Rangers Pay a Stiff Price for Cliff Lee
The Trade: The Mariners trade P Cliff Lee and RP Mark Lowe to the Rangers for 1B Justin Smoak, P Blake Beavan (AA), RP Josh Lueke (AA), 2B Matt Lawson (AA)
Rangers: Texas made a bold move yesterday trading away their top young prospect Justin Smoak along with three AA prospects for a half a year rental of Cliff Lee and a solid relief arm in Mark Lowe. Smoak is a steep price to pay for the former Cy Young award winning pitcher, even if the Mariners did through in some cash. Smoak is one of the top young hitters in all of baseball, and while he hasn’t produced yet this season, it is only a matter of time. I think Smoak is an All-Star, middle of the order hitting first baseman and will be ready to assume that role as soon as next season. He is the guy that will likely come back and haunt the Rangers the most. In return the Rangers got Cliff Lee the ace and Mark Lowe a guy who is out till at least September. Lee does give Texas the frontline starter they need to advance in the playoffs, but he will be a free agent this fall. And given the Rangers financial situation they have no chance to resign him (even if they did that shouldn’t affect Lee’s trade value). The one plus of Lee is he will be a Type A free agent which will net Texas two premium draft picks when he signs this winter.
Mariners: I like what Seattle did with the Lee deal, especially throwing in the extra money to get a better prospect return. Seattle gave up three prospects at the beginning of the season to acquire Lee in the hopes that he would help propel them on a playoff run. Things haven’t turned out well for the Mariners as a team, but luckily Lee has been pretty dominate. Seattle actually got more in return for Lee with this deal, than what they gave up 8 months ago. Smoak is the prize, and was ranked as one of the top prospects in all of baseball before the season. Him alone is more value than the 3 prospects they gave up to acquire Lee. On top of Smoak the Mariners received three other Double-A prospects. The two best are the pitchers Beavan and Lueke. Beavan is a former 1st round pick of the Rangers and while he no longer profiles as a front of the rotation pitcher, he has been very successful at Double-A and is still just 21 years old. His ceiling might be that of a number 3 starter, but he should definitely make an MLB rotation within the next two years. Lueke is a power arm out of the bullpen and could end up a closer one day. His stock would be higher, but he was arrested for rape last year, while he ended up pleading to a much lesser offense and was released with time served, his off the field problems may keep him from ever reaching is on the field potential. The final player the Rangers gave up was 2B Matt Lawson. Lawson isn’t a top prospect and profiles as more of a utility guy in the majors, but is a hard working ball player that could be a cheap bench player for Seattle. The Mariners made the right move acquiring prospects instead of just sitting on their hands and waiting for draft picks. Draft picks are nice but they are usually 4+ years away, Smoak is ready now and Beavan and Lueke should be ready within 2 years. In addition you will have to sign the draft picks (not always and easy task) and pay them at least a combined $3 million.
Winner: I really think the Mariners are the winner in this deal, they got a potential All-Star first baseman for the next 5 years, as well as a couple other decent prospects for 3 months of Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe who has 2 more years of Arb. (but can never stay healthy). The Rangers might be a little better in the playoffs, but I don’t think they are World Series favorites. If they were going to give up Smoak they should have received a pitcher under control for a couple of years. I think this deal will end up a big win for Seattle and a big disappointment for Texas.