Rangers emerge as winner in Cliff Lee sweepstakes

The Sports Network

7/9/2010 11:45:03 PM

Arlington, TX (Sports Network) - The Texas Rangers have acquired highly sought-after pitcher Cliff Lee, along with pitcher Mark Lowe and cash considerations, from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak and three minor league players.

The announcement was made in a press conference at Rangers Ballpark by general manager Jon Daniels, team president Nolan Ryan and manager Ron Washington.

The blockbuster trade came together quickly late Friday afternoon after it appeared that Lee was headed to the Bronx to play for the New York Yankees. The southpaw was slated to pitch against the Bombers in Seattle Friday night and was scratched from that assignment earlier in the day.

The 31-year-old Lee was in his first season with Seattle after splitting the 2009 campaign with Cleveland and Philadelphia. He is 8-3 with a 2.34 earned run average in 13 starts this season, including wins in four straight outings. He has fashioned a remarkable 89 to 6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 103 2/3 innings.

When asked about what made Lee so attractive, Ryan said "his ability to pitch to both sides of the plate, his breaking ball. He likes the big games and he performs well in the big games."

The Rangers are already in first place in the AL West, and the move gives the team a great chance to not only make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, but to win a postseason series for the first time in franchise history. The team, which came into existence in 1961 as the Washington Senators, has been to the postseason just three times.

Lee was traded from Cleveland to Philadelphia on July 29 of last year and helped pitch the Phillies to their second straight World Series.

He went 7-4 in 12 regular season starts after the deal and won twice in the World Series, including a masterful complete-game performance in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium. The Arkansas native also defeated Colorado in the first round of the playoffs and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

Lee is 98-55 in nine seasons with the Indians, Phillies and Mariners and will be a free agent after the 2010 season. He was named to his second All-Star Game on Sunday and was the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner.

"When you get traded, there is uncertainty and you don't know what to expect," Lee said while addressing the Seattle media. "They've got a great team, they're in first place and I'm going to do everything I can to help them continue in the direction they're heading."

Lowe has made 11 relief outings this season, going 1-3 with a 3.48 ERA but has been sidelined by lower back inflammation since May 3. Over the course of his five-year career, all with Seattle, he has a combined 5-15 mark to go along with a 3.95 ERA and four saves in 162 appearances out of the bullpen.

Smoak, the Rangers' first round pick in 2008 out of South Carolina, has struggled to a .209 average this season with eight home runs and 34 runs batted in over 70 games, including 66 starts, in his first big league action.

The Mariners also acquired pitchers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke and second baseman Matthew Lawson.

Beavan was 10-5 with a 2.78 ERA in 17 starts for Double-A Frisco and was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City after his last start on Monday. He has thrown 110 innings during which he has struck out 68 and walked only 12. The Rangers made him the 17th overall selection in the 2007 Draft.

Lueke made 15 relief appearances at Frisco and went 1-1 with two saves and a 3.86 ERA. The 25-year-old started the season at Single-A Hickory in the South Atlantic League and appeared in 17 games in relief, posting a record of 2-1 with 10 saves and a 0.46 ERA. He allowed one earned run in 19 2/3 innings while striking out 36 and issuing only five walks.

Lawson was batting .277 with seven home runs and 34 runs batted in over 76 games at Double-A Frisco. He was recently named to the Texas League All-Star Game.

"We had to take a realistic look at where we're at," said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik about consummating the trade. "Making this deal was an opportunity to bring in a high level group of players. I couldn't say enough about Cliff Lee and about what a tremendous competitor he is, about how he carried himself in a professional manner, the tone that he set and how he went about his business, it was phenomenal. We're at that point now where something had to be done for the long term betterment of the organization."

According to a report in the New York Post on Friday morning, the Yankees were prepared to build a deal for Lee around highly-touted catching prospect Jesus Montero. Minor league second baseman David Adams and pitcher Zach McAllister were also believed to be included in the package going to Seattle, which had reservations about a high ankle sprain that has kept Adams off the field since May 22. The Mariners reportedly asked for another player to replace Adams -- to which the Yankees agreed -- and for another player to be added to the deal, which caused New York to balk and Seattle to go in a different direction.