the players who are now off the books (Beltre, Johjima, etc), and hey, look: $50M. That completely overlooks the increases many players will see in arbitration (which in the case of Felix is quite a bit) and makes some other dubious assumptions as well. I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation trying to estimate arbitration awards and arrived at just under $30M left over to play with assuming the payroll held constant, and that was before the Figgins deal. It’s possible the owners have loosened the strings a little, but attendance was down this year and a lot of butts moved to cheaper seats and bought less concessions, so revenue was down even more. I wouldn’t be surprised if “flat” is a generous guess as to this year’s payroll relative to last year’s.

  32. Briggstar on December 15th, 2009 12:44 am

    In no particular order (with bold denoting studs):

    Sabathia, Burnett & Pettitte…
    Beckett, Lackey & Lester
    Halladay, Hamels & Happ…
    King Felix, Cliff Lee & RR Smith…
    Lincecum, Cain & Zito…
    Webb, Haren & Jackson…

    Unless I’m forgetting a worthy staff somewhere, this deal – in my murky head at least – vaults us into the upper echelon of baseball, does it not?

  33. Briggstar on December 15th, 2009 12:46 am

    woops*Halladay, Hamels & Happ

  34. Bodhizefa on December 15th, 2009 6:59 am

    I am in utter shock. I figured the best we could come up with for our 2010 rotation would be either Aaron Harang or Derek Lowe. Now it looks like those are the pitchers that the Angels are going to have to take a long hard look at instead. There were a lot of smug Angels fans saying we were foolish to think we could compete with them next year regardless of their team’s losses (this was in many a Figgins thread across the internet). I don’t think those fans are going to be heard from for a while now if the Cliff Lee trade goes through.

    My faith wavered when Zduriencik didn’t sign Rich Harden. And I now readily admit that was a mistake. Zduriencik is the f’ing man.

  35. universalguru on December 15th, 2009 7:10 am

    Is it possible that Lee accepts a one-year deal from Seattle at the end of the year so he can enter a less pitching rich free agency (Vasquez, Webb, Beckett, etc.)? That is assuming we sign Felix of course. Or maybe I don’t the market that year yet?

  36. Briggstar on December 15th, 2009 9:55 am

    This speculative thread has been trumped by the more ‘official’ one this morning, but I’d be remiss not to also include Carpenter, Wainwright and Piniero in the elite staffs list.

    While our numbers 3-5 come with question marks, a Hernandez-Lee punch at the top may edge any other in baseball, especially in Safeco Field.

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