On Monday, Todd Kaufmann of BleacherReport.com ran a story on the Rangers and what Jon Daniels might do before the trade deadline. In it Kaufmann included the following, regarding a recent Twitter exchange I had with well-regarded Mariners blogger Dave Cameron:
For those of you who didn't see this before, Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report was asked, via Twitter, by David Cameron of USSMariner.com what it would take to get a deal done to send [Cliff] Lee to Texas.
"Martin Perez (Double-A left-hander), Chris Davis, and a lesser prospect."
For those Ranger fans, or even Mariner fans, can you for even a second imagine the Mariners taking two minor leaguers and Chris Davis for Cliff Lee?
If I'm Seattle, I'm laughing Jon Daniels off the phone if he thinks that is all it's going to take for the Mariners to send Lee to the American League West leaders.
Sure, the Mariners got Lee from Philadelphia for just about nothing, but they're not going to take nothing to trade him.
One problem. He got it backwards.
Here's the actual exchange:
[me to Dave] @d_a_cameron @LookoutLanding You're Jack Z, JD calls you. What do you realistically ask Texas for in exchange for Lee?
[Dave to me] @NewbergReport Assuming I have to pick up all of the salary: Perez, Davis, + lesser guy.
[Dave to me] @NewbergReport In my view, that's pretty close to what Mil gave up for Sabathia two years ago. Agree?
[me to Dave] I'd take Perez today over anyone MILW moved for C.C. @d_a_cameron @NewbergReport pretty close to what Mil gave up for C.C. Agree?
Now while I might agree with Kaufmann that Perez, Davis, and a prospect won't be enough to land Lee (especially if Seattle has to pay for the final third of Lee's $9 million contract for 2010), it was Cameron's Mariners-centric proposal. Not mine.
And what did the Brewers give Cleveland for Sabathia in July 2008? First baseman Matt LaPorta, outfielder Michael Brantley, and righthander Rob Bryson, all minor leaguers, and big league lefthander Zach Jackson.
The Rangers drafted Smoak a month before the Sabathia trade. Their deadline to sign him was a month after the Sabathia trade. The day before that signing deadline, when the local papers were speculating that a deal might not get done - and that it might not be a terrible thing for Texas to walk away (and get an extra first-rounder in 2009) given the way Davis had exploded on the American League with what was then a .900 OPS - I wrote this:
There's no telling what players will be available at number 12 next June, but it's not likely any will have the upside of Smoak, who by all accounts should never have fallen to number 11 two months ago.
And here's the more critical point: Milwaukee got C.C. Sabathia last month because they had Matt LaPorta.
If he develops as expected, an already signing-bonused Smoak will be more valuable as a trade chip than having an extra pick at number 12 next summer would be.
So we now come full-circle (to the extent that a Twitter exchange between two bloggers registers), with one suggesting that the Sabathia trade could be a prototype for what Seattle might expect to get for Lee (who, amazingly, pitched with Sabathia on a 2008 Indians club that went only 81-81).
Two teams haven't gotten enough when trading Lee (Cleveland got Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson from Philadelphia for the reigning AL CY Young Award winner last July, and the Phillies got J.C. Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont, and Tyson Gillies from the Mariners in December). Both packages were inferior to what the Indians got for Sabathia in 2008.
But Seattle will get more than a Sabathia package for Lee this month.
So what is Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik asking for?
Buster Olney of ESPN says "big bat potential . . . and two guys fit the description: Justin Smoak of TEX and Yonder Alonso of the Reds."
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Seattle wants "major league or major-league-ready hitters."
If you asked Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Mariners "say they want hitters in return for Lee."
Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, who makes Texas "a slim favorite for Lee," says Seattle wants "lots of hitting prospects."
John Hickey of AOL Fanhouse gets very specific, suggesting the Mariners are targeting "outfielders and . . . left-handed starting pitchers" who project to provide an impact in 2012.
Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes that Seattle "wants a young catcher in any deal" for Lee - but has no interest in Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden.
