Texas Rangers Fire First Shot:, Acquire Cliff Lee from Mariners

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIJuly 12, 2010

For as long as I can remember, the Texas Rangers have always needed an ace. Pitchers like Rick Helling, Aaron Sele, Ken Hill, and Kenny Rogers have been given the title of “staff ace,” but none of them really deserved that title.

After their trade with the Seattle Mariners on Friday, the Rangers now have a legit ace.


Lee is the ace the Rangers never had

On Friday afternoon, the Rangers acquired LHP Cliff Lee and RHP Mark Lowe from the Mariners for 1B Justin Smoak and minor leaguers Blake Bleavan, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson. While we might not know how the Mariners did on this trade for three or four years, on the surface it looks like a solid trade for both sides.

But let’s start with the fact that this trade almost never happened. By all accounts, Lee was headed to the New York Yankees in a package that included Jesus Montero. Everyone thought Lee to the Yankees was a done deal, but the Rangers stepped in at the last second and offered a much better package.

The key to this whole deal was Smoak. The Rangers weren’t willing to part with him at first, but then after seeing how serious the Yankees were about acquiring Lee, GM Jon Daniels stepped up and took the chance that Lee will not only lead them to the playoffs, but help them make a deep run in October.

With Lee, the Rangers are getting the best pitcher on the trade market and one of the best two or three left-handed pitchers in the game. Over his last eight starts prior to joining the Rangers, Lee was 7-1 with five complete games. Lee will move to the top of the Rangers rotation, which will allow Scott Feldman and C.J. Wilson move down to two and three in the rotation.

Just remember that Lee is strictly a rental for the Rangers. Lee has made it very clear since the start of the season that no matter what happens this year, he will be testing the free agent market. He wants a C.C. Sabathia-like contract, and, quite frankly, he deserves one.

For the Mariners, they get a very, very good return on Lee. Smoak, a 23-year-old switch-hitting 1B is one of the top prospects in the game. Despite hitting just .209 with the Rangers, he showed good patience at the plate and solid power. Though his power numbers might take a hit going from Texas to Seattle, Smoak should blossom into one of the top hitting first basemen in the AL in three to four years.

The Mariners also got Blake Bleavan, who was the Rangers’ first round pick in the 2007 draft. He was 10-5 with a 2.78 ERA in 17 starts in Double A. According to Baseball America , Bleavan had the best control of any pitcher in the Rangers’ organization.

The Mariners also got 25-year-old Josh Lueke, who had 62 K’s in 38.1 IP between Single-A and Double-A this year. That is not a misprint kids. He really had 62 K’s in just 38 IP.

Matt Lawson is a 24-year-old second baseman, who was hitting was hitting .277 with seven home runs and a .371 OBP in Double-A. Lawson, like lueke, was not a top-10 prospect in the Rangers’ organization according to Baseball America.

The Rangers are looking for their first division title since 1999. Lee can only help that cause.

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