AL West-lead­ing Rangers ac­quire Seat­tle’s Cliff Lee to top start­ing ro­ta­tion

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Stephen Hawkins

AR­LING­TON — Cliff Lee is sud­denly in the start­ing ro­ta­tion for the AL West-lead­ing Texas Rangers, who pulled off a big deal de­spite bank­ruptcy pro­ceed­ings and un­set­tled own­er­ship.

The Seat­tle Mariners sent the ace left-han­der and re­liever Mark Lowe to the Rangers on Fri­day for rookie first base­man Justin Smoak and three mi­nor lea­guers. Texas also re­ceives cash as part of the deal.

It was the third trade in less than a year for Lee, who went 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts for Seat­tle. He can be­come a free agent af­ter this sea­son.

For now, he will be start­ing for the Rangers (as early as to­day against Bal­ti­more), who landed one of the most cov­eted play­ers on the trade mar­ket de­spite fi­nan­cial con­straints that made it un­cer­tain if they could make such a move be­fore the July 31 non­waiver trade dead­line.

Gen­eral man­ager Jon Daniels has re­peat­edly said the Rangers had some fi­nan­cial flex­i­bil­ity to make a deal, but

‘We’ve al­ways said if we had a chance to im­prove, we would. We’re ex­cited about it.’

JON DANIELS, Texas gen­eral man­ager

he had never been spe­cific on how that could work.

“Ev­ery­body knows our sit­u­a­tion. When we take on salary, we have to look at that and see if we can jus­tify it within our bud­get,” team pres­i­dent Nolan Ryan said. “As long as we stay within our bud­get, we don’t re­ally have re­stric­tions on us to where we can’t do things.”

Con­sid­er­ing that a bank­ruptcy judge in May ap­proved a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar loan from Ma­jor League Base­ball to keep the Rangers afloat dur­ing bank­ruptcy pro­ceed­ings, there are sure to be those who ques­tion the team’s abil­ity to make such a deal.

“I’d guess they’ll be some un­named sources, but I don’t ex­pect a lot of phone calls,” Daniels said when asked if he an­tic­i­pated any back­lash from other teams.

The 31-year-old Lee has a $9 mil­lion salary this sea­son and is ex­pected to com­mand a mul­ti­year deal in the off­sea­son — un­less Texas signs him to an ex­ten­sion be­fore that.

Lee was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five post­sea­son out­ings last year, in­clud­ing 2-0 in the World Se­ries against the Yan­kees.

He missed the first month of the sea­son with an ab­dom­i­nal in­jury but quickly made up for the lost time. He is 5-1 with a 1.76 ERA in his last six starts, throw­ing four of his ma­jor league-best five com­plete games.

Lee, who has 89 strike­outs and six walks in 1032⁄ in­nings

3 this year, will wear a Rangers uni­form in Tues­day’s All-Star game in Ana­heim, Calif.

He said he spoke with Yan­kees ace and for­mer Cleve­land team­mate CC Sa­bathia on Thurs­day night, and both thought Lee might be traded to New York. In­stead, he joins a dif­fer­ent first-place team.

The 2008 AL Cy Young Award win­ner for the In­di­ans, Lee was acquired by Seat­tle from the Philadel­phia Phillies last De­cem­ber af­ter the NL cham­pi­ons scored fel­low ace Roy Hal­la­day in a deal with Toronto.

Smoak is con­sid­ered one of the top prospects in the ma­jors, though the switch­hit­ter bat­ted only .209 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in 70 games for the Rangers this sea­son. Seat­tle also ob­tained right-han­ders Blake Bea­van and Josh Lueke, and in­fielder Matt Law­son.

Texas is seek­ing its first play­off berth since 1999.

“We’ve al­ways said if we had a chance to im­prove, we would,” Daniels said. “We’re ex­cited about it.”

Also leav­ing Seat­tle is Lowe, one of the Mariners’ most con­sis­tent re­liev­ers in re­cent sea­sons.

But he likely is out for the year, fol­low­ing back surgery last month.

Duane Burleson AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

All-Star Cliff Lee, acquired by the Rangers from the Mariners on Fri­day, could en­ter Texas’ pitch­ing ro­ta­tion as soon as to­day. Lee has 89 strike­outs and six walks in 1032⁄ in­nings this year.


Justin Smoak

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