That’s why the proposed blockbuster with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and a pile of top-ranked prospects makes one’s head hurt. There are so many moving parts, so many different contracts, so many different wants and pieces of the puzzle in which even the tiniest misstep will ruin the whole thing.
So the fact that the two teams involved (Mariners and Blue Jays) with the three way trade with the Phillies were able to keep their eyes on what was coming and going is laudable enough.
However, to make such a huge trade with two former Cy Young Award winners still in their primes in not just unheard of, but also unprecedented.
Cy Young Award winners rarely (if ever) get traded. Sure, they become free agents or essentially force a trade lest a team risk allowing the pitcher to walk away without compensation. But willingly traded after winning two games in the World Series and putting together the best postseason in franchise history?
Nope, never happens.
Until now, that is. Leave it to Ruben Amaro Jr. to pull the trigger on the biggest trade since Paul Owens dealt Rick Wise for Steve Carlton.
Amongst the Cy Youing Award winners to be traded in recent history, Lee and Halladay will join Jake Peavy, Roger Clemens, Johan Santana, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux as pitchers to be traded after they won the big award. There are others too. Tom Seaver and Fergie Jenkins were involved in a bunch of trades after great seasons.
Of course this doesn’t include all the great pitchers who were released and/or granted free agency late in their careers. Around here, we certainly remember how Carlton bounced from the Giants to the Indians and Twins after the Phillies released him in 1986.
But as far as Cy Young Award winner traded for another Cy Young Award winner, it’s happened one time and that was long before either pitcher had established himself as a big league pitcher.
Moreover, if it happens again in the Lee and Halladay deal, one of the guys will hold the odd distinction of being the only Cy Young Award winner to be traded for another Cy Young Award winner twice.
In June of 2002 and still pitching for the Expos’ Double-A club Harrisburg, Lee was traded to the Indians for Bartolo Colon. Actually, the Expos gave up Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore for Colon and Tim Drew.
With the luxury of hindsight that trade looks horrible. Making it look worse is that the Expos traded Colon during the off season to the White Sox for Orlando Hernandez, Rocky Biddle and Jeff Liefer. Two years after that, Colon went 21-8 for the Angels to win the 2005 Cy Young Award.
With the 2008 American League Cy Young Award in his trophy case, Lee is likely on the move again—this time for the 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner.
So what’s this say about Lee that in two of the three trades he’s been a part of, the other piece to the deal is a Cy Young Award winner?