UPDATE 2:25 PT: The Mariners have backed out, apparently and, new reports say, Cliff Lee(notes) has been traded instead to the Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak(notes) and others. Ken Rosenthal of Fox confirms, adding names.
UPDATE 1:13 PT: Numerous outlets are now reporting that talks between the Yankees and Mariners have stalled over a disagreement on New York's prospect package and that another team has come on strong for Lee's services. Lee is scheduled to pitch against the Yankees tonight, so things could get very interesting in the hours ahead. Stay tuned.
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Cliff Lee to the Yankees is close to happening, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports:
The deal was not completed yet, but the Yankees were on the goal line and merely had to push into the end zone to finalize matters.
It was going to take an overwhelming offer from elsewhere or a last-second change of heart by the Yanks or the Seattle Mariners to scuttle a deal that would turn the Yanks from favorites to repeat as champs to overwhelming favorites.
If true, it would be like the Empire in "Star Wars" outbidding the Rebel Alliance for the services of Han Solo.
Frack! Oh, wait, that's another sci-fi universe.
Lee leads the AL with a 2.34 ERA and has an 89-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the scoundrel. It will be interesting to see if the Mariners continue with the notion of starting Lee against the Yankees at Safeco Field on Friday night.
The Yankees' trade package, which Sherman Tweeted the Mariners liked (ooh, la la!), would include 20-year-old catcher Jesus Montero, who shot up the Baseball America prospect rankings after he turned in a .951 OPS between the Class A Florida State League and the Class AA Eastern League in 2009.
Montero's hitting has dropped off this season, but he's just the kind of guy general manager Jack Zduriencik wants to re-stock the M's with.
Lee, a free agent at season's end and due a big payday, had been mentioned as possibly going the Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers (and more!). Frankly, just about any team in contention who wants to add, more or less, the best pitcher in the majors this side of Roy Halladay(notes) was up for negotiations.
But the Yankees? Man, c'mon. Lee isn't the left-hander they're looking for. They already have CC Sabathia(notes). Why do they want Lee? Are they cornering the market on the 2008 Cleveland Indians opening-day rotation? (And how would the city of Cleveland LOVE Sabathia and Lee in New York after losing LeBron James to Miami?) But I digress.
The Yankees have good starting pitching after Sabathia, but they want Lee in case Andy Pettitte's(notes) expiration date comes before November. They want Lee in case Javy Vazquez can't be trusted in a pennant race. They want Lee so Phil Hughes(notes) doesn't have to be their second-best pitcher at such a tender age. They want Lee so A.J. Burnett(notes) doesn't have to pitch at all.
They want Lee so the Rays don't get him.
The Yankees getting Lee would be a relief of sorts for Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro, who has taken heat ever since he let go of Lee in the Halladay transactions. If the Mets got Cliff Lee? Hoo boy. Ruben would be placed upside-down in an ice cave until the Hoth monster ate him.
And ... the Star Wars circle is now complete!
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