Hold Up! Cliff Lee is a Texas Ranger!

Every off-season, it happens. A team with a handful of prospects in their farm system makes a push for a top available player. They always say build from within, but there are only so many spots on the field you can fill, so having studs in your organization and nowhere to put then often means swapping quantity for quality with a team that is lacking quantity, or depth in their baseball organization.

It happens all the time, we saw the low-spending Florida Marlins send all-star slugger Miguel Cabrera to Detroit for a handful of top prospects. Cabrera had just been awarded a deserved $7.4 million in an arbitration hearing and the Marlins, though winning two World Series Titles in the last 15 seasons, are owned by money saving machine Jeffrey Loria, and there will be a trade for youngsters when a player reaches a breaking point in salary.



Despite being arguably the best player in baseball for his age at the time of the deal in 2007, the Marlins insisted on staying within their budget and dealt Cabrera along with then-star Dontrelle Willis for a handful of highly touted prospects, none have which turned out. The Tigers became even more of a contender then they already, and have been since while Cabrera has torn up the league.

Enough on that trade, but the topic remains consistent. Players get traded all the time to contenders, and in return the reeling team usually receives the compensation of young, preferred talent from the other team’s farm system, rather then losing the player and receiving high draft picks in comparative compensation.

The Texas Rangers played hero in a 2007 trade deadline deal that sent 5 prospects to Arlington from Atlanta for stud first baseman Mark Teixeira. The Braves planned on winning the world series, and didn't They ended up trading the upcoming and guaranteed to depart free agent in Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and distant prospect Steve Marek. (What, Who?) The Rangers originally received two top prospects, who now start for their major league ball club, shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitcher Neftali Feliz. ALSO, the Braves dealt three more decent prospects to Texas, who cashed in big and revived their minor league system.

Projected as soon-to-be contenders, the Rangers appeared in June 2010, a few games up on the Angels for first place. Productive veterans and young, rising stars filled out the division-leading roster. Also, the farm system was going strong, and just like 2007 in Detroit and many places elsewhere, a big name appeared on the free agent market. Already dealt three times in the last year and a half, the Mariners had quickly given up on the 2010 seasons and had Cliff Lee on the block.

The Rangers were already contending and although reluctant, to give up their home-grown minor league depth and talent, they had a decision to make.

In 2007, the Rangers had a below average minor league system and traded high quality for high-risk, high-reward quantity. Now, they had the quantity and wanted the ace of quality in pitcher Cliff Lee.

The Rangers went all in. They already had a contender, but to compete with the likes of Detroit, New York, and the NL powers, they craved a pitching staff leader. With one available, the Mariners asked for first baseman Justin Smoak. The Rangers 2008 first-round pick and already a major league contributor, was the demand that would land Cliff Lee.

On a July 9 morning, the New York Yankees had a deal agreed in principle to obtain Cliff Lee. The package was centered around stud catching prospect Jesus Montero. The Rangers gave in to the Mariners demand, and Seattle jumped to that negotiation. The Mariners stated that they were worried about an ankle injury of one of the Yankees’ prospects they would receive. While that is the press story, we all know Seattle wanted the Rangers package and found a reason, and a reasonable one given that certain prospect had been sidelined 7 weeks – but still.

Smoak was a Mariner at around 5 PM EST that afternoon. 2007 First-Round Pick and quality young arm Blake Beavan was piece number two and the deal finalized around Infielder Matt Lawson. (My favorite Rangers prospects, unfortunately)



In the end, minor league depth and a quality foundation of young talent got the deal done and finalized and sealed and finished for the Texas Rangers. My hometown team also kept the prized prospects of Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers, (pitchers) as well as current MLB player and young infielder-converted to a-pitcher Alexi Ogando, who has been very effective thus far in his young career.

Through the obvious facts of baseball, we know, however that only so many players can play on the field at one time, and depending on the time, any team can win out on a big name player. The Rangers made that jump from quality for quantity to dealing quantity for quality in just a number of years. It’s possible, right? Yes, it just happened, folks. Go Rangers.

-Ace F.

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