Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Phils Trade Successful-Lee

After talks to acquire Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays fizzled in the past week, the Phillies went out and made a deal with the Cleveland Indians to acquire reigning Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee. They sent Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp, Lou Marson, and Jason Donald in exchange for Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco.

The fact that they were able to acquire Lee without giving up any of the three players Toronto insisted on is impressive, especially since Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro was taking a similar stance on his approach to trading Lee as Toronto did with Halladay. The biggest difference between the two situations is that Toronto is looking to compete much sooner than Cleveland. The Indians are entering a rebuilding stage and so they are willing to take players that still need time to develop.

Knapp was, along with Kyle Drabek and Dominic Brown, an untouchable player in the Phillies' system. He's 18 years old, six-foot five, and already throws a fastball in the upper nineties. In two or three years, it's very possible that he would have been as highly sought as Drabek was this year. Carlos Carrasco has been a highly touted prospect in the organization for a while, he's still only 22, and while he's struggling in AAA at the moment, he still has the potential to put it together and be an effective major league pitcher.

I would have liked to see the Phillies hang on to Marson, especially since good, young catchers are hard to come by and while Carlos Ruiz and Paul Bako handle the pitching staff well, Marson could have been a great final addition to that lineup. Also, back in spring training Jamie Moyer was complementary of how Marson handled the pitchers. Coming from Moyer, that means a lot. I think he should have been in the Phillies lineup this year.

Jason Donald came at an unfortunate time for the Phillies, with a middle infield set in stone with Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Donald has also struggled this year and fought injury problems, but he's a great fielder, and the Phillies were somewhat lucky to have a really good prospect at a position they didn't need. If we had a good young catcher, I'd feel less attached to Marson. But the Phillies making this deal without having to give up J.A. Happ or Drabek (or Brown, but he's a few years away) is great.

First of all, the Phillies were looking for a right-handed bat off the bench and they got one in Cleveland's starting left fielder, Francisco. Having Francisco allows the team to send John Mayberry Jr. back to the minors where he can continue to work on the holes in his game.
Lee has had an erratic career, but last year he was nothing short of superb and very deserving of his Cy Young Award. This year, he is 7-9 with a 3.14 ERA, but wins/losses can be deceiving. He should benefit from having the Phillies lineup and he can throw a lot of innings. I'm not a huge fan of Lee, but in this deal the Phillies filled two holes that they were looking to fill, and they didn't have to give up Drabek or even Happ.

However, since they didn't give up Happ, what happens with the rotation? For now, Lee takes over the Rodrigo Lopez slot (Thanks Rodrigo, your service is appreciated), however that's the same slot that was being saved for Pedro Martinez. Also, they have Lee through 2010, so what happens if Kyle Drabek is deemed ready for the majors next year? The Phillies may now have too much starting pitching.

It's possible that Happ is on his way out in a deal for a reliever (George Sherrill?), but getting a reliever would only clog up the bullpen when Clay Condrey, J.C. Romero, and Chad Durbin return. If they do keep Happ, the Phillies now have a rotation of Cole Hamels, Lee, Joe Blanton, Happ, and Moyer, with poor Pedro Martinez, who signed with a spot in the rotation in sight, waiting in the wings. Happ could go back to the bullpen, if the Phillies are indeed looking for bullpen help. I'd actually rather see that than them make a trade. They may also have bullpen help on the way in the form of Brett Myers, who is recovering quicker than the team thought he could (apparently it's a miraculously speedy recovery, the trainers are astounded).

For now, the best solution may be to keep Pedro in the minors in case of injury. J.A. Happ is probably now worth more than any reliever they could acquire, and he's been fantastic in the rotation. For that matter, Blanton and Hamels have both pitched remarkably well in recent games, and even Moyer has looked good, not to mention that Moyer belongs in the rotation as a beloved clubhouse figure, unofficial player-coach, and elder statesman, so to speak. While Steven Register may not be the most exciting name to see on a major-league roster, I'd rather let him be the garbage man until the rest of the DL denizens return than go out and make trades simply because the team can. Lee and Francisco were good pieces to acquire. Beyond that, they already have what they need in spades to go after another championship.


Brian Raab said...

This is an excellent trade for the Phillies. They get a top-notch pitcher (even if Lee isn't quite as good as Halladay) and they do so without giving up any of their elite prospects. Technically, there's no reason they couldn't turn around and turn the Happ-Brown-Drabek for Halladay trade now. Would it be overkill? Probably. But they'd have a rotation of Hamels-Halladay-Lee-Blanton-Moyer/Martinez. That's almost too much fun to pass up.

Either way, this puts them in great shape for this year and next year as well. Lee is also a free agent in 2010, but until then he's cheaper than Halladay and he ought to be cheaper to re-sign than Halladay would've been. Now at least we have a better idea of who will be in next year's rotation. Hamels, Lee, and Happ are set. I believe Blanton is up for arbitration, but theoretically we should get another year out of him. And the 5th slot can go to Moyer (if he doesn't retire) or a minor leaguer such as Drabek, Bastardo, or maybe even Rodrigo Lopez.

There are definitely some concerns about Lee. Obviously his record is uninspiring, but that's just due to his being on a bad team and getting terrible run support. If we're going by record, Jamie Moyer is our best pitcher so...yeah. Wouldn't worry about Lee's 7-9 too much.

However, what happens to the rotation now (or rather in a week or two) is kind of tricky. Simple logic would say to scrap Moyer, since he's been easily the worst member of the rotation, but can the Phillies really do that to their elder statesman? I can't really imagine him pitching out of the bullpen and I can tell you right now, if they cut Moyer, they will miss the playoffs. I don't normally believe in karma, but that's going too far.

Another option would be to either leave Pedro in the minors or put him in the bullpen. I think putting him in the pen might actually be ideal. He's got the raw stuff to excel as a relief pitcher and the Phillies could use the help right now in that department. However, Pedro signed on specifically to be a starter and it's hard to imagine him happily taking his spot in the CBP bullpen.

So that leaves Happ. It seems crazy to pull a guy with a 7-1 record and a 2.97 ERA from the rotation, but he's a young guy who won't take it personally and he's pitched effectively out of the bullpen already this year. As much as I'd like to keep him in the rotation, I'm not sure there's another option that won't screw up karma/team chemistry.

We'll see, but regardless this is a great day for the Phillies and their repeat aspirations.

Brian Raab said...

Forgot to mention the nice addition of Ben Francisco and his career .810 OPS vs LHPs. Nice icing on the cake.

philly_phanatic said...

Lee is a great pitcher and is going right now. The phils' should get the w tonight against a poor SF Giants offense.

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