PHILADELPHIA -- The Reds made a major run to try to acquire left-handed starting pitcher Cliff Lee from the Mariners, but they came up short. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty believed Cincinnati was one of three clubs that was talking to Seattle down to the end. Late Friday afternoon, Lee was dealt to the Rangers for prized young first baseman Justin Smoak and three Minor Leaguers. The Yankees were widely reported as the other team in hot pursuit.
"We felt we made a pretty substantial offer," Jocketty said. "Obviously, [Seattle] felt the Texas deal was better."It's just one of those deals you would have liked to have done, because we wanted to show our club we're doing everything we can possible. They're doing their job on the field and we're trying to do our job in the front office to keep us where we're at." Jocketty did not disclose which players were part of Cincinnati's proposal, but the club had the types of young Major League-ready prospects the Mariners were seeking -- such as Triple-A Louisville sluggers Yonder Alonso and Juan Francisco. "They asked for guys that we obviously weren't going to trade. We came back with some other things," Jocketty said. What will the Reds do now? If the club wants to pursue other starting pitchers, the Astros' Roy Oswalt could be moved, but he is owed $16 million in 2011, and it'd be hard for the Reds to make that deal with a division rival. Jocketty had Arizona's Dan Haren in 2003-04, when he was with the Cardinals. Haren, who is making $8.25 million this season, will earn $25.5 million over 2011-12. The sliding Cubs have lefty Ted Lilly, who is making $12 million in the final year of his contract. None of those pitchers were valued as high as Lee, however. "If you're talking about significantly upgrading, this guy was a significant upgrade," Jocketty said. "I'm not sure there's another guy like that out there that we can get right now." Currently the leaders in the National League Central standings, acquiring Lee would have made the Reds the clear favorites to win the division in the second half. A free agent at season's end, he would have been a rent-a-player, but the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner might have helped the Reds, who are itching to get back to the postseason, something they haven't done since 1995. Of course, Cincinnati will still be adding a pitcher for the second half and doesn't have to make a trade to do it. Edinson Volquez, who has worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, had his final rehab start for Louisville on Friday. Volquez should be in the rotation after the All-Star break. The only good news for the Reds in losing Lee is that none of their NL competitors got him either, especially St. Louis. "I'm just glad he stayed in the American League," Jocketty said.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.