Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Trade

I'm calling it. The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies' acquisition of starting pitcher Cliff Lee from the Indians is a slam dunk. Here's why.

It's simple, really. I'm not trying to say that Cliff Lee is just as good as Roy Halladay -- in my view, it just doesn't get any better than Halladay's combination of control, power and stamina -- but when you look at what we need, what we got, and what we gave up to get it, I am a big fan of this deal, even in comparison to what the over-greedy Blue Jays' GM was allegedly requiring in exchange for his star pitcher.

In a nutshell, the Blue Jays' latest offer to trade us Roy Halladay required us to give them 7-2, sub-3 ERA third-year upstart pitcher J.A. Happ, #1 pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, and our #1 position player prospect Dominic Brown. We rejected this offer, indicating that we would consider parting ways with our top outfield prospect in Brown, and one of our two youngest up and coming star pitchers in Happ or Drabek. But not both. The Blue Jays would not move off of their stated requirements to obtain our best young pitcher, our #1 pitching prospect and our #1 outfield prospect, so we ended up turning our attention elsewhere to see what else was available.

And just look at how much less we got reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee for instead. For Cliff Lee -- plus right-handed batting outfielder Ben Francisco -- from the Indians, the Phils gave up 18-year-old single-A fastballer Jason Knapp, right-handed starter Carlos Carrasco whose 6 runs in 6 innings failed to wow Blue Jays scouts this past weekend in central Pennsylvania, catcher Lou Marson, and shortstop Jason Donald. Now to be sure, a package of four young promising prospects is a great deal to offer for essentially just one Cy Young winning arm to add to our rotation. But it's what isn't included in this deal that's at least as important as what is.

First off, there's no Kyle Drabek. So we will get to keep the 21-year-old son of former major league Doug Drabek, also the #1 rated pitching prospect in the entire Phillies' farm system. And by the numbers, Drabek's minor league career is about as good as it could be at this point, as the kid is 11-2 right now through two different teams in 2009, sporting a 2.78 ERA with a complete game and two more 8+-inning performances in 18 games started. On the stamina and control side, Drabek is averaging nearly 7 innings per start in 2009, and has given up well under a hit per inning in pitching to a very impressive 1.15 WHIP so far this year. He's also compiled 123 strikeouts in his 129 innings pitched, or again nearly a K an inning, balanced against just 2.6 walks per 9 innings pitched. In all, keeping Drabek has a real value for the team that has -- far and away -- the best farm system in all of baseball, and it is fully reasonable given the plethora of home-grown stars playing nightly at Citizens Bank Park to expect that the fans in Philly will get to see Drabek up close and personal for a long time starting later this year or perhaps in 2010.

Also, another player not included in the Cliff Lee trade but who the Jays were insisting be included along with Kyle Drabek in any deal for Roy Halladay is J.A. Happ. Happ was stuck into the rotation to plug a hole shortly before the All-Star break this year, and he has been nothing short of amazing in his brief time back up with the major league club, pitching to a 7-2 record with an ERA that has risen to 2.97. In 13 stars with the Phillies so far this summer, Happ has pitched an average of just over 6 innings per -- not bad for a 26-year-old kid -- in compiling another impressive WHIP of 1.16, the best on the team so far in 2009. So here is another real deal of a player -- more than just a random prospect -- and the Phillies now get to keep him in the rotation, in addition to priming Drabek for the major league roster at some point in the near future, and now adding Cliff Lee as well.

So, if the Phillies had accepted the Blue Jays' last offer for Halladay, our starting rotation would have consisted of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, and Pedro Martinez. As bad as Martinez surely is going to be, it's hard to be too excited at this point about wizened old Jamie Moyer either, as neither one of them is likely to ever see 90 on the radar gun again as long as they both shall live, and that result would leave me seriously questioning the bottom of our rotation, especially heading into a short playoff series. But now look at our rotation after the Cliff Lee deal -- it's Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Jamie Moyer. That rotation is flat-out better top-to-bottom than what we would have had even with Halladay in there in my view -- remember, no matter how overpoweringly awesome Halladay pitches, he can still only win once every four or five games, tops -- and to boot we also get to keep Drabek and have him up hopefully helping to anchor the staff for years to come starting in 2010. And we also pick up Ben Francisco in the deal as well, even further showing just how much better the Cliff Lee trade really is for us than getting the ultimately more skilled Halladay for the huge price being asked of him.