So here's what we know:
1. Lots of writers believe Seattle wants young impact hitters (and maybe left-handed pitching) in any deal for Lee.
2. Writers aren't always right.
3. A Mariners blogger I have a ton of respect for thinks a package of Martin Perez, Chris Davis, and a prospect might be enough.
So what would you offer for Lee, whose simply awesome 7-3, 2.45 season (78 strikeouts and five walks in 95.2 innings, three straight complete games and four out of five - with four of those five opponents leading their respective divisions) continues with a start that's underway right now in Detroit?
Obviously, the threshold question is whether the Rangers' sale has gone through. The Mariners aren't looking to move Lee just to shed a contract, but with Texas having sold Michael Main to the Giants for $2 million in salary relief this week, let's assume that to cover the $3 million that Lee will earn over the final two months that Texas has to toss in a prospect like Mitch Moreland, in exchange either for the cash or for Seattle's agreement to take Rich Harden in the deal to come close to offsetting the salary. (For what it's worth, which is probably not much, the Mariners were said to be interested in the British Columbia native Harden this winter.)
OK, here we go.
But before you assume that any trade for Lee, who would give this club a lockdown ace to help protect baseball's biggest division lead in the second half and to pitch Game 163, would allow Texas to recoup a couple first-round picks when he bolts for the Yankees this winter, hang on a second.
As of two weeks ago, Eddie Bajek's reverse-engineered Elias projections have Lee as a Type A player, which is no surprise, but at a projected 89.493 Elias number he's in the same neighborhood as Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth (85.125) and Rays outfielder Carl Crawford (83.000). So? New York is rumored to be targeting both outfielders this winter. If they end up outranking Lee and the Yankees sign one of them along with the lefthander, then they would surrender their first-round pick to Philadelphia or Tampa Bay, leaving their second-rounder for whichever team finished the 2010 season with Lee.
Certainly not a contingency that would, on its own, convince you not to pull the trigger on a Lee trade, but maybe worth tucking away.
Categories, if I'm Seattle:
CENTERPIECE PLAYERS: Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers, Justin Smoak
NEXT TIER: Julio Borbon, Nelson Cruz, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, David Murphy, Alexi Ogando
AAA/AA-LEVEL HITTERS: Engel Beltre, Brandon Boggs, Chris Davis, Craig Gentry, Mitch Moreland, Max Ramirez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, Chad Tracy
LOWER-LEVEL HITTERS: Jorge Alfaro, Teodoro Martinez, Guillermo Pimentel, Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas, Miguel Velazquez
AAA/AA-LEVEL PITCHERS: Blake Beavan, Omar Beltre, Cody Eppley, Daniel Gutierrez, Matt Harrison, Beau Jones, Kasey Kiker, Michael Kirkman, Josh Lueke, Brandon McCarthy, Guillermo Moscoso, Zach Phillips, Pedro Strop
LOWER-LEVEL PITCHERS: Richard Alvarez, Chad Bell (PTBNL), Wilfredo Boscan, Jake Brigham, Ovispo De Los Santos, Robbie Erlin, Wilmer Font, Trevor Hurley, Joseph Ortiz, David Perez, Carlos Pimentel, Neil Ramirez, Robbie Ross, Matt Thompson, Braden Tullis, Joe Wieland
AND: Rich Harden
This will be oversimplified (and probably overthought as well), but let's work on it this way. Let's say the proposed parameters for Lee are: one player from each of the first two tiers, and two more players coming from the remaining tiers.
The Rangers take Borbon, Cruz, and Hunter off the list, and move Ogando into the first tier. Profar is also off limits.
The Mariners immediately eliminate Saltalamacchia and Teagarden (I'm relying on Fraley's note here), and Gutierrez and Kiker and McCarthy. They also drop Murphy, who doesn't really fit the 2012 profile.
(Cameron and fellow Mariners blogger Jeff Sullivan respectfully request that Zduriencik stay away from Guillermo Pimentel, the outfielder recently promoted from Spokane to Hickory, because it would just be too confusing.) (Not really.)
