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October 25, 2010 at 11:27 AM

Mariners decisions on Cliff Lee deal in July likely decided AL pennant

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The New York Yankees will not be a happy bunch watching the Texas Rangers play the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. Texas eliminated New York in six games, with Cliff Lee capturing a pivotal Game 3 for the Rangers.
The Yankees had hoped to have Lee pitching in the ALCS — for them. Rewind back to early July, when it appeared that a Thursday night deal had been struck to send Lee to New York. All of a sudden, Friday morning comes and things aren’t so clear. That afternoon, Lee gets shipped to the Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak and three others.
What’s now clear is that, without Lee, the Rangers probably don’t beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round. And with Lee, the Yankees could very well be in the World Series facing the Giants.
Yes, those July deals do matter.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman was still talking about the Lee deal that nearly was in the moments after his team was eliminated. Remember, the Mariners say they began looking in another direction after medical reports came in on Friday morning about the extent of a broken foot — initially diagnosed as a high ankle sprain — that had sidelined one of the secondary members of the Yankees trade proposal for Lee, Class AA second baseman David Adams.
Here’s what Cashman told the New York Daily News.
“He’d been on the DL for two months,” Cashman said, “and (the Mariners) were bugging me about him for a week. I finally said yes and it turned out they didn’t know he was hurt. They came back and asked for either Nunez or Nova.”
Nunez is minor league shortstop Eduardo Nunez, while Nova is pitcher Ivan Nova. When the Mariners came back to Cashman on Friday and asked for one of those players, in addition to catcher Jesus Montero, he walked away. Seattle completed the deal with Texas soon after.
As for the Mariners not knowing Adams was hurt? Sort of inexcusable if true, given how long he’d been on the DL. That’s what you employ a scouting department for.
There has been much speculation that the Mariners simply used the Adams injury as an excuse to delay the Yankees and lure the Rangers to the table. It was only that Friday that Texas first offered up Smoak after long balking at doing so.
Photo Credit: AP


About six weeks after the Lee deal, I interviewed GM Jack Zduriencik and team president Chuck Armstrong about the trade in regards to Josh Lueke, one of the Texas players offered up. But besides discussing Lueke, Armstrong did go into brief detail about the whole timeframe for how the Lee trade came together that final 24 hours.
I never published what he told me because I was interviewing him primarily about the Lueke story at the time. But I think this offers some clues about what really took place that Thursday and Friday.
“I went home Thursday night, thinking we had a deal with the Yankees,” Armstrong said. “Pending an exchange of the physical information of the players involved. The next morning, when we got into the details of the physicals of the players involved, one of the players that was coming to us from the Yankees was disabled, and based upon the best medical information that our team medical director, Edward Khalfayan, had, he recommended that we not proceed.
“Jack (Zduriencik) and his people then spent some time with the Yankees trying to come up with an alternative player, or players, to replace that player. Or even players to be named later. If we could come up with that. In the meantime, other clubs became involved. The White Sox, Minnesota and Texas to name a few.”
So, there you have it. Depending on what you choose to believe, the Mariners either had no idea that one of the prospects they were targetting had spent two months on the DL, or, they didn’t know the severity of the Adams injury and waited for their medical director to give his opinion. Adams wound up being done for the season, appearing in only 39 games and posting a .900 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
As for the theory the M’s simply used the injury as an excuse to get out of their preliminary agreement with New York once Smoak was offered up, well, that’s tough to prove. Unless we knew exactly when Smoak was put on the table that Friday, it would be tough to say for certain.
The fact that the Mariners asked Cashman for Nunez or Nova, in addition to Montero, on the Friday could have been because they’d already been told they could get Smoak from the Rangers and wanted to take a shot at getting a better overall deal from the Yankees. Or, they could have gone after Nunez or Nova because they legitimately had no clue about Adams having an injury so bad that it had kept him out two months and they simply wanted to rework the package.
We’ll probably never know.
All we know now is, the Rangers are off to the World Series with Lee. And the Yankees are staying home.

Comments | Topics: Jesus Montero

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