Posted by Teix4MVP
So as Wilchiro and MagicSox have already told you, Cliff Lee has been traded along for prospects and whatnot, and he has performed well everywhere he went, whether it be in Philly or Seattle, or Cleveland. After the addition of Lee to the Mariners, many picked them to win the AL West. However, when the Mariners were quickly smacked out of contention, they decided to trade their second ace, who they would lose to free agency after the season.
At first, it looked like the Yankees were going to get him (I remember refreshing the website MLB Trade Rumors every 10-20 minutes just to see if they’d get a deal done) with a package centered around top 5 prospect, catcher Jesus Montero. The deal looked done; that is, until the Mariners opened up conversations with the Rangers again after they apparently didn’t like the package that also included prospect David Adams and probably Zach McAllister (who was later dealt for Austin Kearns) and liked a package centered around Justin Smoak more, along with guys like Blake Beavan, Matthew Lawson, and of course, the now-infamous Josh Lueke. They made the deal, sending Lee (and an out-for-the-season Mark Lowe) to the Rangers on July 9th, So, I’m going to break down the players as they’ve progressed through this year. Let’s start with the player(s) the Rangers got.
The Texas Rangers received:
Cliff Lee (and cash)
The 32-year-old Cliff Lee didn’t perform as well as expected in Texas. He went 4-6, had a 3.98 ERA, and saw his WHIP jump to 1.058 from .945. His BB/9 went from .5 to 1.0, and his SO/BB dropped from a godly 14.83 to 8.00. His September was pretty good, as he went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA, but in August he went 1-4 and had a 6.35 ERA. He was a great clubhouse presence for the upstart Rangers, and he led them straight to the World Series in the Playoffs. He defeated two of the best offenses in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, easily, giving up just 2 ERs in 24 innings pitched. He allowed just 14 baserunners (he had just one walk allowed) and he struck out 34 batters. And just like that, Lee and the Rangers had reached the World Series, the first the franchise had reached against the San Francisco Giants. The Rangers looked like the favorites to many, particularly because of their ace, Clifford Phifer Lee, and he was starting Game 1. He was 7-0 in his career during the playoffs, and he looked to improve to 8-0 against the Giants hitters, who didn’t have a 30 HR guy.
Or a 100-RBI guy.
Or even a 90-RBI guy.
This was an interesting addition to the trade. Lowe was out for the season with a back surgery, but managed to make it back at the very end of the regular season, pitching in 3 games but had a 12.00 ERA. In the postseason, he pitched in 2 games, and gave up 5 earned runs. At age 27, he isn’t a prospect player, so he was included in the deal as a probable throw-in, although the Rangers want him. He’s arbitration-eligible, so look for him to be in the Rangers plans for 2011.
The Rangers’ GM Daniels was widely praised for making this deal, as he greatly improved his team’s chances to make it to the playoffs but also did it without giving up any of his blue chip minors prospects. Lee was the obvious prize of the trade, but look for Lowe next season, as he’s one year removed from 75 appearances and a 3.26 ERA, although that should go up due to the park he’s now pitching in. The Rangers have the financial flexibility to sign the best free agent this year’s class has to offer, although the offer has to stack up against those of the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels, and Tigers, among others. The Rangers do have an edge in the Lee negotiations, however, as Texas is close to his Arkansas home. Whoever signs Lee will get an immediate impact pitcher.
Let’s move on to the M’s part of the deal, starting with the centerpiece, rookie first baseman…
Smoak came up to replace the struggling Chris Davis at first base on April 22. He struggled in his time with the Rangers, having a slashline of .209/.316/.353, which wasn’t much better than Davis’s mark of .192/.279/.292. But this does not take away from Smoak’s potential. Smoak was a top fifteen prospect entering the season, rated by Baseball America and MLB Network. He has a solid glove at 1B as evident by a UZR of 2.2, and has drawn comparisions to stars such as Mark Teixeira and Lance Berkman in the past. This guy looks like the real deal.
Lueke shows a ton of potential and this is shown by an impressive year, going 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 50 games. He posted alot more K’s then he pitched innings, and he will likely be utilized in the Mariners bullpen entering the 2011 season. When acquired, the Mariners were not aware of previous problems with rape, and that is why they have begun to dangle him on the trade market.
Blake Beavan is a solid piece. At 6’7″ 250 pounds, Beavan posted great numbers in three levels with Texas and Seattle this year, going 14-8 with a 3.90 ERA in 168.1 IP. It doesn’t seem like he blows anyone away with just 101 K’s on the season, but this shouldn’t be an issue as long as he is getting the outs. Beavan is currently in AAA Tacoma, and could fight for a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training, depending on the health status of recently re-signed lefty Erik Bedard.
Lawson was essentially a throw-in piece who likely won’t play a huge part in the Mariners future plans, and will likely be used as trade bait, as he is blocked by stud prospects Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager. He did post decent stats on the year, though, hitting .293/.372/.439 with a solid OPS of .815.
Although it was hard for Mariners fans to see Lee go after such a great offseason followed by a solid 2009, it was evident that a trade was on the way. Jack Zduriencik likely got a maximum return for the lefty, considering the status of his contract and the demands for his salary. This was a trade that worked perfectly for both sides; the Rangers got one of the best pitchers in baseball in Lee who eventually led them in their surge to the World Series, with a fireball arm in Lowe who has a shot as the closer slot if Feliz becomes a starter in 2011. The Mariners got their future 1B in Smoak who fits perfectly with their plans with his left handed bat, solid glove and marginal power, a couple of solid bullpen arms in Lueke and Beavan, and a young 2B in Lawson. This trade was a win-win for both sides.