What's more, the players we are giving up in the Lee trade -- in stark contrast to what the Jays were requiring for Roy Halladay -- are mostly players who were not likely to get a shot anytime soon in Philadelphia in any event. Jason Knapp is 18 years old and in just single-A ball -- still a good couple or few years away from even sniffing the major leagues, and that's assuming he continues to progress from this point as it is -- plus right hander Carrasco, catcher Lou Marson -- a good player but one who is not likely to steal any time away from Phillies' catch Carlos Ruiz who knocked in a crucial run in the deciding game of the 2008 World Series, plus shortstop Jason Donald who is not likely to even touch the turf any time while Jimmy Rollings is still kicking around in Philly. So although these players represent some good young value to the Indians, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro did a good job in offering up players that have far more value off of our team than they do on our team.

In all, this was a great, great move for the Phillies, who already didn't need to add someone of Halladay's caliber in order to make their way back deep into the playoffs. Cliff Lee is a great addition to our starting staff, which was pretty much one solid pitcher away from where it needed to be, and getting to keep J.A. Happ in the deal ensures that Lee then fills that one-pitcher need instead of simply replacing it for another void that would then need filling as well. And nabbing Lee instead of Halladay also enables us to keep our #1 pitching prospect and our #1 outfielding prospect within the confines of the major leagues' best farm system, both of whom are likely to advance well given the tremendous success of farm players on the major league roster in Philly over the past several years.

I know a lot of Philly fans were going crazy about us paying whatever price was asked for Roy Halladay, but in looking at the deal we did make, I just can't help but notice what a great move it seems to be. There's little doubt at this point (was there any already even before this deal?) that the Phillies are now the clear team to beat in the National League.

Two straight World Series appearances? For the Phillies? I still may have to see it to believe it!

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Blogger Shrike said...

In my view, the Phillies fleeced the Indians in this one. So this was definitely the preferable way to go for Philly.


3:16 AM  
Blogger Riggstad said...

Just a few things about Lee...

He's 12-2 against the National League.

This years era of 3.97 comes along with a team run support of 3.03.

He has pitched 2 complete games in his last 2.

We keep him away from the Dodgers.

We STOLE this bitch IMO.

Marson is a stiff. Donald was likely to move to 2cnd, but behind both Rollings and Utley, he had little chance of moving up in the org and was bound to be traded ANYWAY.

Brown will end up taking Werth's place. We certainly won't be re-signing Hamels, Howard, and Werth. Werth's contract ends after next year I believe and he's playing like a freak so he will be gone. Brown will be a good fill.

Also, you have to consider what they have invested already in these minor leaguers. They paid Drabek a bonus of $1.5, saw him through Tommy John Surgery, and he is playing very well.

You're right. Halladay is the much better player with his retarded 90+ splitter which is normally confused as a fast ball. His control is unsurpassed right now. And Toronto will lose value in a trade after the season if they don't move him with the Sox.

To me the Jays lost and the Phillies won in this mess, 100%.

My guess is Toronto is upset knowing that even if they took one of Happ or Drabek instead of demanding both, it would be more than they will get come the winter meetings. If he lasts that long.

Can you say.. "World Phucking Champions"!!!!??!?!?!

3:33 AM  
Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

What's your take on Ben Francisco? You didn't say much about him, but I think he could turn out to be the real deal (he's only 27).

3:56 AM  
Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

Big Phucking Grin on my face. Back 2 back :)

7:53 AM  
Blogger konaforever said...

The Phillies have far and away the best minor league talent in baseball? Since when, and according to who?

They're not even in the top ten according to Keith Law:

That's only one opinion, but I haven't found any sites that have the Phillies as #1.

1:35 PM  

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