[Update] ESPN.com is reporting that Cliff Lee has been traded to the Rangers for Justin Smoak and three others. It is too bad they couldn’t wait a few hours but it is nice to see Lee is not going to the Yankees.
[Update] Joel Sherman is reporting (via Twitter) that talks between the Mariners and Yankees may have reached an impasse. The M’s are concerned about the health of one of the prospects involved and a mystery team has swooped in. It would be surprising to us if that mystery team is the Rays.
[11:00am] Buster Olney is reporting that Cliff Lee has not been traded to the Yankees yet and that there is still time for other teams to improve their offers…
As of Friday morning there was no agreement in place, sources said, and it was possible another team could have stepped in to make a more aggressive bid…The Mariners had also been talking with the Rays, Twins, Rangers, Reds and other teams, and news that the Yankees were on the verge of getting Lee — first reported by the New York Post — could have spurred one of the other teams to strengthen their offer.
This does not necessarily mean that the Rays still have a shot at trading for Lee. The Rays have likely already made their best offer and are not going to pay more than what they believe to be a fair price.
Of course, this could still be good news for the Rays. Even though the Rays have had success against Lee in the past, the road to the playoffs would certainly be more difficult if Lee is in the AL East.
If the Rays do not land Lee, it is unlikely that they would trade for another starting pitcher. Lee represents the only available starting pitcher that would be considered a significant upgrade over what is already in-house. Instead, look for the Rays to put all of their efforts into trading for a hitter, if they haven’t already.