Monday, July 12, 2010

Cliff Lee trade impact

Cliff Lee's a Ranger.

Not a Yankee. Not a Mariner. Not a Phillie or Indian, either.

In yet another midseason deal, Lee has again changed teams with the hopes of changing the MLB playoff picture.

Texas acquired Lee from Seattle last week for a package of prospects. What's it mean for fantasy players? Not a whole lot, to be honest. Lee's Cy Young-caliber numbers (8-4, 2.64 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) shouldn't take much of a dip.

Granted, he's moving from an extreme pitcher's park to one of the most hitting-friendly stadiums in the league in Rangers Ballpark, and he doesn't have particularly good career numbers in Arlington (7.33 ERA, 1.45 WHIP in 8 starts). But Lee's been arguably the most dominant pitcher this season - he's got 91 strikeouts and just six walks this year, for gosh sakes - and I expect that to continue. So what if his Texas debut didn't go as planned last Saturday (9 hits, 6 earned runs, 2 strikeouts)? Lee still pitched a complete game, his eighth of the season. He'll have a just as good a defense behind him in Texas as he enjoyed in Seattle, plus the added benefit of a much better bullpen, anchored by All-Star closer Neftali Feliz, whenever he's not able to go nine innings. He'll also have much better run support as he leaves behind the hitting-challenged M's.

Lee's ratios may inch up a bit along with the summer temperatures in Texas, but I still expect him to contend for the AL Cy Young and pile up the W's when all is said and done.

As for the other players involved in the deal, the most fantasy relevant is 1B Justin Smoak, who's still a good long-term prospect but probably won't be able to improve on his .206 average much in Seattle this year and probably belongs on your bench for the forseeable future.

And back in Texas, the trade opens up a spot at first for Chris Davis, who hit 17 homers in 295 at-bats as a rookie in 2008 but had been since sent back-and-forth to the minors while struggling at the plate. Davis had been tearing up Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .327 average, .418 on-base percentage and .521 slugging and might be able to provide some power with regular playing time in the big leagues. He's worth a look in deep leagues.

Photo by The Associated Press

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