Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cliff Lee Fallout: So What Happened? And Now What?

What Happened?
When we produced the first draft of the 2010 Trade Deadline Primer (now available) last week, here was the introductory paragraph (written by Scott Lucas of The Newberg Report) for the Texas Rangers:

"The Rangers have marketed their 2010 club with the slogan 'It’s Time,' asserting that they won’t settle for mere prospect development and a polite stab at contention. Despite financial constraints, the Rangers geared their offseason toward a legitimate run at the division title. During spring training and the season, roster decisions have largely reflected a 'win now' mentality that stands in bold relief against most of the post-Alex Rodriguez era."

Little did we understand how prescient that was. Now it includes a final sentence:

And that has now culminated in a four-for-one trade for Cliff Lee.

The bottom line is that the Texas Rangers were just plain more willing to go after this thing very hard. They also might have been a little lucky that the Mariners (and most commentators) value the main prospect so highly.

Justin Smoak, for some reason is considered to be gold grade. Looking at his minor league record and availability, I'm surprise more people aren't asking if it's really fools gold. He's supposed to be a powerful middle-of-the-order presence for many years, but he's got all of 17 home runs in his 2+ years in the minors. He's also 23-years-old (a year older than Wilson Ramos), plays first base, and has yet to show he's mastered AAA, let alone the majors.

And the rest?
  • Blake Beavan is Twins type of pitcher, strike-throwing, low strikeout rate, good at getting grounders. He'll start at AAA. I'd liken him to Jeff Manship.
  • Josh Lueke is a pitcher in AA who is striking lots of guys out, but he's also 25 years old. Oh, and he was arrested last year for rape and sodomy, though he eventually agreed to a lesser charge of false imprisonment with violence. By the way, apparently for a first offense you can get just 40 days in jail for that.
  • Matthew Lawson is a 24-year-old second baseman who has an 809 OPS in AA this year.
There isn't anything special in the bunch of them, with the possible exception of Lueke, provided he becomes a human being.

So, I guess I'm puzzled. I can't figure out how the Twins got outbid here. And I can't figure out why everyone is so quick to praise Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik, other than the fact that it's Jack Zduriencik, and he had one hell of a good first year on the job.

It's worth noting that his second year has been almost as bad as his first year was good. He was praised for taking a 61-win team and turning them into an 85-win team in one year. Well, guess how many wins the Mariners are on pace for this year? A: 65. A four-win improvement in two years is a little less impressive.

So What's Next?
Gimme 24 hours and we'll delve into it. Frankly, both myself and my family are a little burned out by the publishing of the Trade Deadline Primer, which you can now order for $9.95. Or you can download a free "quaterbook." (Because it's about 1/4 of the whole, book. Get it?)

If you get either, you'll see a list of starting pitchers that will be available. That will be tomorrow's starting point.


Jewscott said...

Me thinks you question Smoak a bit much there, John. He may have only 17 minor league homeruns, but it's over the course of 500 at-bats. If you're running a franchise, and you have the choice of a first baseman who could be the next Mark Teixeira or a catcher who could be the next Ramon Hernandez, which way do you go?

Anonymous said...

How about a first baseman who could be the next Daric Barton or a catcher who could be the next Victor Martinez? You can't just arbitrarily compare people.

Jewscott said...

The Teixeria comp for Smoak comes from Baseball America. The Ramon Hernandez comp for Ramos comes from Baseball Prospectus (the Baseball Prospectus comp for Smoak was a switch-hitting Justin Morneau).

Someone who has the potential to be a great first baseman is going to be far more wanted than someone with the potential of being a good catcher. Could the Twins have topped the trade? Maybe. But it would have meant having Ramos as the secondary Beaven piece.

John said...

So tell me - what about his professional career makes us think that Smoak compares to Teixeira. I'm honestly asking. Because I don't see it.

Jim H said...

One of the problems in trying to compare trade offers is that we really have no idea who from the Twins organization Seattle was interested in and even whether the Twins ever made a firm offer.

My thoughts are that if you have a prospect or prospects that you strongly believe will become a future star, you don't trade even one of them for a half season rental. Even trading less highly regarded prospects can come back to bite you. The Twins have been on the other end. They traded Viola for 5 pitchers. The centerpiece of the trade never really panned out for the Twins(West) but Tapani and Aggie were very important to the 91 Twins and were very good for quite awhile.

The Twins were also criticized in the Stewart trade because many thought Kielty was a future star rather than the role player he became.

There is no way to know how good Ramos or Hicks might become, even if Seattle was interested in acquiring them. But if the off season buzz and various remarks from Twins officals are even close to what their future might be, you don't trade either them is this sort of deal.

It looks to me like Texas probably overpaid for Lee, unless The Geek is right, that Smoak and the other prospects are not really going to be that good.

Jewscott said...

"So tell me - what about his professional career makes us think that Smoak compares to Teixeira. I'm honestly asking. Because I don't see it."

The same thing that makes us look beyond Aaron Hicks .783 OPS in repeating the Midwest League and see a future all-star centerfielder--projection. In Smoak's case, he has a career .293/.400+/.462 line with a near flat K/BB ration (including a 8/16 mark in AAA in April) in the minor league, so even if the power doesn't come he could very well simply be the next John Olerud. If the power comes (and remember a good portion of his minor league numbers were effected by an oblique injury), he's a switch-hitter capable of hitting for average and walks In terms of secondary prospects, Beavan is probably more the Texas version of Deolis Guerra than the Texas version of Jeff Manship.

It sucks that Lee isn't a Twin. But the Rangers did put out a very good offer to make sure it happened.