07/29/09 9:10 PM ET
Phillies land Lee from Tribe
Defending AL Cy Young winner, Francisco join champs
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
After making a run at landing Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay before Friday's Trade Deadline, the Phillies instead acquired Indians ace Cliff Lee. The Phillies and Indians announced Wednesday evening that Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco have been traded to the Phillies for prospects Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson.
"It's huge," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "I don't know how they did it. But they were able to pull that off and not give away [left-hander J.A.] Happ. Wow. Getting a guy like Cliff Lee and getting a great outfielder, too, is pretty amazing considering we didn't have to give away anybody on our team to do it."
The Phillies improved their rotation and added a much-needed right-handed bat for their bench. The Indians get four of the top 10 prospects in Philadelphia's system, according to Baseball America. The Blue Jays? Well, they might have overplayed their hand with less than 48 hours to go before the Deadline.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said discussions with the Indians became heated the last three or four days.
"Obviously, we're pretty pleased," said Amaro, who indicated the Phillies are finished making moves before the Deadline. "One of our goals was to acquire a top-of-the-rotation guy, somebody who we felt like was going to make a difference. And we think that Cliff can certainly do that. We've talked a thousand times about the right-handed bat. We've given ourselves some versatility."
The deal is attractive to the Phillies for a few reasons:
Lee, who will wear No. 34 and could make his debut Friday or Saturday in San Francisco, bolsters a rotation that has pitched much better recently. Phillies starters had a 5.27 ERA through July 2, but have a 2.71 ERA since. Lee was the American League's 2008 Cy Young winner. He is 7-9 with a 3.14 ERA this season, and 3-2 with a 2.37 ERA in his past five starts. He had the eighth-worst run support of any AL pitcher this season. That should not be a problem with the Phillies, who have the best offense in the National League. "It's an opportunity for me to help a team that's in first place and is the defending world champion," Lee said. "As far as that goes, I'm excited. I just want to give them a chance to win every time I take the mound, put up as many zeroes as I can and go as deep in to the game as I can."
The Phillies got Lee without giving up the three players the Blue Jays had demanded in a deal for Halladay -- Happ, Double-A Reading right-hander Kyle Drabek and Class A Clearwater outfielder Dominic Brown. Happ is a legitimate NL Rookie of the Year candidate, and Drabek and Brown are the organization's top pitching and player prospects, respectively. The Phillies also didn't give up Triple-A outfielder Michael Taylor, whom Baseball America considers a top 25 prospect. "We were looking to add, not to subtract," Amaro said. "Clearly, Happ is very important to us right now. He's winning games for us at the Major League level. He has pitched as well as anybody in our rotation. And we have him under control for many years. As far as Drabek, he is just a prospect, but we believe he's going to be a very good Major League pitcher barring any injuries."
Lee has a $9 million club option for next season, while Halladay will earn $15.75 million. That $6.75 million difference will impact the Phillies' offseason. They have a $5 million club option on Pedro Feliz and expect Joe Blanton, who is eligible for salary arbitration, to get a raise from the $5.475 million he makes this season.
Francisco, who will wear No. 10, is hitting .250 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs this season. He is an upgrade over outfielder John Mayberry Jr., who is hitting .189 with four homers and eight RBIs. Francisco also enables the Phillies to be more careful with left fielder Raul Ibanez, who is recovering from a groin injury that sidelined him for weeks before the All-Star break. "It's definitely a shock, but I'm excited to go to a team that is the defending champion," Francisco said. "I feel really good. Feel more comfortable than I have in a long time at the plate. I've had a really good last few weeks here. I feel I'm right where I need to be as I head over there."
The deal makes sense for the Indians, too.
Knapp is the centerpiece of the four-player package. A second-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, his fastball is clocked around 98 mph. He is just 18 and was 2-7 with a 4.01 ERA in Class A Lakewood, but some scouts have said recently that they think Knapp has more upside than Drabek.
Knapp has been on the disabled list with shoulder soreness, but it is not serious.
"His right shoulder seemed tired," Phillies assistant general manager Chuck Lamar said Monday. "We took all precautions, but he got a clean bill of health. No problems. When you have that kind of talent at 18, we didn't want to take any chances. But safe to say, the way he's thrown, stuff-wise, he has to be one of the better young Minor League pitching prospects in baseball."
Carrasco (6-9, 5.18 ERA) has struggled this season in Triple-A, but the Phillies remained high on him. The Indians have liked him since last season, when they talked about trading pitcher CC Sabathia, who eventually was dealt to Milwaukee.
"We like Carlos right now better than any time last year," Lamar said. "I know that may seem funny because of his results last year, but some of that was self-induced by us. There were some things he needed to do to become a good Major League pitcher -- start to learn to throw more inside. We introduced a slider to him. He's gone through some growing pains. We could have called him to the Majors several times this year, but we thought it would impede his development."
Donald could be an everyday player, but has struggled this season adjusting to Triple-A pitching. He is coming back from left knee surgery. Marson has the potential to be an everyday catcher.
Of course, the impending arrival of Lee and right-hander Pedro Martinez, who is making a rehab start Friday with Lehigh Valley, means the Phillies soon will have a surplus of starters. Lee and Martinez eventually will join Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Blanton, Happ and Rodrigo Lopez.
Martinez is expected to take Lopez's spot in the rotation. The Phillies would not say who else would be bumped from the rotation, although Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said Martinez and Moyer are unlikely bullpen candidates. That could make Happ the most likely bullpen candidate. He opened the season in the bullpen before he replaced right-hander Chan Ho Park in the rotation.
"No decisions are easy," Dubee said. "You like to have to make tough decisions. That means you have quality people."
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi reacted to the news that the Phillies -- who were widely considered the best fit for the Blue Jays -- were no longer in the Halladay sweepstakes.
"All the teams we've been talking to, we've looked at them as potential matches," Ricciardi said. "But, once again, we said from the beginning that we'd have to be moved to move the player. At this point, we haven't been moved."
He said reports that talks between the Phillies and Blues got heated were unfounded.
"That is absolutely, positively not true," Ricciardi said. "I have a great relationship with Ruben Amaro Jr. I don't even know how animosity can even come out of something like this. Either you agree or you disagree. We have nothing but respect for the Phillies."
The Phillies and Blue Jays agreed to disagree, so the Phillies went in a different direction.
And they got their Cy Young winner anyway.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.