Safe to say this trade to the Mariners caught Cliff Lee a little off-guard. He’d been deer hunting on his property in Arkansas when his wife phoned him Monday to tell him of all the rumors on TV. He had his agent phone the Phillies and said the team downplayed it, so he just assumed they were rumors.
Then, on Tuesday, he was hunting again along the Mississippi River when GM Ruben Amaro phoned to tell him he’d been dealt. He spent Wednesday absorbing the deal, then, earlier today, flew to Puerto Rico for a pre-planned vacation (guy gets around). By the time he did a conference call from there with reporters moments ago, you could still hear some irritation as he discussed the move.
“At first, I didn’t believe it,” he said. “Because I thought we were working out a (contract) extension with the Phillies and I thought I was going to spend the rest of my career there. It just shows that it’s a business and it shows what can happen until you have a full no-trade clause.”
Lee said his intial reaction was one of “shock” and “disbelief” and that his side had forwarded a counter-proposal to the Phillies the day the deal went down. The Phillies had made him an offer “seven to 10 days” before dealing him and Lee felt “we were in the process of trying to make it happen.”
“There was not enough dialogue,” Lee said. “They had a chance to get the best pitcher in baseball too and I can’t blame them for taking Roy Halladay over me.”
So, obviously, he was caught off guard. He recovered himself during the conference call, though, and did say “I’ve got to go to the Mariners and try to help those guys win. I’ve got to try to be positive about it.”
Photo Credit: AP
And later: “I’m not bitter about it or anything. It was a little disappointing because of what I had going on over there with the Phillies…but it’s a new chapter and I’ve got to try to go over there and make the best of it.”
Lee feels that Safeco Field is “definitely a pitcher’s park, That’s going to be one difference from Philly to Safeco.”
He also mentioned Franklin Gutierrez, Jack Wilson, Ichiro and Chone Figgins.
“Those are all defense-oriented players and as a starting pitcher, you’ve got to be happy about that.”
But Lee, while he’d discussed an extension with the Phils, isn’t ready to do that here just yet. It’s understandable, since he wants to meet the team, the coaching staff, and see how the organization is run. He’s coming from a two-time World Series finalist squad, so the bar is naturally going to be set pretty high in his own mind.
“You never know until you’re around those guys everyday, what they have to offer,” he said. “And they (the Phillies) were the real deal.”
In general, Lee is opposed to negotiating extensions in-season. He says it causes too many distractions for his teammates and for him, as he’d be answering questions about it every day.
That wouldn’t leave the M’s time to get anything done, since he’ll barely know the team before the season begins. But he did admit that “This is a different type of situation and I don’t really know.”
So, we’ll see.
Zduriencik and company have a bit of a sales job to do here. But then again, so did the Phillies when Lee — who said he was disappointed to leave Cleveland last summer — was traded there.
But winning can change a whole lot of things. And with Lee and Felix Hernandez in the rotation, this team should do a fair bit of winning.