Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Lee's agent disputes description of talks
By Jerry Crasnick
Left-hander Cliff Lee's agent stepped forward Tuesday to set the record straight: His client did not force his way out of Philadelphia by overreaching in contract negotiations.
Lee, one of baseball premier starting pitchers, is on his way to Seattle as part of a blockbuster trade that will bring Roy Halladay to the Phillies. While Halladay has reportedly agreed to a guaranteed three-year, $60 million contract extension with two vesting options, numerous reports said the Phillies pursued the trade after failing to make any headway in contract talks with Lee.
Agent Darek Braunecker disputed the characterization of the talks, telling ESPN.com that he had three brief discussions with the Phillies "for a total of about an hour." Braunecker said length of contract and total dollars were discussed, but that he and Lee did not stake out a position or give the team an indication that Lee was unwilling to sign a long-term deal.
"At no point did we make any sort of financial demands," Braunecker said. "The negotiations were in the very preliminary stages. As recently as [Monday], both sides would have characterized the discussions as encouraging. Unfortunately, something transpired that we had no control over that dictated this move.
"What's being portrayed in the media is completely inaccurate -- that we presented something or the club thought our position was going to preclude them from being able to do a deal. We didn't get far enough down the road in negotiations to really [explore] the details."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Halladay was in Philadelphia on Tuesday undergoing a physical, and signs point toward the trade becoming official by Wednesday.
Lee, 31, made a big impact in Philadelphia after coming over from Cleveland by trade in late July. He was 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA for the Phillies in August and September, and went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in the postseason. With Halladay on the verge of a new contract, Lee, Boston's Josh Beckett and Atlanta's Javier Vazquez will be the top free-agent starters on the market next winter.
Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA in Cleveland to win the American League Cy Young Award in 2008. Now he'll spend his free agent "platform year" back in the AL with Seattle.
"All I can say is, Cliff really enjoyed Philadelphia," Braunecker said. "Since the end of the postseason, his intent was to remain there beyond next season. That's been the goal. Unfortunately, some circumstances transpired that we couldn't control."
Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com and ESPN Insider.