The verdict: Trader Jack wins

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One thing is for certain: The Rangers are going for it.

They better be, because they just gave up quite a haul for a rental. Meanwhile, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik successfully turned Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and JC Ramirez into Justin Smoak and three other prospects. Impressive, to say the least.

As Craig just mentioned, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times is reporting that the Mariners will also acquire right-handers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke and second baseman Matt Lawson. Beavan, a former first-round pick in 2007, was ranked as the organization’s No. 17 prospect by Baseball America over the winter. Neither Lueke or Lawson ranked inside Baseball America‘s top 30 for the Rangers, however the latter is averaging 14.6 K/9 this season while the former has an 809 OPS at Double-A Frisco.

The other prospects are intriguing in their own right, but Smoak is the real prize here. The 23-year-old first baseman is batting .209/.316/.353 with eight homers and 34 RBI in his first taste of the big leagues — and just .148 (4-for-27) this month —  but the young switch-hitter put together a .293/.411/.461 batting line over 599 plate appearances in the minor leagues.

Smoak is viewed as a top hitting prospect with a polished approach for his age, but he still has a lot to prove against left-handers. He batted just .215 with a 635 OPS against southpaws in the minors and those struggles have translated to the big leagues, as evidenced by his .139 batting average (11-for-79) and 473 OPS. It’s a small sample, to be sure, so while I don’t think Smoak is overmatched, he’s not exactly a finished product yet, either.

It’s a great deal for the Mariners in that they were able to take advantage of a vulnerable franchise, but keep in mind that this isn’t what their fans had in mind at the start of the season. They expected to compete for the playoffs. In essence, now the Mariners have essentially handed the Rangers the keys to the American League West. This isn’t something to be thrilled about in the short-term. And it will hurt if Lee plays playoff hero once again. But several months from now, after Cliff Lee signs with the Yankees or some other high-payroll team, the M’s will be primed to torture the Rangers with Smoak for years to come. Meanwhile, the Phillies will be fortunate if even one of Aumont, Gillies or Ramirez turns into an impact player in the big leagues. 
   

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.