There won't be any "My Dad played a series in Seattle and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" gifts stuffed into carry-on bags as the Yankees leave Seattle to enjoy the All-Star break. There may be a left-handed former Cy Young winner in an overhead compartment, however.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post dropped a bomb early Friday morning when he reported that the Yankees and Mariners were "on the brink" of a deal that would bring Cliff Lee to the Yankees. Sherman writes that nothing is certain but that Brian Cashman and his Seattle counterpart Jack Zduriencik are in constant contact and that the Yankees are making a stronger move than the other teams bidding for Lee. A deal between the two teams is, per Sherman, "all but certain."
Details of the Yankee package aren't fully fleshed out beyond the inclusion of prized prospect Jesus Montero. Montero's bat is highly regarded, but there remain questions about his ability to be a catcher. The Yankees included him in discussions of a deal for Lee and Roy Halladay this offseason and the team is deep in prospects at the position.
It's a shocker because it was assumed the Yankees wouldn't be pursuing Lee until he became a free agent after the season. Up until now it seemed like they were on the periphery of the trade hunt so long as teams like the Mets and Twins, not thought to be places Lee would sign before becoming a free agent, led the chase for Lee. Were it another writer breaking the story, it might be easier to think that the Yankees were just being used to get the price up from someone else but Sherman's right more than he's wrong with the Yankees so this feels legitimate.
It's also shocking because the Yankees currently have five starting pitchers of some repute and a lineup that looks like it could use some shoring up as the second half gets underway. A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez have had their rough patches and Phil Hughes might be mucking around in a little bit of one but all have also turned in some very strong work. If they landed Lee, the Yankees would be in a spot where they'd be trying to fit six guys into five spots.
Might they look to deal Vazquez? They can't possibly be thinking of putting Hughes back into the bullpen and stunting his development, could they? Let's hope not. The yo-yo thing didn't do Joba Chamberlain any favors and a rotation with Lee means you'd be just fine letting Hughes start until he's close enough to his innings limit to force the move to relief.
However they fit him in, Lee would boost the Yankees from very good to scary good immediately. He's put together a remarkable season in Seattle, going 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and 89 strikeouts against only six walks. Lee, as you'll recall from last year's World Series and last week's complete game, has a knack for pitching well in the Bronx and grabbing him would dash the chance of facing him twice in a short October series.
Maybe the whole thing isn't quite as simple as baseball moves. It might just be that the Yankees watched that debacle on ESPN last night and realized that reasonable Americans everywhere now hated the Miami Heat because LeBron James had insulted their intelligence with his televised charade. No better way to restore your place atop the totem pole of sports hatred than to snap up the best pitcher on the trade market when you don't particularly need a starting pitcher.
It's less objectionable than what James pulled on Thursday night but the Yankees started with a pretty big head start.