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Halladay, Lee reportedly part of huge Phils-Mariners-Jays trade

When Roy Halladay first became available last July, the Phillies appeared the prohibitive favorites to acquire him. They had the need, the capital and a lucky home-field advantage.

It took five months longer than expected, but Halladay is on the verge of becoming a Phillie - with the man who took his place last July, Cliff Lee, headed back out of town.

As first reported by SI.com, Halladay and Lee served as the centerpieces of a mammoth three-way trade among the Phillies, Blue Jays and Mariners. Halladay, who arrived in Philadelphia yesterday, is negotiating a contract extension in return for waiving his no-trade clause. Once that is finalized, the deal will become official.

It's not yet clear which other players will be included. But the crux of the deal features Halladay and Lee, both American League Cy Young Award winners - one of whom wanted to avoid free agency next offseason and one of whom wanted to pursue it.

The Phillies acquired Lee from Cleveland last season because they found Toronto's asking price for Halladay unreasonable. Lee performed extremely well for the Phillies, leading them into their second straight World Series. However, Lee, 31, seems determined to explore free agency a year from now.

Halladay, 32, also had the ability to enter the open market next offseason. But as a resident of Florida's Gulf Coast, the idea of joining the successful Phillies - and spending spring training in nearby Clearwater - appealed greatly to him. So he reportedly will sign an extension slightly less than his market value.

ESPN.com reported that Halladay, who will make $15.75 million in 2010, will sign a three-year extension - starting in 2011 - for about $60 million, with some vesting options possible. That is a bargain compared to the deals the Mets gave Johan Santana (six years, $137.5 million) and the Yankees gave CC Sabathia (seven years, $161 million).

In order to obtain prospects for the Halladay package and manage their payroll, the Phillies opted to trade Lee to Seattle, which had been in the running for John Lackey before Lackey agreed to terms with Boston.

With one of baseball's best pitchers locked up, the Phillies assured themselves of having an established ace in the fold for a long time, and gave room for young ace Cole Hamels to develop.

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