In 2010, Cliff Lee was easily one of the best arms in the sport. In 2008 he had won the AL Cy Young with Cleveland and dominated the Yankees during a losing effort in the 2009 World Series with the Phillies. After a surprising trade to a struggling Seattle team, Lee was back on the trade block and the Yankees were very interested. Looking to shore up the rotation, the Yankees made their move.
A player like Lee would command an impressive haul and the Mariners had their sights set on Jesus Montero. Montero had shot up through the Yankees system and had a swing that appeared to be designed for Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right. With a maxed out power grade, he was the perfect headliner in any deal.
The second piece going to Seattle was infield prospect David Adams. Originally a third round pick, Adams was viewed as an upside prospect who could hit and field. Finally, the Yankees would include a low level prospect, Zach McAllister, to complete the deal.
An Ankle Away
The deal was all but done until the Mariners started to grow concerned about Adams. Adams had recently injured his ankle and the Mariners did not like the looks of his medical reports. Sure enough, what was originally thought to be a sprain turned into a fracture that would need surgery costing the young infielder his entire 2011 season. With Seattle wavering, they instead asked the Yankees to include either Eduardo Nunez or Ivan Nova.
With New York unwilling to move either prospect, the Texas Rangers swept in and completed the trade around their top prospect Justin Smoak. The Yankees struggled down the stretch and ended up losing the division to Tampa, but made it to the postseason as the AL Wild Card. After sweeping Minnesota, the Yankees, led by a struggling rotation, would fall to Lee and the Rangers in the ALCS.
After the season, Lee would again spurn the Yankees and sign with Philadelphia.
What Could Have Been
Reunited with his former Cleveland teammate, CC Sabathia, Lee would have become the best number two pitcher in baseball. The Yankees would have ran away with the division and had a great opportunity to repeat as champions.
Seattle would eventually get Montero, who struggled and was out of baseball in 2015. Adams would appear in a handful of games with the Yankees and is currently the manager of the Staten Island Yankees. Nunez and Nova would each become key role players in the Bronx but neither compiled a career that would rival Lee.
While the Yankees are still looking for World Series 28, its hard not to look back and wonder what could have been.