We go back to July 9th, 2010. Mariners fans wake up to flurries of rumors that the Yankees have made a strong offer for pitcher Cliff Lee centered around top hitting prospect Jesus Montero. Details start to emerge, and indications are that the Mariners are going to accept the offer… until news comes out that the M’s have declined the offer because one of the players the Yankees would be sending to Seattle has a medical issue that they’re concerned about.
From there, things got a little nuts. Rumors fly of other teams getting involved, and of the Yankees changing their offer. Eventually, the dust settles, and the Rangers stood atop the pile, having snagged Lee and reliever Mark Lowe from Seattle in exchange for four prospects. We all know the rest of the story from there, but the question is this: did the Mariners make the right call?
To help figure that out, we’ll look at the secondary pieces. In this first part, we’ll look at the more secondary players in the trade:
RHP Zach McAllister (NYY) vs. RHP Blake Beavan (TEX)
Outside of the centerpiece of the two trades (Jesus Montero vs. Justin Smoak), this might be the most important comparison to make. Both players offer the greatest value in their package among the secondary pieces, and both could feature heavily in to their organizations’ futures.
Both pitchers are more solid than flashy. Both command their fastballs well, Beavan offering a four-seamer in the 89-92 range that usually stays low in the zone and that can get a little bit of run on it, and McAllister switching between a 89-92 two-seamer and a mostly straight 92-95 four-seamer. Both pitchers have a tendency to occasionally let their four-seamers start drifting up in the zone, and the pitch isn’t overpowering enough for either man to get away with it for long.
As far as secondary offerings go, McAllister’s changeup is the best pitch that the two men can offer, though Beavan’s slider isn’t far behind. Beavan has a pretty good changeup too, while McAllister’s breaking pitch (I’ve seen described as both a slider and curveball) meets mixed reviews.
Neither man has fared well in AAA, though at least Beavan can say he had end-of-season fatigue to deal with, where McAllister was in AAA for all of the 2010 season. He has since been traded to Cleveland as part of the Yankees’ acquisition of Austin Kearns, and will start the season in the rotation for AAA Columbus. Beavan will be in AAA Tacomas’ rotation, and could be the first or second man called up if the Mariners are in need of a starter.
RHP Mark Lowe (SEA) vs. RHP Josh Lueke (TEX)
This is kind of murky territory, as we don’t know whether or not Lowe was in the deal to the Yankees. However, we do know that the two deals were structured similarly as far as the positions and type of players involved, but the Rangers trade included a relief prospect where the Yankee trade did not, so this seems like a fair comparison.
Lowe was on the DL at the time, having had back surgery to repair an issue that had hampered Lowe early in the season. Before that, he was a fan favorite and a good setup man, firing in a good fastball that could get in to the upper 90’s and a hard slider that left more than a few batters looking silly. He had his command issues, but few relievers don’t.
Shortly after the trade, the Seattle fanbase discovered that Lueke has a checkered past, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss. What we are here to talk about his Lueke the pitcher, and in that he is an exciting young man. With a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s, plus a hard slider and a hard splitter that both keep hitters guessing, he’s got some great tools to work out of the ‘pen with.
Add an unflappable mound demeanor to it, and Lueke has real potential as a set-up man, or perhaps even as a closer eventually. For even further benefit, Mark Lowe will be in his third arbitration year this offseason, while the Mariners have a full six years of control with Lueke.
2B David Adams (NYY) vs. 2B Matt Lawson (TEX)
This was the dealbreaker in the trade, as it was a foot injury that Adams had suffered that lead the Mariners to back out of the deal with the Yankees. Adams at that point hadn’t played in a game since May 22nd, and ultimately never stepped foot on the field again in 2010. In fact, Adams still hasn’t returned to action yet, failing to make it in to any spring training games. I guess Zduriencik was right to be concerned about him.
Not that it wound up mattering much. Lawson did fairly well for AA West Tennessee, but his defense was a little on the shaky side. Then he absolutely stank up the Arizona Fall League, and adapted poorly at best to a couple of position experiments the Mariners tried with him there (when a scout says that Yunieski Betancourt is a far superior shortstop to you, you’re really, really bad at the position). He wound wound up getting traded to Cleveland in March for LHP Aaron Laffey, who had fallen out of favor with the Indians. So… call this a wash.
In the second part of this post, coming later this week, we’ll look at the central figures of this trade, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero, and give you our verdict on how things have turned out so far. See you then…