Getting more for Cliff Lee than the Mariners gave up for him would seem to be an easy task. Earlier today it looked like the Mariners had done very well for themselves, Landing Jesus Montero from the Yankees. Montero is not a perfect prospect, his hitting in AAA is not what was expected and defensively, few think he'll stay at catcher. Still, we're talking about a 20 year old who split time between A+ and AA last year, hitting 337/389/562. He's a potential Carlos Delgado at the plate. Baseball America still rates him the #5 prospect in the game. The other two prospects were not as good, but if you can get a guy like Montero for 3 months of Lee, I don't see how you pass that up.
Instead, they take the Rangers offer headed by Justin Smoak. Smoak is a fine prospect himself despite struggling in the majors so far. Baseball America rated him #13 preseason. He's a patient hitter, a big strong guy, and a decent defender at first. He hasn't shown a lot of power yet. I don't think you can just assume a big hitter with a good swing and eye will develop power. Look at Casey Kotchman. Another comparable prospect who looked great at AA with a lot of walks, but has been only average in the big leagues, is Jeremy Hermida. There are comparables who turned out better, maybe Joey Votto. I just think Montero, 3 years younger, has a much better chance of being an impact hitter.
If they got a lessor frontline prospect, did they at least make up for it in quantity?
Doesn't look like it. Blake Beavis, settle down, I mean Blake Beavan, is a 6'7 250 pounder who doesn't walk anybody, but doesn't strike anyone out either. He ranked #17 for the Rangers in preseason. Matt Lawson is a 24 year old AA second baseman. Looking at his batting average, contact rate, power, and speed I don't see anything he'd be major league average in offensively. He's not super young either. His defense is outstanding by TotalZone, +19 last year after +12 in 2008. Looks like a utility infielder to me. He did not rank among Texas's top 30. The final guy, Josh Lueke, is a 25 year old AA reliever with very good strikeout rates. He also did not rank among the top 30. That's not all though. Hard to see how any team would accept him in a trade until a rape case against him gets resolved.
Edit: The link I saw describing the charges against him was a year old. He took a plea deal and the matter is in the past. Still wouldn't want him on my team though.
Who won the trade? I'd say the Yankees. They get to keep Montero and will have Cliff Lee in 2011 anyway.