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Seattle Mariners Trade Cliff Lee to Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak: Fantasy Impact

After weeks of anticipation, Seattle Mariners’ pitcher Cliff Lee finally has a new home.

Just hours after it was reported that the New York Yankees were close to acquiring Lee’s services, the Mariners dealt the 31-year-old southpaw to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Justin Smoak and minor leaguers Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson.

Mariners’ reliever Mark Lowe was also sent to Texas as part of the deal.

In terms of fantasy value, Lee’s has nowhere to go but down. 

After 13 starts (103 2/3 innings) this season, Lee owns a sparkling 2.34 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, both of which top his 2008 Cy Young award-winning totals. He also boasts a jaw-dropping K/BB ratio of 89/6.

In his last eight starts, Lee has lasted at least eight innings seven times, including three complete games.

Lee’s BABIP and strand rate are normal, but his xFIP is nearly a full run higher than his current ERA.

In Seattle, Lee benefited from the spacious fields of Safeco (the fourth best park to pitch in terms of runs-scored according to MLB Park Factors). Texas, however, is the fifth worst park to pitch in terms of run-scored.

Since 2008 (Lee’s Cy Young season), the former Expo, Indian and Phillie has pitched in Arlington three times. In those three starts as the visiting pitcher, Lee was rocked to the tune of a 7.10 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 19 innings.

It is worth noting, however, that Lee allowed just two runs in nine innings at Rangers Ballpark earlier this season.

Still, a slight drop-off should be expected. Is he still a top-10 pitcher for the remainder of the season? Probably. Top-five? Absolutely not.

Seattle’s big return, switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak, will be inserted into the Mariners’ lineup, possibly in the six-hole. His value takes a slight hit playing for an offensively-challenged team in a pitcher’s park.

The potential middle-of-the-order superstar has experienced some tough luck through his first 235 major-league at-bats, falling victim to a .238 BABIP. Smoak’s 23.9 percent line drive rate, however, suggests better days are ahead. (For more on Justin Smoak, including 2010 projections, click here.)

Smoak’s departure opens a spot in the Rangers’ lineup for Chris Davis, who was recalled from Triple-A on Friday. In 293 plate appearances with Oklahoma City this season, the 24-year-old has hit 19 doubles, 10 homers and boasts a .354/.403/.555 triple slash.

While Davis struggled mightily with the Rangers earlier this season, his 2009 second-half performance (six HRs, 26 RBI, .308 average in 133 at-bats) following a short minor league stint could be a sign of things to come.

His raw power is undeniable, but so too are his strikeout totals. He’s worth a cautious look in most leagues.

Blake Beavan is a former first-rounder who – at 6-foot-7, 250 pounds – projects as a back-of-the-rotation innings-eater. The 21-year-old owns a 2.78 ERA, 5.6 K/9 and a 1.0 BB/9 in 110 innings at Double-A this season.

Neither Josh Lueke or Matt Lawson rank among the Rangers’ top-30 prospects according to Baseball America. Lueke boasts ridiculous strikeout and walk rates in 38 1/3 relief innings this season between Single-A and Double-A, but at age 25, his long-term value is bleak. Matt Lawson is a 24-year-old second baseman/outfielder playing in Double-A. He’s a long shot prospect and shouldn’t be on anyone’s fantasy radar.

Image courtesy of: Jamie Engber

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