Winners and Losers in the Seattle-Texas Cliff Lee Trade

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Winners and Losers in the Seattle-Texas Cliff Lee Trade
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On Friday, the Seattle Mariners traded ace Cliff Lee and reliever Mark Lowe to the Texas Rangers for switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak and three other prospects. 

Sportswriters and analysts are split on which team came out with the better end of this trade. Several pundits believe that the Rangers won out by landing a legitimate ace atop their rotation, while only sacrificing one of two high-potential first basemen in their system (the other being Chris Davis).

Others believe that the Mariners won out by acquiring a better package for Cliff Lee than they paid for him this past offseason. 

Like any trade, several teams, players, and division races will be affected by its completion. Here is a quick rundown of the biggest winners and losers in the Cliff Lee trade.

 

WINNER: 2010 Texas Rangers

I put the "2010" in front of this label because the Texas Rangers certainly improved in this deal, but it might not last long term.

Considering only this season, the Rangers are guaranteed winners in the Cliff Lee trade. They currently sit 4.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels, and, with the acquisition of Lee, are primed to extend that lead in the second half of the year.

It remains to be seen if trading Justin Smoak within the division will backfire on the Rangers, but in 2010, Cliff Lee gives them an even greater chance to win their first division title in over a decade.

 

LOSER: 2010 New York Yankees

The New York Yankees boast the best record in baseball, but last Friday they looked like fools in the race for Cliff Lee.

On Friday morning, the Mariners and Yankees agreed in principle to a deal for Cliff Lee, but the Mariners backed out of negotiations after concerns about second base prospect David Adams' health.

The Mariners quickly partnered up with the Texas Rangers, while the Yankees watched their agreement in principle fade into thin air.

Ken Rosenthal reported that the Yankees were "livid" at the Mariners' decision, and one Yankees official fumed that "You just don't do business that way."

However, as the gentlemen at Lookout Landing noted, business is business, and the Yankees have been on the other side of the deal at least once in the past. 

 

WINNER: The Rest of the AL East

Entering the All-Star break, the Tampa Bay Rays sit only two games back of the New York Yankees in the AL East, and the Boston Red Sox are within striking distance at five games back.

Had the Yankees acquired Cliff Lee, the chances of catching New York may have grown exponentially. 

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said it best when he told the St. Petersburg Times that Lee's trade to Texas was "better than the Yankees." Maddon preferred Lee going to the National League, but, like the rest of the AL East, he was more than happy to see Mariners-Yankees negotiations falter on Friday morning. 

Regardless of remaining trades, the rest of the AL East can breathe easier with Cliff Lee in Texas. 

 

LOSER: The Los Angeles Angels 

Similar to Joe Maddon's displeasure over Cliff Lee's potential trade to the New York Yankees, Mike Scoscia and the Los Angeles Angels could not have been pleased to hear that Lee was bound for Texas.

Angels OF Torii Hunter went as far as saying that Seattle broke the unwritten rules of baseball by dealing Lee within their own division. 

On Friday morning, the Angels sat 4.5 games behind the Rangers and faced increasing speculation over potential trade-deadline acquisitions. With Lee's arrival in Texas, the Angels now face mounting pressure to respond with an acquisition of their own.

The Angels are expected to pursue a corner infield power bat to replace Kendry Morales, who is out for the season due to injury. Within the past week, the Angels have been linked to Washington 1B Adam Dunn, Milwaukee 1B Prince Fielder, and free agent 1B Carlos Delgado. 

Regardless of who the Angels acquire, if anyone at all, their path to the 2010 AL West Championship is now more difficult with Cliff Lee in Texas.

 

WINNER: Texas Rangers 1B Chris Davis

Two years ago, Chris Davis was supposed to be the star of the future for the Texas Rangers. In 2008, Davis was ranked as the Rangers' second best prospect, behind only SS Elvis Andrus. 

That same year, at age 22, Davis blasted 17 home runs in only 80 games, and seemingly grabbed control of the Rangers' first base position for years to come.

Since his spectacular debut, however, Davis has struggled mightily.

Davis was demoted in mid-July 2009 after a horrific first half. In early 2010, following an abysmal three weeks, Davis was again demoted in favor of 23-year-old Justin Smoak.

Since his demotion, Davis has been hard at work, posting an impressive .354/.403/.555 line with Triple-A Oklahoma. With Smoak's departure, the Rangers again place their faith in Davis, and he may have the job for good this time.

 

LOSER: Seattle Mariners 1B Casey Kotchman

Casey Kotchman is a defensive machine. He is currently working on an MLB record in consecutive games without an error, but his offensive woes have heavily contributed to a lackluster 2010 Seattle Mariners offense.

In early June, the Mariners called up Mike Carp from Triple-A Tacoma to add offensive firepower to the first base position. This move failed, as Carp hit .167 in only 30 at-bats. In late June, the Mariners acquired Russell Branyan from the Cleveland Indians to again try and add pop at first base. With Branyan's arrival, Kotchman had lost a hold on the everyday first base gig.

After the arrival of Justin Smoak, Kotchman may have lost hold of a roster spot with the Seattle Mariners. At this point, he is not much more than a late-inning defensive replacement.

It remains to be seen if Kotchman will be dealt (not many teams will have an interest in his .208 batting average), but with the acquisition of Justin Smoak, Kotchman has clearly become expendable. 

 

That's it for the list. Comment below with who you think were the biggest winners and losers of the Cliff Lee trade!

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