MLB Trade Rumors: Cliff Lee for the Texas Rangers' Justin Smoak?

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MLB Trade Rumors: Cliff Lee for the Texas Rangers' Justin Smoak?
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Buster Olney tweeted on Saturday morning that Seattle continues to look for "big bat potential" in exchange for Cliff Lee.

He listed two potentially available prospects who fit the bill: Cincinnati's Yonder Alonso and Texas' Justin Smoak. 

The Mariners have made it known that they are seeking bats in return for the top-tier southpaw. They have been linked to several top catching prospects, including Minnesota's Wilson Ramos and the New York Yankees' Jesus Montero.

The Mariners may have now widened their scope, however, now aiming for a potential impact bat at any position. 

 

Texas' Trade Priorities

Last week, the Texas Rangers acquired Gold Glove catcher Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants. In doing so, the Rangers revealed an interesting pattern in organizational priorities.

In exchange for Molina, the Rangers sent pitchers Chris Ray and a "player to be named later." After further negotiations, Michael Main was named as that player.

Main was the 24th overall selection in the 2007 MLB Draft and, prior to the 2010 season, he was rated the 21st best prospect in the Rangers' farm system.

Yet the Rangers included Main because, in the deal, the Giants agreed to eat a portion of Bengie Molina's salary.

In this trade, the Rangers made it clear that they are not willing to absorb salary through trades. Instead, the Rangers simply included a better prospect , to induce the Giants to pay their departing player's salary. 

This pattern could bode well for the Seattle Mariners if the Rangers and Mariners become trading partners.

 

How This Affects the Mariners

In a normal trade, Cliff Lee has a set value that the Mariners are seeking to acquire. If the Mariners are willing to absorb a portion of salary in the trade, however, they may be able to get a higher-rated prospect than they planned; maybe even Justin Smoak.

The Texas Rangers have two high-profile first-base prospects in Justin Smoak and Chris Davis, aged 23 and 24, respectively.

Davis began 2010 as the Rangers' starting first baseman, but slumped out of the gate and was demoted three weeks into the season.

Through two months, Smoak has shown promising power (8 HR), but problems elsewhere (.208 AVG).

The status quo finds the Texas Rangers with two potential power bats vying for the same position on a Major League Roster.

One of these two could turn into a designated hitter, but with Vladimir Guerrero's current production (.334/18/70), that position might not be available for a few years.

The Seattle Mariners are seeking to acquire a potential power bat.

The Texas Rangers have both Justin Smoak and Chris Davis under their control.

In the Bengie Molina trade, the Rangers have made it clear that they would rather depart with a higher-rated prospect than acquire an incoming player's salary. 

The Seattle Mariners would most likely be willing to eat a portion of Cliff Lee's salary to acquire a higher-caliber power bat.

If the Rangers decide to make a play for Cliff Lee, the Mariners could acquire a high-potential power bat in return, such as Justin Smoak or Chris Davis.

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