Yankees miss out on Cliff Lee…for now.

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cliff Lee pitches against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Arlington, Texas July 10, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

When the news sprawled across my computer screen last Friday, I couldn’t help but say aloud, “Right on time, Yankees.” (And yes, I like to talk to myself.)

By the middle of last week, the Rangers had emerged as the favorites to acquire left-hander Cliff Lee from the Mariners. The sticking point in the deal appeared to be whether or not Texas would part with top prospect Justin Smoak, whom Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik coveted.

Either way, it seemed as though the Rangers were way out in front in the race for Lee. That was, of course, until the Yankees got involved.

Reports surfaced early Friday morning that Brian Cashman and the Yanks were on the verge of acquiring Lee. They were prepared to give up their top prospect, Jesus Montero, but the two sides couldn’t agree on whom the second player in the deal would be and the Rangers wound up getting Lee anyway.

But if history is any indication, Lee won’t be in Texas for very long. His contract is up at the end of the year and we all know Cashman does his best work at the negotiating table. (Not that throwing millions of dollars at a player with reckless abandon in attempts to sign him is difficult.)

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Cliff Lee gets his first taste of Texas

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cliff Lee pitches against the Baltimore Orioles in the fifth inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Arlington, Texas July 10, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Despite going the distance and throwing only 95 pitches, Cliff Lee took the loss in his Rangers’ debut on Saturday, dropping a 6-1 decision to the Orioles. Nick Markakis, Cesar Izturis and Adam Jones all took him deep in his first experience playing in Arlington.

From SI.com:

” It was an electric atmosphere. They got a lead early and never lost it. That kind of kills that a little bit,” Lee said. ” They came out swinging. You have to tip your hat to them for their approach.”

Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young winner the Rangers got from Seattle in a six-player deal Friday, still threw his AL-best sixth complete game.

” It was just one of those weird games, every swing they took turned into a run somehow,” said Ian Kinsler , the Rangers’ All-Star second baseman.

” Cliff showed exactly what he’s capable of doing,” Michael Young said. ” He had to be tired from all the travel and all that’s been going on for the last couple of days, but he showed exactly what he’s capable of giving us. … We’re all excited about what we have.”

If this game were in Seattle, I highly doubt Lee would have given up six runs, but them are the breaks pitching in Texas. While the score suggests otherwise, he was highly efficient, striking out two and walking none. The complete game was his fourth in his last five starts.

Depending on how manager Ron Washington sets his rotation after the All-Star break, Lee will face either the Red Sox or Tigers in his next outing.

Rangers, not Yankees acquire Lee from M’s

July 04, 2010 - Detroit, MI, UNITED STATES - epa02237007 Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Cliff Lee (R) talks with Felix Hernandez after the left the game after the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan, USA on 04 July 2010. The Mariners beat the Tigers 8-1. Lee was the winning pitcher.

Even though Brian Cashman and the Yankees tried to run interference earlier in the day, the Rangers still got the piece that could make them a legitimate World Series contender in the end.

On Friday, Texas acquired left-hander Cliff Lee, right-hander Mark Lowe and cash from the Mariners in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak, right-hander Blake Beavan, left-hander Josh Lueke and second baseman Matt Lawson. The Rangers were believed to be the front-runners for Lee all along, but reports surfaced yesterday morning that the Yankees were on the verge of acquiring him. In the end, New York couldn’t come up with the second player to appease Seattle and Lee wound up in Texas by the early evening.

Lee gives the Rangers the excellent presence at the front of their rotation that they’ve desperately needed. Considering he’s switching to the best pitcher’s park in the AL to one of the worst that his numbers will drop, but Texas had to make this move. They’re on the verge of finally ending their 11-year playoff drought and needed to acquire that final piece to help push them over the edge. Assuming he pitches as well for them as he did for the Indians, Phillies and Mariners, Lee is going to be an outstanding edition to the Rangers and someone who has already proven he can get it done in the postseason.

For the Mariners, they had no choice but to make this move as well, although Smoak was the key. On the high side, he projects to be a Mark Teixeira-type, in that he can hit for average, has pop and plays excellent defense. For fans that were disappointed that their team didn’t trade for Lee, Smoak is the type of frontline prospect that it would have cost in order to acquire the left-hander. A lot of teams don’t even have a Justin Smoak in their farm system.

Both teams did well here and give Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik credit for getting the Yankees involved. That may have put a scare into the Rangers (who know doubt didn’t want to see Lee land in New York) and got them to finally part with Smoak.

Baker: Mariners can’t keep Cliff Lee

Despite their recent hot streak, Seattle Times columnist Geoff Baker writes that it’s too late for the Mariners to keep starter Cliff Lee.

Recent play aside, Cliff Lee is likely to be shopped. The Mariners need to start filling holes for next year and beyond and the Lee trade is the best place to start since there is no way he will sign here beyond 2010. He’s in line for a $100-million contract, which he probably has a better shot at getting now than he did last off-season, and is not going to take the massive (try 50 percent) discount the M’s would need to get to keep him. Why would he give them that? He’s been here only two months. … We can dream and dream about a 1-2 punch in the post-season, but this lineup is not good enough to get the M’s there.

Coming into the 2010 season, the Mariners believed that if they pitched well enough and played good defense that they could mask their deficiencies on offense. But seeing as how they’re 13 games back in the AL West and have scored the third fewest runs in baseball, that game plan is shot to hell. Not even Lee and Felix Hernandez can save them.

Baker’s right: at some point, the M’s are going to have to go out and get a big popper for the middle of their lineup. What good is it to have Ichiro on base all the time if he has nobody behind him to knock him in? It’s hard to fault Jack Zduriencik for building the roster around pitching and defense based on the park they play in, but clearly the M’s don’t even have enough offense to be a .500 team.

They need to get a bat in exchange for Lee – that should be Zdurienkcik’s main priority as the trade deadline approaches.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Phillies land Halladay, trade Lee to Mariners in blockbuster deal

According to a report by SI.com, the Phillies have agreed to a trade that will send Roy Halladay to Philadelphia and Cliff Lee to the Mariners.

The Phillies are in agreement on a three-team trade with the Mariners and Blue Jays to acquire star pitcher Roy Halladay, SI.com has learned. All indications are that Cliff Lee will likely be heading from Philadelphia to Seattle in the trade.

Sources say Halladay will agree to a contract extension to complete the deal. It’s expected to be a formality, and though terms are not yet clear, it’s expected to be worked out in the next couple days. Halladay wanted to be in Philadelphia, as the Phillies train in Clearwater, Fla., not far from his offseason home.

The Phillies are giving up prospects to Toronto to get Halladay, but it isn’t known yet which players are in the deal. Philadelphia, which would also get prospects from Seattle, is trying to keep its payroll at around $140 million.

At first glance, I’m shocked that the Phillies traded Lee away in order to complete this deal. He was dominating in the postseason, posting a perfect 4-0 record and a 1.56 ERA in five starts. But both he and Halladay are in their last year of their contracts and if Philadelphia can only pay for one, they might as well go with the guy that they can lock up long term – especially if that player is Halladay. There was no guarantee that Lee would re-sign with Philadelphia.

With their pitching staff now set (Lee and Felix Hernandez form one hell of a 1-2 combo), the Mariners must be gearing up to make a run and I wouldn’t be surprised if they wound up signing Jason Bay sometime this offseason to boost their offense.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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