Several conversations down the line, the categories are whittled down to:
CENTERPIECE PLAYERS: Ogando, Perez, Scheppers, Smoak
NEXT TIER: Holland
AAA/AA-LEVEL HITTERS: E.Beltre, Davis, Gentry, Moreland, M.Ramirez
LOWER-LEVEL HITTERS: T.Martinez, Sardinas, Velazquez
AAA/AA-LEVEL PITCHERS: Beavan, O.Beltre, Harrison, Kirkman, Strop
LOWER-LEVEL PITCHERS: Bell (PTBNL), Boscan, O.De Los Santos, Erlin, Font, Ross, Thompson, Tullis, Wieland
Holland was a favorite of Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair during his time as the Rangers minor league pitching coordinator. Adair told Mike Hindman in a 2008 Dallas Morning News interview, regarding Holland: "He's got tremendous baseball intelligence . . . . He's very consistent not only in his approach to pitching and his preparation, but in his delivery. Every pitch, every game, in every situation, he looks the same. He worked extremely hard. He's extremely competitive . . . . Every now and then, somebody just comes along . . . . [long pause] Actually, I've never seen somebody improve so much, so fast in my time coaching. How do you not get fired up about a guy like that?"
And let's not forget the game Holland threw against the Mariners on July 30 last year, with the rumors swirling that he might be on the verge of going to Toronto in a trade for Roy Halladay. One out short of a complete game. A fifth-inning single and a ninth-inning single. One walk, also in the ninth. Ten strikeouts.
I've changed my mind on Jon Daniels's behalf. Holland goes into the top tier (though he's no longer untouchable, and Tommy Hunter has a lot to do with that). Ogando goes back into tier two, but if taken it limits what the Mariners can have to round out the deal.
Zduriencik wants Smoak, Ogando, Beavan, and Engel Beltre, and Moreland added on if the Rangers need a $3 million subsidy or for Seattle to take on Harden.
Daniels offers Holland, Davis, Kirkman, and Engel Beltre. Moreland for Harden gets tacked on.
Zduriencik, though seduced by Holland's gem a year ago, insists on Smoak, because Minnesota is offering catcher Wilson Ramos and Tampa Bay is offering B.J. Upton to front their proposals. He tells Daniels that he'll put recently reacquired Russell Branyan in the deal so that the Rangers have an option at first base in case they don't want to entrust the spot to Davis for the pennant run. Branyan's left-handedness isn't ideal in that scenario, but he's a useful placeholder, and in any event, as far as 2010 is concerned, is going better than Smoak right now.
Zduriencik wants Erlin added to the deal in exchange for Branyan.
Daniels isn't willing to put Erlin in, but would put in Tullis, a pitcher the Mariners are familiar with from his amateur days and his work in the Northwest League last summer. And Moreland is out of the deal.
Zduriencik: Lee and Branyan for Smoak, Ogando, Engel Beltre, Beavan, Moreland, Erlin, and Harden.
Daniels: Lee and Branyan for Smoak, Ogando, Saltalamacchia, Tullis, and Harden.
Zduriencik says he can do better with another club. His compromise offer: Lee for Smoak and Holland. And Branyan for Tullis is fine.
I'm not sure I'd trade Smoak and Holland and Tullis for Lee and Branyan, even though the idea of adding Lee to this rotation makes the pennant run look a lot stronger, not to mention the odds of doing something in October, and even though there's a part of me that still believes Chris Davis (now .343/.390/.535 at Oklahoma City and actually hitting better against lefties than righties, though with 60 strikeouts in 245 at-bats) may figure it out, and even though I'm going to get two extra first-round picks (or maybe a first and a second) next June after Lee leaves for pinstripes. It would be different if I thought Lee was open to extending long-term here (like Roy Halladay did with Philadelphia last year). He's likely not.
But still, that's a deal I'd have to think about.
Before saying no.
And by the way, you can disregard this entire report. Everyone, from the papers to the blogs to the talk shows to water coolers, is just guessing.
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(c) Jamey Newberg