All along, the Twins have been presumed to be the favorites to trade for Cliff Lee and insert him into the front of their rotation. But according to Ken Rosenthal, a new leader has emerged:
One rival general manager believes the Rangers have become the favorite to land Cliff Lee.
In order to do that, they will likely need to part with Justin Smoak, currently their everyday first baseman. And sources say the Rangers’ reluctance to include Smoak in an offer for Lee is one of the biggest remaining barriers in their talks with the Mariners.
The big obstacle here is that the Mariners and Rangers share a division, and that Texas would therefore be reluctant to trade away players who could come back to hurt them down the road. But it's still a good working match, as Lee might be able to help the Rangers more than he'd be able to help any other team. Meanwhile, the organization is flooded with talented young players, of whom Seattle could get a few in return. Smoak would be a steep price to pay, but he definitely fits the mold of young, ML-ready bat that the M's are looking to get in return.