|Holding the most coveted
trade chip at this year's deadline, the
Mariners cashed in lefthander Cliff
Lee a little early, sending him to the Rangers for young
first baseman Justin
Smoak and three prospects. Texas also receives 27-year-old
Lowe, a righthander (and University of Texas-Arlington
product) who is slated to miss the rest of the season after having back
Also headed to Seattle are a trio of players from the Double-A Frisco roster: righthanders Blake Beavan, a Rangers' first-round pick in 2007, and Josh Lueke as well as second baseman Matt Lawson. The Mariners also furnished the Rangers with approximately $2.5 million to help the financially-strapped club cover the remainder of Lee's $8 million salary, which works out to roughly $4.2 million.
Earlier in the day, multiple sources indicated that the Yankees had secured Lee's services for a package headlined by Triple-A catcher Jesus Montero and Double-A second baseman David Adams. The deal never was consummated, and the Mariners apparently told the Rangers that if they included Smoak, then they could have Lee.
Age: 23. Position: 1B (83 G).
Born: Dec. 5, 1986 in Goose Creek, S.C.
Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Bats: B. Throws: L.
School: South Carolina.
Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in first round (11th overall) of 2008 draft; signed Aug. 15, 2008.
Smoak has been on the prospect radar for a long time. As a high school player in South Carolina, he was one of the top hitters available in the 2005 prep draft class. He ranked 95th on Baseball America's Top 200 draft prospects that year but fell to the 16th round because of a strong commitment to South Carolina, and wound up turning down a reported $850,000 signing bonus from the Athletics to join the Gamecocks. While he had three strong seasons in Columbia, the Gamecocks never reached the College World Series with Smoak in the lineup.
He ranked eighth in Baseball America's Top 200 draft prospects list but fell to No. 11 in the draft that year, behind fellow first basemen Eric Hosmer (Royals) and Yonder Alonso (Reds) and seven spots ahead of Ike Davis (Mets). Smoak was compared to Mark Grace out of high school but showed more power than that in college and in pro ball.
Smoak is an average defender, and the Mariners are betting on his bat. However, his power hasn't been in evidence at upper levels, particularly from the right side of the plate. He slugged just .363 at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season in 197 at-bats. This season, as the Rangers' everyday first baseman, he was hitting just .139/.207/.266 in 79 at-bats as a righthanded hitter, while hitting a more respectable .244/.367/.397 from the left side.
One pro scout contacted by Baseball America said a hitch in Smoak's swing was upsetting his timing, keeping him from maximizing his raw power, and as a result, his overall athleticism was beginning to be questioned.
Born: Jan. 17, 1989 in Irving, Texas.
Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 250. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Irving (Texas) HS.
Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in first round (17th overall) of 2007 draft; signed Aug. 14, 2007.
The best prospect in the deal is Beavan, the towering righthander taken 17th overall in the 2007 draft, who must be bummed to be traded from his hometown club. He's in the midst of an outstanding season, and scouts consider him a future No. 4 starter and innings eater. While he no longer throws in the mid-90s as he did in high school, Beavan thrived with Frisco by commanding his 88-91 mph fastball and having a good feel for his changeup and slider. He had just 12 walks in 110 innings in Double-A and had earned a recent promotion to Triple-A.
"He can really pitch," one pro scout with an American League organization said earlier this week. "He doesn't need to throw hard to be effective. He has very good control, and it takes hitters one or two times through the order before they even start to get a feel for what he's doing. He's probably not an ace, but he's got average stuff with command. That's a fourth-starter profile."
Born: Dec. 5, 1984 in Covington, Ky.
Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Northern Kentucky.
Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in 16th round of 2007 draft; signed June 11, 2007.
Lueke has true plus stuff, with a 94-95 mph fastball that he combines with a sometimes above-average split-finger fastball and slider. Unlike many pitchers who profile as relievers, control has never been a problem for Lueke. No, his biggest problem has come off the field. Lueke was charged with rape in 2009 by a woman who he had met in Bakersfield the year before, while playing in the high Class A California League. The rape charge ultimately was dropped when Lueke pled no contest to false imprisonment with violence. The false imprisonment charge brought with it 40 days in jail that Lueke had already served while awaiting trial. He missed almost the entire 2009 season because of the legal issues, and it also explains why he began the season in low Class A Hickory before jumping to Double-A. The Rangers wanted to make sure he did not return to Bakersfield.
Age: 24. Position: 2B (60 G), LF (13 G), CF (1 G).
Born: Nov. 18, 1985 in Joplin, Mo.
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Missouri State.
Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in 14th round of 2007 draft; signed June 10, 2007.
An aggressive, offensive-minded second baseman, Lawson also has played some left field and profiles more as a utility player than as a regular. He's a grinder with some pop.
Age: 31. Remaining Commitment: about $4.2 million (Phillies exercised $8 million club option last November, and they send $2.5 million in this deal).
Contract details courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.
Age: 27. Remaining Commitment: 2 arbitration years remain ('11 and '12) prior to free agency ($1.15 million salary in '10).
Contract details courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.