According to the New York Post 's Joel Sherman, Seattle Mariners pitcher Cliff Lee will be traded to the Texas Rangers along with pitcher Mark Lowe in exchange for first base prospect Justin Smoak and three other players.
The Rangers will be Lee's fourth team in two seasons, and the acquisition of the Mariners ace and 2010 AL All-Star ostensibly puts the Rangers in the pole position for the AL West division crown.
Lowe is said to be missing the rest of the season with back surgery, which makes the acquisition odd, but the Mariners are also said to be sending the Rangers cash. Buster Olney of ESPN reports the Mariners will be sending the Rangers upwards of $2 million, which is another curious aspect of this trade.
The Rangers, who play in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in all of baseball at The Ballpark in Arlington, haven't had a legitimate major league ace since, perhaps, Nolan Ryan in the early 1990s. The Rangers have seen big-name pitchers come to Texas and get shellacked, namely, Kevin Millwood, Chan Ho Park, and Rich Harden.
If any pitcher were going to succeed in Texas, though, it would be Lee, an extremely good control pitcher who doesn't walk batters and doesn't give up home runs. Lee could be exactly what the Rangers need to put them over the top in 2010 and, potentially, beyond.
Whether the Rangers will be able to retain Lee after the season, of course, will depend on the Rangers' much publicized bankruptcy proceedings in Texas.
That Smoak would be the key piece of the puzzle for the Mariners is interesting, as Smoak—a highly touted prospect in the Rangers' system—has had a miserable time hitting for the Rangers, even in their hitter-friendly ballpark. Moving from hitter-friendly Arlington to pitcher-friendly Safeco Field might have an adverse impact on Smoak's development.