The forgotten angle of the Cliff Lee deal

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already seen enough articles comparing Jesus Montero to Justin Smoak.. Two articles on Fangraphs yesterday seem to pretty much sum up the prevailing mood. But there’s one aspect to this that I haven’t really seen covered: the Texas Rangers are in the AL West. What I really mean by that is the Mariners just raided the cupboard of a divisional foe.

That could prove valuable in time. Prior to the season, the Rangers were widely considered to have the top farm system in baseball. You’d be hard pressed to find a legitimate analyst that rated them below #3 overall. And the Rangers already had a solid grip on the division. Cool Standings gives them a 77.5% chance to win it. With all the goodies Texas has stashed in the minors, they’re going to be a tough team to beat over the next 3 or more years. By trading for Smoak and a couple decent prospects, the Mariners effectively sapped some of that future value from the Rangers in return for a commodity that won’t be helping them down the line. That is unless they pay free agent dollars for him, which is an article for another day.

My point is simple. While it’s worthwhile to compare the offered deals in a vacuum, let’s also remember that there is value to the Mariners in making the 2011-17 Rangers a little bit worse.

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Jacob Rothberg
12 years ago

Isn’t it a little presumptuous to assume that a team able to assemble an excellent farm system won’t be able to use the two high round picks they’ll get for Lee to replace the talent traded for him?

Brad Johnson
12 years ago

I wouldn’t call it any more presumptuous than saying that they can replace Smoak with 2 draft picks that generally have a combined value around $9 mil of surplus value, give or take. Considering Smoak’s current tout, I’d say future Rangers’ rosters can be expected to come out behind. Maybe they do find one or even two great prospects with those picks. Right now it’s about what we can expect and we CAN’T expect the Rangers to nail those two picks. Hell we can’t even be certain the Rangers will get two picks. The new ownership group will have a ton of money to spend on this team and that could be used to extend Lee.

I’m willing to concede that the Rangers can probably expect slightly better than average value out of those two picks, but perhaps I am presumptuous enough to think that can’t be expected to equal Smoak. Maybe I like Smoak too much?