Rangers acquire Lee from Mariners
Smoak, three other players headed to Seattle in deal
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers believe they have acquired the No. 1 starter who can be a difference-maker and have a huge impact in their quest to win their first division title since 1999.
And go beyond that.The Rangers did so when they acquired left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee from the Mariners for first baseman Justin Smoak, Minor League pitchers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke, and infielder Matt Lawson on Friday afternoon. The Rangers also acquired injured pitcher Mark Lowe in the deal and received $2.25 million in cash considerations. "We haven't won anything yet, but we feel like we're in position to put our best foot forward to be competitive in our division and in the American League," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We said all along that if we could upgrade our club we would do so, and this gives us a few more pieces to play with." Lee, 31, who went 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts for the Mariners this season, could pitch for the Rangers as soon as Saturday against the Orioles, although that has not been decided completely. He is also on the AL All-Star team and will wear the Rangers' jersey during the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Anaheim. "Anytime you get traded there's uncertainty and you don't know what to expect," Lee said in Seattle. "But I know one thing, they've got a great team and are in first place. I'm going to try to do everything I can to keep them headed in the direction they're heading. They're already in a great spot, they have a great team, and I just want to be one of the guys." Lee now heads a rotation that already includes left-hander C.J. Wilson (7-4, 3.24), and right-handers Colby Lewis (8-5, 3.33), Tommy Hunter (5-0, 2.34) and Scott Feldman (5-8, 5.51), with Rich Harden and Derek Holland still on the disabled list.
"I feel like this makes us better, a left-handed pitcher who is a proven starter and an innings-eater," club president Nolan Ryan said. "He's going to have a presence not only on days when he pitches, but on the rest of the staff as well."Rangers manager Ron Washington predicted Lee would have the same impact on the rotation as Vladimir Guerrero has had on the lineup. "He'll make every one of our pitchers better," Washington said. "Today is a great day for the Texas Rangers organization." The Rangers were reluctant to put Smoak in the deal and had been telling clubs that he was not available. He was the Rangers' No. 1 Draft pick in 2008 and was hitting .209 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 70 games this season. The Mariners were close to completing a deal with the Yankees this morning for catcher Jesus Montero, infielder David Adams and one other player, but were willing to do a deal with the Rangers if Smoak was included. That's why Lee is coming to Texas rather than going to New York, and Chris Davis has been recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City to replace Smoak at first base. "These were fluid negotiations," Daniels said. "We were constantly swapping names back and forth and it wasn't until this afternoon that we were able to get something done." The Reds also went hard after Lee on Friday. "We felt we made a pretty substantial offer," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "Obviously, they felt the Texas deal was better." There was some speculation that the Mariners might take this down to the July 31 Trade Deadline. But the Rangers were aggressive and Lee could make as many as five starts for them before that date. The Rangers have six games in July against the Angels. "We have a lot of respect for the Angels and the other clubs in the division," Daniels said "We're not taking anything for granted. They are the team to beat, and we have a lot of games left with them. Every start and every win we're able to get will help. Every acquisition we make, we want to do it sooner than later so it will have more of an impact." Lee was 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 31 starts for the Indians in 2008, and was 14-13 with a 3.22 ERA in 34 starts for the Indians and the Phillies last year. The Phillies acquired him on July 29 of last season for the stretch run and he was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts in the playoffs. He beat the Yankees twice in the World Series. "He definitely likes big games and has performed well in big games," Ryan said. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, Lee is 44-19 with a 2.79 ERA, the fifth-lowest ERA in the Major Leagues in that stretch and the lowest by a left-hander. His 44 wins are the third most in that stretch. He is also a free agent after the season and, given the uncertain state of their ownership situation, there is no way of knowing if the Rangers will be able to re-sign him in the winter. "It's too early to speculate on something of that magnitude, him not being here yet and what his thoughts are as far as how his career is going," Ryan said. Lee will be a Type A free agent who will command two Draft picks as compensation if the Rangers don't re-sign him. That could eventually soften the blow of losing both Smoak and Beavan, two former No. 1 draft picks. But this is clearly about the Rangers winning right now. "This is all about [Washington] and the staff and the players putting us in this position where we could consider something like this," Daniels said. "You always want to be in a position to do something like this, and those guys put us in that position." Lowe, a UT-Arlington product, is currently on the 15-day disabled list. He went on the disabled list on May 3 with lower back inflammation and had surgery on June 15. He was 1-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 11 relief appearances. He is unlikely to pitch again this season, but he has two more years of arbitration eligibility and could be a factor next season. "He is somebody we have always liked and have tried to acquire in the past," Daniels said. "The priority is to get him ready for next year." Now the Texas native is a part of one of the biggest trades in Rangers history. "It ranks very high because of the position of the club," Ryan said. "In the history of the ballclub, we haven't been in this position before where we could acquire somebody who could make a difference like this." Beavan was 10-5 with a 2.78 ERA in 17 starts at Double-A Frisco before being recently promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City. He was the Rangers' No. 1 draft pick in 2007. But one of the reasons why the Rangers were able to make this deal is because they still have plenty of young pitching, including Holland, Omar Beltre, Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez. "The great thing is in the position we're in, it doesn't empty the cupboard," Daniels said. Lawson was hitting .277 with 16 doubles, seven home runs and 34 RBIs in 76 games at Double-A Frisco and was recently selected to play in the Texas League All-Star Game. He was a 14th-round pick out of Missouri State in 2007. Lueke was 2-1 with 10 saves and a 0.46 ERA in 17 relief appearances at Class A Hickory and 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA and two saves at Frisco. He was a 16th-round pick out of Northern Kentucky University in 2007.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.