The Mariners have officially won the Cliff Lee deal.
Mariners get: 13 starts from Cliff Lee (4.0 WAR in 2010), Justin Smoak (Considered to be the sixth-best overall prospect in baseball), Josh Lueke, Blake Beavan, and Matt Lawson.
Phillies get: J.C. Ramirez, Philippe Aumont, and Tyson Gillies.
Rangers get:13-15 starts from Cliff Lee and a possibly broken Mark Lowe.
Allow me to follow up my rather bold statement with the following: I’m generally a pretty pessimistic person. I get it from my grandfather. Every time we watch an M’s game together, he’s surprised when anything positive happens and expects a 10-0 loss. My pessimism is similar, but of a lesser degree; I usually only predict a 9-0 loss. So, naturally, I was a bit perturbed when I found out that Jack Zduriencik had dealt Cliff Lee to the Rangers. I wasn’t surprised that Lee had been traded; rather I was surprised about the team to whom he had been traded. Sure, the Rangers aren’t the Angels, and they almost certainly won’t sign Lee during the off-season, but I had had my heart set on the Yankees’ catching prospect Jesus Montero. Additionally, on the off-chance that the Rangers should sign Lee, the M’s would have delivered arguably the best pitcher in baseball to an up-and-coming division rival.
So I did a little research on Justin Smoak, and I began to like the guy more and more. Defensively, Smoak seems pretty comparable to Casey Kotchman. Fortunately, he profiles much better than Kotch on the offensive side of things. Jon Shields over at ProBallNW wrote of Smoak:
"The results haven’t been great, but he’s played better than the numbers would indicate. Smoak is a switch hitter with power and a great approach at the plate, garnering comparisons to superstars Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez. Whether he ever plays at that level remains to be seen, but Seattle now has their first baseman figured out for the foreseeable future."
Justin Smoak appears to be the Michael Pineda of position players in that he’s pretty good, but not great, at each aspect of the game. He doesn’t do anything spectacularly well, but he hits, fields, takes pitches, and apparently runs at an above-average rate. The 20-25 home run power hasn’t arrived yet – and it may never – but Smoak is a safe bet to put up nifty UZR numbers and a batting line around .270/.360/.420 for years to come. And hey, he’s under team control for 6.5 more years since the Rangers seem to have his Major League service time.
As for the other three prospects, two appear to have some definite promise. I like Lueke a lot (not just because of the gaudy strikeout numbers, but even more so because he has a Twitter account), and the 6’7″ control specialist Beavan could end up as Doug Fister 2.0. Matt Lawson, however, sucks. The non-headliner prospects the M’s would have gotten from the Yanks are, in my opinion, a notch better than the ones they actually acquired in the Lee deal, but Jack Zduriencik clearly has an eye for talent and for the time being I won’t question his judgment.
And to our dear friend Cliff Lee, I offer a parting haiku.
"His tenure cut shortCliff a Mariner no moreStrikeouts like spare change"