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The verdict: Trader Jack wins

Jul 9, 2010, 5:58 PM EDT

One thing is for certain: The Rangers are going for it.

They better be, because they just gave up quite a haul for a rental. Meanwhile, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik successfully turned Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and JC Ramirez into Justin Smoak and three other prospects. Impressive, to say the least.

As Craig just mentioned, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times is reporting that the Mariners will also acquire right-handers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke and second baseman Matt Lawson. Beavan, a former first-round pick in 2007, was ranked as the organization’s No. 17 prospect by Baseball America over the winter. Neither Lueke or Lawson ranked inside Baseball America‘s top 30 for the Rangers, however the latter is averaging 14.6 K/9 this season while the former has an 809 OPS at Double-A Frisco.

The other prospects are intriguing in their own right, but Smoak is the real prize here. The 23-year-old first baseman is batting .209/.316/.353 with eight homers and 34 RBI in his first taste of the big leagues — and just .148 (4-for-27) this month —  but the young switch-hitter put together a .293/.411/.461 batting line over 599 plate appearances in the minor leagues.

Smoak is viewed as a top hitting prospect with a polished approach for his age, but he still has a lot to prove against left-handers. He batted just .215 with a 635 OPS against southpaws in the minors and those struggles have translated to the big leagues, as evidenced by his .139 batting average (11-for-79) and 473 OPS. It’s a small sample, to be sure, so while I don’t think Smoak is overmatched, he’s not exactly a finished product yet, either.

It’s a great deal for the Mariners in that they were able to take advantage of a vulnerable franchise, but keep in mind that this isn’t what their fans had in mind at the start of the season. They expected to compete for the playoffs. In essence, now the Mariners have essentially handed the Rangers the keys to the American League West. This isn’t something to be thrilled about in the short-term. And it will hurt if Lee plays playoff hero once again. But several months from now, after Cliff Lee signs with the Yankees or some other high-payroll team, the M’s will be primed to torture the Rangers with Smoak for years to come. Meanwhile, the Phillies will be fortunate if even one of Aumont, Gillies or Ramirez turns into an impact player in the big leagues. 
   

  1. Schlom - Jul 9, 2010 at 6:42 PM

    Can he really be the winner if he turned down the Montero trade? Obviously we’ll have to wait and find out to see how all the young players turn out but I think I’d much rather have Montero than Smoak. Personally I feel like Smoak is hugely overrated as he’s never really been that great outside of 15 games at Triple A this season. Remember that Montero is three years younger and has put up much better stats in the minors — even as he’s struggled in Triple A this season his numbers are still better than Smoak’s were at the same level last year. Beavan has great numbers at Double A but he doesn’t strike anyone out and the other two are just fillers.

  2. D.J. Short - Jul 9, 2010 at 6:49 PM

    I guess we’ll see. It came down to a matter of preference. And it was pretty clear they wanted a major-league ready bat. I like Montero a lot, but I wonder where he’ll eventually play in the big leagues. Catcher? First base? DH? Who knows. The way I look at it, I would easily swap Aumont, Gillies Ramirez and Low for Smoak and the other three prospects. That’s gotta be a win, right?

  3. D.J. Short - Jul 9, 2010 at 6:53 PM

    *Lowe.

  4. Schlom - Jul 9, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    Taking advantage of Ruben Amaro Jr shouldn’t be considered a win.

  5. D.J. Short - Jul 9, 2010 at 7:02 PM

    Ha. Fair enough.

  6. Schlom - Jul 9, 2010 at 7:19 PM

    Can Amaro possibly keep his job after this latest Lee trade? Here’s the haul for the three Lee trades (all rankings by Baseball America): the Phillies gave up 4 of their top 10 prospects, 3 of whom were ranked in the top 100. The Rangers just gave up their 2nd best prospect (13th overall) and three unranked (team or overall). The Mariners gave up Aumont (4th team, 93rd overall) and 2 unranked prospects. Considering that in theory the closer you get to Lee’s free agency the less you would receive, it would seem that Amaro did just a horrible, horrible job.

  7. alterity - Jul 9, 2010 at 7:38 PM

    I keep hearing this logic: where Montero gonna play? At worst, he’s a 1B. What’s Smoak? A 1B. Smoak may have scouts’ hearts afluttering, but his track record is not lights out. I agree with others: Monetro’s younger, has a better track record, and MIGHT be a catcher for a time. Again, at worst he’s first baseman. If the Yankees were including Noesi in this deal, I think the M’s made the wrong choice. But whatever, I can live without Lee. I was living without him yesterday. I just got excited for a few hours and I hate that.

  8. John - Jul 9, 2010 at 7:43 PM

    I don’t think the M’s took Smoak over Montero necessarily…they were just worried about the other guy’s knee (or whatever it was) and went for the surer bets health-wise? I mean, a .461 slug in the minors isn’t too impressive for a 1st baseman even though the .411 OBP is. It still seems like Montero is a better prospect…they probably were just more comfortable with the other guys in the deal, I’m guessing.

  9. JBerardi - Jul 9, 2010 at 8:08 PM

    I’d take Montero over Smoak if I was building a team from the ground up today, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s SO crazy that the Mariners prefer Smoak. Minor league stats aren’t everything.

  10. Seattleite - Jul 9, 2010 at 10:36 PM

    As a M’s fan, it won’t hurt at all if Lee plays playoff hero for Texas, since there was no way he was going to play that part for Seattle this year. As for Montero vs. Smoak, I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve heard other prospect junkies speculate that Montero’s glove won’t even play well at 1B. I’m not sure what Smoak’s defensive reputation is, but if it’s good, this could be a consideration since Seattle does place quite a bit of value on defensive ability. I’m not saying I’d rather have Montero, but I can see the reasoning.

  11. willmose - Jul 10, 2010 at 9:11 AM

    Jack is the greatest GM in the history of baseball. Look at all he’s done for M’s this year! Jack, you should move up to the Cubs next year. Their fans will understand that great GMs position their teams at 20 games under .500 to make great deals.

  12. SeattleSlew - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:00 PM

    Smoak is considered a future Gold Glover at 1st!! Definite rationale for the kind of team that Jack Z is trying to build.

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