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December 24, 2009 at 8:41 AM

Report: Michael Saunders was originally in Cliff Lee deal

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Good morning to all of you as we prepare for some much-needed Christmas rest. One thing I always try to do after deals is to read the papers and media accounts from other cities. It will often give you a better indication of what really went down because, as we all know, there are two sides to every story. Somewhere in the middle lies the truth.
In Toronto, where the Blue Jays have now been involved in two deals that impact the Mariners in the past week alone, Toronto Sun baseball writer Bob Elliott has done a masterful, day-by-day and month-to-month reconstruction of the inner doings of the Roy Halladay trade.
Elliott has covered baseball for 30 years and knows many scouts and executives around the game. I know for a fact that he’s close with people still working for or tied to the Philadelphia Phillies and was very interested in what he had to say on this.
There isn’t a whole lot we didn’t already know about the Cliff Lee part of the trade, namely, that it wasn’t until the final full day of the winter meetings — a Wednesday — that Jack Zduriencik was approached by Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about a deal. By Friday, a day after Amaro and Zduriencik continued their discussions at the Indianapolis airport, the Phillies had made their formal offer for Halladay.
But the most interesting part of Elliott’s account, for M’s fans, is that left fielder Michael Saunders was in Seattle’s initial trade package for Lee. Ultimately, the Phillies held out for more and received Tyson Gillies, who one scout quoted by Elliott says was “the key to the (Seattle) portion of the deal.”

By the way, when Elliott quotes a scout, you can bet it’s not some low level guy just breaking in and clueless about a club’s true plans. Elliott probably knows more scouts around MLB than any other guy in the business and has known some of them for decades. I personally can vouch for some of the guys he knows in Philadelphia and let me tell you, they are plugged in.
Yeah, he jumped the gun on Twitter once during the three days we waited for the Lee deal to finalize. But Elliott is the best guy I know at digging out what really happened during a trade. And his paragraph on Saunders meshes with a lot of what we’ve been hearing this off-season. Namely, that the Mariners had been in search of another regular left fielder and weren’t comfortable sticking with Saunders.
The acquisition of Milton Bradley already confirmed some of that. And you know what? I’m not entirely convinced they are done trying to improve left field.
We’ll see. If nothing else, Elliott’s stuff on Saunders being part of the initial Lee trade package sure changes a lot of the perceptions that have been out there: that the M’s managed to “hold on” to Saunders and only give up Gillies.
Turns out, from Elliott’s account, that the opposite was true. And I believe Elliott’s account. It makes perfect sense from a Phillies perspective, since Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth aren’t going anywhere soon and a guy like Saunders doesn’t really fit unless he’s prepared to spend more years in Class AAA. Gillies is at least another year and probably two away from taking a crack at the bigs. By then, Ibanez will be just about done and Victorino might be ready to move on as well.
Makes you wonder how much of a future Saunders has with the M’s, doesn’t it? I like my Canadian guys and want them all to succeed. But it turns out the Mariners were willing to part ways with Saunders after one half-season. Zduriencik has already shown, with Brandon Morrow and Phillippe Aumont, that he doesn’t need years to get a take on prospects. And, it now seems, if Elliott’s account is accurate, that Zduriencik’s quick decision-making stretches beyond the mound as well.



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