As the baseball world focuses on Arkansas for the first time EVER and wonder where Cliff Lee will go, one thing is certain:
One team will be grumbling when the season begins that all of their courtship yielded nothing.
Well, if he goes to New York, the Rangers will get a pair of draft picks.
And if he goes back to Texas, the Yankees will still have the money and some prospects to try and make another deal.
But I started thinking about the Indians, the Phillies and the Mariners... all the other teams to have employed Cliff Lee since winning the Cy Young Award in 2008.
None of them are currently involved in the mating dance for Lee... but each team has players who were brought in exchange for him.
Let's review who they are.
THE CLEVELAND INDIANS' COMPENSATION FOR CLIFF LEE
The Indians sent Cliff Lee to the Phillies along with outfielder Ben Francisco on July 29, 2009. In return they got:
The 23 year old right handed pitcher had a rough cameo with the 2009 Indians. But he had a solid 2010 in AAA Columbus and looked more like a big leaguer when he was recalled in September. His best game came on September 11th when he pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings against the Twins, matching Nick Blackburn inning for inning. He looks ready for the show.
Every single baseball fan and many non baseball fans saw the most famous moment in Jason Donald's career. According to the official record, he got an infield hit off of Armando Gallaraga to break up his perfect game this June. Of course he was out. The replay showed it. But why rehash that? Let's look at the positive! He showed he can hustle!
He also showed that he could play every day as he started 44 games at shortstop before manager Manny Acta made him the regular second baseman. In order to keep that gig, the 25 year old infielder will have to hold off switch hitting Cord Phelps who tore up AAA. But his flexibility could make the 25 year old a valuable reserve infielder.
The 19 year old righthander pitched in the South Atlantic Legaue following shoulder surgery. He struck out 29 in only 16 innings and looks like a solid prospect.
A 24 year old catcher, he will compete with another young prospect in Carlos Santana. He played 87 games with Cleveland last year and looked over matched at the plate, but he's young and evidently handles pitching staffs well.
Was considered a top prospect before the trade, he may become a serviceable reserve catcher.
THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES' COMPENSATION FOR CLIFF LEE
The Phillies sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners on December 16, 2009. In return they got:
Listed as one of the top 100 prospects by Baseball America in 2008, 2009 and 2010, it is unlikely that he'll make it four years in a row after a subpar first season in the Phillies organization. The Quebec native and former first round pick started the season in AA Reading, thinking he was on the fast track to Philadelphia. Instead he was demoted to the Florida State League after a brutal start to the season.
He was unimpressive this year, but he was only 21 and could rebound. And could also develop into a good reliever. Time will tell.
Gillies was the 21 year old hitting stud who tore up the California League was supposed to be on the fast track to joining Domonic Brown as the new young center pieces of the Phillies outfield.
Instead he had a terrible season in AA, had hamstring issues and was arrested for cocaine possession.
It is safe to say that the Phillies weren't happy. But hey! How can 2011 be WORSE for him?
J. C. RAMIREZ
Like Aumont, Ramirez is a 21 year old right handed starter. And like Aumont he was unimpressive in both Clearwater and Reading in his first year in the Phillies pipeline. He has decent stuff and maybe with a good pitching coach he could be a serviceable big league pitcher. But as of this writing, he has yet to raise his head above AA.
THE SEATTLE MARINERS' COMPENSATION FOR CLIFF LEE
The Mariners sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers along with reliever Mark Lowe on July 9, 2010. In return they got:
A huge pitcher (6'7", 250 pounds) he 21 year old was terrific in AA and made 7 starts for AAA Tacoma. He was the Texas League pitcher of the year and figures to be one of the Mariners best pitching prospects going into 2011. And with the team rebuilding, a good year in AAA could land him in the majors.
And hey! He has a Fan Club!
The 24 year old second baseman tore up the Southern League pitching after arriving in the Mariners organization.
Where he fits in the long term plans of the Mariners is unknown with middle infielders Nick Franklin, Dustin Ackley and Carlos Triunfel also in the organization.
But hey! A little competition never hurt anyone.
An exceptionally talented reliever, Lueke put up terrific numbers wherever he went. So why isn't a feel good story?
Well because in 2009 he only played in four games in the Rangers organization.
When the Mariners inquired why, Rangers GM Jon Daniels basically said "Oh there was some legal trouble, but he got acquitted."
Turns out he wasn't. He was in jail for some lurid incident with a woman in 2008. I have no clue what actually happened, but the fact that "false imprisonment" was the LESSER charge that was in the plea bargain, it makes me shudder.
When word got out of his past, both the Mariners and Rangers did the whole "I'm shocked! SHOCKED!" routine and the Mariners scouting director got fired.
Obviously he wasn't acquired as a "good character" guy.
The centerpiece of the Cliff Lee deal, Smoak may not have been a Rookie of the Year candidate. But he has a sweet left handed swing that was good enough to get 13 homers in 397 plate appearances.
One of Baseball America's Top 25 prospects in 2009 and 2010, he has nothing left to prove in AAA. He is the Mariners starting first baseman going into next year. The Mariners hope he will be an All Star before long.
It's too early to tell who got the best deal.
Carlos Carasco and company could thrive in Cleveland or fizzle.
The Phillies prospects look like busts now but they could turn it around.
Justin Smoak could be the next great hitting prospect or he could be Dave McCarty.
One thing is certain: When Cliff Lee's inevitable 7 year contract is up, some of these players might be filing for free Agency.
THEN we can really see what team got the best out of the deals.