Rangers, Not Yankees, Trade for Mariners' Cliff Lee
The Rangers acquired Lee and reliever Mark Lowe from Seattle for a package built around rookie first baseman Justin Smoak. The Mariners also will send about $2.25 million to Texas to help cover the cost of Lee's and Lowe's salaries for the rest of the season, according to multiple reports.
In addition to Smoak, the Mariners get three minor leaguers -- right-handers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke and second baseman Matt Lawson -- in the deal.
The Rangers called up first baseman Chris Davis to take Smoak's roster spot for Friday night's game. Lee was scheduled to pitch Friday for Seattle but could make his Rangers debut Saturday night against the Orioles. Lowe is on the disabled list after undergoing back surgery last month.
In Seattle, David Pauley started for the Mariners against the Yankees in Lee's place.
Shortly before catching a flight to Texas, Lee met with the media in Seattle and admitted to being perplexed by the day's events, as he like everyone else watched the various reports and assumed he would end up in New York. But he noted in the end that the Rangers have the largest lead of any first-place team (5 1/2 games over the Angels in the AL West) and he was happy to play for "whatever team wants me to play for them."
"They're already in a good spot, got a great team," Lee said. "I just want to be one of the guys, that's it."
Texas had been considered a strong bidder for Lee in previous days but the New York Post reported Friday morning that the Yankees were "on the brink" of a deal for Lee that would have sent three prospects headed by catcher Jesus Montero to Seattle.
After a day of reports from various sources describing that trade as "imminent" or "close," word emerged around 3:45 PM ET that the deal had fallen through and other teams were jumping into the mix with potentially better offers.
The Reds were one of them, Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty confirmed.
"We made a pretty substantial offer," Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "They liked Texas' offer better."
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik wouldn't specifically address the Yankees' offer -- or anyone else's -- during a press conference Friday, but he did acknowledge that other potential suitors were involved.
"Did we have situations that were close? Yes," Zduriencik said. "But at the end there are always things that you have to look into a little further. As we stand, we chose this deal, and we're happy that we did."
Unlike Montero, Smoak already is in the majors. He has hit .209 with eight homers in 70 games since being called up by the Rangers earlier this season.
The Mariners just traded for a power-hitting first baseman in Russell Branyan and they can't play either Branyan or Smoak at DH unless they are willing to play the oft-injured DH Milton Bradley in left field regularly. The Mariners are trying not to do that, preferring to give rookie Michael Saunders a chance to develop.
Adding Smoak and giving him a chance to play now would mean trading Bradley (all but impossible given his salary), benching him (unlikely, again, given his salary), trading or benching Branyan (unlikely in both instances) or sending Saunders, who has seven homers and a .215 batting average in 130 at-bats, back to the minors (again unlikely, but at least theoretically possible).
The Post initially reported that a deal was in place to see Lee head to the Bronx in exchange for catcher Jesus Montero, second baseman David Adams and another player, later determined to be pitcher Zach McAllister. The problem from Seattle's point of view may have been that Adams has been on the disabled list since mid-May, giving Seattle concerns about his health.
Lee is 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA, best in the AL, after missing most of April with an abdominal strain. He has 89 strikeouts and just six walks in his 103 2/3 innings, on pace for the best strikeout-to-walk ratio ever.
In the past calendar year, including the postseason, Lee is 24-9 with a 2.50 ERA, 218 strikeouts and 24 walks in 255 2/3 innings.
His career winning percentage of .641 (98-55) is fifth among active pitchers, behind only Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson and Roy Oswalt.
Lee, who turns 32 in August, went from the Indians to the Phillies a year ago, helping the Phils to the World Series, and then was traded to Seattle once Philadelphia acquired Halladay.
FanHouse Senior MLB Writers Ed Price and John Hickey and FanHouse MLB Analyst Frankie Piliere contributed to this report.