After talks end with Yankees, Mariners trade Cliff Lee to Rangers

July 9, 2010   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

Talks abruptly end with Yankees, allowing the Rangers to swoop in and trade for Cliff Lee.

Early this morning, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the New York Yankees were “on the brink obtaining [Seattle Mariners starting pitcher] Cliff Lee for a packing that would include top prospects Jesus Montero.”

Then an executive familiar with the talks informed ESPN the deal was “just about done.” Twenty minutes later, Kevin Davidoff of Newsday reported there had been a “snag” in the talks between the Mariners and Yankees.

Still, for the next few hours, the consensus was that a trade would be completed. Then came the shocking twist. Quoting Sherman via Twitter: “#Mariners backing off #Yankees offer, Post has learned. Does not look like #Yankees are in it.”

Lee in New York would significantly hurt Boston’s chances of breaking through in the division, so I was definitely relieved to hear the talks had broken off at the last minute. But since the credibility of “sources” took a hit during the LeBron James fiasco, I wasn’t entirely sold on the reports being true. Yet, as confirmations came in from very respected outlets – newspapers such as the New York Times and Seattle Times, as well as the ESPN’s Buster Olney – I deemed the news to be valid. Too many were saying the same thing for it not to be. So, not happy with the prospects they were reported to receive – Montero, the Yankees top catching prospect, Double-A second baseman David Adams, and a third prospect–the Mariners turned their attention to the Texas Rangers.

Once Smoak was entered, the Mariners decided to trade Lee to Rangers.

After learning the tables were turned and they were in fact in contention to land the ace lefthander, Texas tempted Seattle with a prospect-laden offer headlined by first baseman Justin Smoak, a 23-year old power hitter who was the organization’s second-ranked prospect entering the season. Smoak hasn’t hit for much of an average during his brief time in the major leagues, as he is batting just .209 this season, but he has had his fair share of bright spots in hitting eight homers and driving in 31 rbi’s. He did perform fairly well in June, hitting .266 with six doubles, four home runs and 22 RBI to go with 17 walks and 16 runs scored. And based of his recent play, projections, and potential, he has a very bright career ahead of him.

Along with Smoak, the package included 25-year old right-handed reliever Josh Lueke, who is currently with their Double-A team and has had an incredible amount of success. He has racked up the strikeouts at a prolific rate, especially this season, compiling 62 in 38 innings split between Single-A and Double-A. All indications are that he has the potential to either close or be an effective set-up man at the Major League level.

Twenty-one year old Blake Beavan, a 6’7″, 250-pound right-handed pitcher, was inserted to the deal as well. His frame suggests he would be a power-pitcher with Lueke’s strikeout/inning ratio, but he is finesse comparatively, averaging just 5.2 strikeouts per nine innings during his minor league career. This means he pitches to contact, but that doesn’t mean he’s been hit hard while in Texas’s system. This season, the 17th ranked prospect in the Rangers system has gone 10-5 with a 2.78 ERA with Double-A Frisco.

Also added to the package was second baseman Matthew Lawson, a 24-year old who played with Lueke and Beavan with Frisco. His statistics remind me of the minor league numbers put up by the current Red Sox Dustin Pedroia, albeit with more strikeouts. He hasn’t swiped many bags, but he has shown the ability to do so with reliability. He hasn’t hit for much power, but judging by his stats he may project to hit 10-15 homers over a full season. His batting average and on-base percentage have been above average. Lawson is also very versatile, as he can play all three outfield positions, too.

Would Smoak and these three prospects be enough to nab Lee from the Mariners? Seattle wasn’t pleased with the medical records of Adams, who sprained his ankle in May and has not played since. This ended the talks with the Yankees, infuriating the AL East leader. With New York no longer in play, the Mariners told the Rangers that adding Smoak would mean obtaining Lee. Texas clearly obliged, and a trade was hashed out, with the addition of reliever Mark Lowe and $2 million in cash heading to the Rangers.

As of now, the deal looks solid for both parties. Since Lee is a free agent after this season, Texas has to re-sign him for the move to still be considered a win. Trading Smoak for a half-year rental would not sit well with their fan base. But the thought is that Texas wouldn’t have done the deal if they weren’t absolutely sure a long-term agreement with Lee could be reached.

With the bold move confirmed by press releases, Lee is officially a Ranger. He was the ace of the Cleveland Indians from 2003 to the mid-season of 2009, and went 22-3 in his final full season with the team. He was then traded to the Phillies, and he dominated with the National League’s best. His regular season numbers were superb, but he really made his mark in the postseason. He went 4-0, threw two complete games, and had a sparkling 1.56 ERA in five playoff starts.

He carried over this success to the Mariners. He joined the team in the offseason as part of an extraordinary blockbuster that sent prospects fly every which way and netted Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay. Seattle has underachieved this season, but he’s been their lone bright spot. In 13 starts he went 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and five complete games.

This move gives the Rangers an even better chance at winning the American League West, the division they currently lead by 5.5 games over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Smoak has tremendous upside, but Lee is one of the best pitchers in baseball. If given a chance to acquire him, it would be hard-pressed to find a team that wouldn’t jump at the opportunity. Leaving the Yankees irate at the broken down talks, Seattle adequately builds for the future while Texas swoops in to make a trade that could put them over the top and help them contend with miffed New York and other American League powers come playoff time.

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