Rangers’ deal for Cliff Lee is ‘an exclamation point’

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Reporting from Oakland

Torii Hunter gets it.

The Texas Rangers significantly strengthened themselves Friday by acquiring Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners, adding a Cy Young Award winner who could help the American League West leaders pull away from the Angels.

“Me being one of those guys who wants to be a [general manager] one day, you put your foot down when you can and that’s what they did, with an exclamation point,” said Hunter, the Angels’ center fielder.

But Hunter doesn’t get this.

The Mariners violated one of the unwritten rules of baseball by trading within their division, fortifying a rival with a player who could hurt them this year and beyond.

“Nobody trades within their division for that pitcher to come back and whip your butt,” Hunter said. “I wouldn’t do that.”

But that’s exactly what last-place Seattle did, sending Lee and reliever Mark Lowe to the Rangers for rookie first baseman Justin Smoak and three minor leaguers. The cash-strapped Rangers also received money in the deal for Lee, who can become a free agent after this season.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said the Rangers’ acquisition of Lee, the 2008 Cy Young winner who was 8-3 with a 2.34 earned-run average in 13 starts for Seattle, did not increase the pressure on General Manager Tony Reagins to make a counter move to address his team’s offensive shortcomings.

“As of right now, there hasn’t been a lot presented that is going to be doable for what other teams are looking for and we might have, but there’s still a couple of weeks to go” before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, Scioscia said. “If there’s stuff out there to make us better, he’s going to consider it.”

Reagins has been active around the trading deadline the last two years, acquiring Mark Teixeira from Atlanta in July 2008 and Scott Kazmir from Tampa Bay last August in a waiver deal.

The Angels would like to add a power-hitting corner infielder to compensate for a season-ending injury to first baseman Kendry Morales, but Scioscia said the organization preferred to avoid trading for a player it was unlikely to re-sign after the season unless “the cost is something you can absorb and if [the player] leaves, he leaves.”

“Our philosophy is not to bring someone in here for two or three months and empty your cupboard in the minor leagues to do it. So therefore the pool gets smaller and smaller as to players you can acquire.”

Catcher Mike Napoli said the Angels have five starting pitchers who can match the Rangers’ retooled rotation.

“We still believe we have five solid guys at the top and a good, strong bullpen,” Napoli said. “We just have to go out and play better baseball. I believe the guys we have in here can get it done.”

Said Hunter: “What can you do? Because you don’t want to just make a trade and it doesn’t work out and then you hurt yourself for the future. Do you counter it? I don’t know. As a player, I’m a company man. I have my ideas, but my job is to keep my ideas to myself sometimes.”

Swinging it

Maicer Izturis has started hitting off a tee in his recovery from a strained left forearm but remains several days away from taking batting practice, Scioscia said.