The first move of Deadline Weekend has gone down and it’s a pretty big one involving the Brewers and the Rangers. Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, who ran the Rangers back in the day, dealt slugger, and impending free agent, Carlos Lee, outfielder Nelson Cruz and minor-league pitcher Julian Cordero to Texas for the former closer Francisco Cordero and outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix.
Unlike many deadline deals this one wasn’t centered around a prospect for an established veteran but involved two teams still kicking in playoff races that can point to gains in both the near and short term as reasons for the deal. For the Brewers, Cordero can become an option in the late innings other than the scuffling Derrick Turnbow, while Mench will replace some of Lee’s production with the bat – according to Baseball Prospectus, Lee is Mench’s most comparable player but Lee’s had a much more prosperous season than Mench. He’s a streaky hitter who hasn’t been a fixture on Buck Showalter’s lineup card despite subpar competition. Nix has had ample chances and failed at each one – perhaps the proverbial change of scenery does the trick.
In Texas, GM Jon Daniels can point to Lee’s bountiful bat as the return in his first deadline deal. Lee’s 28 home runs, 896 OPS and 27.4 VORP are all things to savor in a lineup that was short on much in the way of thrills once you got past Gary Matthews Jr., Michael Young and Mark Teixeira. The last of that trio may see the most benefit from Lee’s acquisition, as the Rangers have been sorely missing a thumper in the corner outfield positions to keep the heat off Big Tex. Cruz has been caught between the moon and Milwaukee with the Brewers despite making things happen with AAA Nashville over the last season and a half. Cruz will be an upgrade from the unsightly Jerry Hairston, Mark DeRosa and company that have been flanking Matthews all year.
I think Texas got the better of the deal, although I think Melvin did well enough that he can’t be accused of waving the white flag. I think the Brewers did very well to not overplay their hand in a futile quest this season (see Zambrano for Kazmir and substitute Dana Eveland for Kazmir) and keep their superior talent base on hand for 2007 and beyond.
Texas gets the nod here because they didn’t surrender anything resembling a prospect for a serious lineup ugrade that is a real show that they intend to compete with Oakland and Anaheim out West, especially after Seattle signaled same by picking up Ben Broussard and jettisoning Carl Everett.