Last week I took a trip to Myrtle Beach with my dad, mom, sister, grandma, and granddad. We go there every year and this year was a lot of fun. We went to our annual Myrtle Beach Pelicans game (High-A team in the Carolina League), who are owned by Rangers owner-to-be Chuck Greenberg. My little sister went to the game with us this year because they were doing a Webkinz giveaway promotion. Also, every year when we go to Myrtle Beach, my dad, granddad and I do a putt-putt tournament for the entire week, doing a different course every day. They have the best putt-putt anywhere at Myrtle Beach and we went to a different course every day, for a total of 15 rounds of putt-putt. But the best part is the fact that I won for the third year in a row. Another great part of the trip was when we got the news that Cliff Lee was a Ranger, and I will analyze that trade for my blog this week.
On July 9th, the Texas Rangers acquired SP Cliff Lee and RP Mark Lowe for 1B Justin Smoak, SP Blake Beavan, RP Josh Lueke, and 2B Matthew Lawson.
Cliff Lee: Cliff is obviously a great pitcher, the Rangers’ no-doubt-about-it ace, which is something that they didn’t have before the trade. Cliff is 8-4 with a 2.59 ERA, 97 strikeouts, and only 7 walks in 121.2 innings pitched (after his two starts as a Ranger). He is third in the American League in ERA, and that has been raised since the trade. His 97 strikeouts are 14th in the AL, and he was injured through almost all of April. His seven walks are incredible, only 0.52 walks per nine innings which is the best in baseball by 0.64, so that’s not even close. He has 13.86 strikeouts per walk, which is 7.12 better than anyone else in all of baseball. He is very efficient with his pitches, and leads baseball in that category, too, with 13.35 pitches an inning on average. He is a real workhorse, as he is 13th in innings pitched among American League pitchers, and leads the American League in complete games. He is a Cy Young candidate, and an All-Star. Not only that, but in the playoffs last year, he was fantastic, and that is about as big an addition as you can possibly make.
Mark Lowe: Mark is injured, and will most likely miss the rest of the season, but will be back by next year. He is a very good relief pitcher when healthy, despite a 5.37 ERA in 2008, his first season with a respectable amount of innings. In 2009, however, he had a 3.26 ERA in 80 innings, striking out 69, and in his 10.1 innings this year, he had a 3.48 ERA. After trading away Chris Ray to the Giants in exchange for Bengie Molina, when Lowe gets back next year, he could fill that hole in the bullpen, and could be a big piece in a pennant run.
Mariners Players Received: Justin Smoak had really struggled as a Ranger this season since being called up, with a .209 Ranger batting average, 8 home runs, and 34 RBIs. He is a major prospect, rated number 2 in the system at the beginning of the season, and he did well in the minors before getting called up, hitting .300 in 50 at-bats. He has also done well as a Mariner since the trade, hitting .316 with 2 home runs in five games. Blake Beavan is also a very good prospect, and had a great year in Frisco, with a 10-5 record and a 2.78 ERA, earning him an All-Star bid. His only start in West Tennessee with the Diamond Jaxx did not go well, as he allowed 5 runs in 4 innings. Josh Lueke has only 39.2 innings this year, but has a 2.04 ERA, including a 0.46 ERA in Hickory. He pitched only 7.2 innings last year, all with Bakersfield, and in 2008 he struggled with a 4.67 ERA, despite a 3.11 ERA in his first year of professional ball in 2007. Matt Lawson started off great for Frisco this year, but then cooled off big-time to lower his batting average to .277 by the time he was traded, and has now raised it to .282. In his four minor league seasons, only once has his batting average been below .280, but that year’s batting average was .251.
Evaluation: I really like this trade. There is a good chance that the Rangers would have made it to the playoffs before this trade, but if they had, they wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere once they made it. They would be just about the only playoff team without an ace that you can count on to get a win every time he pitches, and it is almost impossible to win in the playoffs without that. But with Cliff Lee, they have an ace, and one who does his best pitching in the playoffs. Last year he went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in the postseason for the Philadelphia Phillies. Also, even if the Rangers don’t re-sign Lee, which they probably won’t, they still get a very solid relief pitcher in Mark Lowe. Even though Justin Smoak and Blake Beavan are both very good prospects, the other two people the Rangers sent to the M’s are not. I would have thought that the price for Cliff Lee would be much higher than what we gave up.
Grade: A+, this trade is amazing
Come back next week for my July awards.