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July 29, 2009 10:30 PM

Phillies Trade Four Prospects For Cliff Lee But Hold On To JA Happ and Kyle Drabek

Well, the defending world champions got their man.  No it is not Roy Halladay, but it is a second ace they can pair with Cole Hamels for a strong 1-2 punch.  The big win in this deal is that the Phillies kept their top two pitching prospects, Happ and Drabek, the former who is having a strong season with the big club.  If they had traded for Halladay, one or both of these guys would have been on their way north of the border.  The difference between Halladay and Lee is not big enough that it would warrant the Phillies giving up one of these two elite pitching prospects.  

Here is what the Phillies gave up (Baseball America Prospect Rank in parentheses):

Carlos Carrasco, RHP (2) - Carrasco topped the Phillies prospect rankings in 2007 and 2008, and has been in the top 10 since 2003.  He is still just 22 years old, but has not really put it together.  In 2007 and 2008, he put up ERA's of 4.86 and 4.32 at AA Reading.  This year, he has a 5.18 ERA at AAA Lehigh Valley compared to 3.06 for Drabek, who has supplanted him as the organizations top pitching prospect.

Lou Marson, Catcher (3) - While Marson has a solid bat and excellent plate discipline for a catcher, his arm is not as strong as you would want, and he threw out 37% of base runners in 2008.  If his arm strength slips at all, he will no longer be able to play catcher, and his bat will no longer be nearly as impressive.

Jason Donald, Shortstop (4) - Another guy on the list who does not really have a position.  He has an excellent bat for a shortstop, but is below average defensively.  Scouts also say he barely has the skill to play second.  This leaves third base as his other option, but like Marson, his bat suddenly does not seem like such a weapon at a premiere power position.  Many scouts project him as a super utility player; valuable, but not a difference maker like Lee.   

Jason Knapp, RHP (10) - Knapp is a power pitcher who can hit the high 90's on the radar gone.  Like many young power pitchers, he also has trouble staying consistent.  His command is sub-par, and he is certainly a work in progress.  While the Phillies used him as a starter, it is projected that he will be a power bullpen arm.  Like Donald, valuable, but not irreplaceable. 

Overall, the Phillies did well in this trade.  They traded some solid prospects but no "can't miss" guys, and got a reigning Cy Young winner.  Lee's low HR/9 will play well in Citizens Bank Ballpark, and he will also benefit from a move to the weaker National League.  While I do not know if this move pushes the Phillies ahead of the Dodgers as favourites in the NL, it certainly moves them closer.  Considering that 4/5 of the current Phillies rotation is now left-handed, and the Dodgers feast on left-handed pitching (290/.375/.444), this could pose a matchup problem against the Dodgers..    

Almost unmentioned is the fact the Phillies are also adding OF Ben Francisco.  Current 4th OF Matt Stairs hits exclusively against right-handed pitchers.  This year, he has 66 AB's and a .879 OPS against righties, and only 3 AB's and a .250 OPS against lefties.  Francisco, on the other hand, owns a .845 OPS against lefties, over 100 points higher than against righties.  This addition will give the Phillies a potent platoon off the bench, capable of hitting left-handed and right-handed pitching. 

While the Phillies did well in this trade, so did the Indians.  They received four legitimate prospects for a pitcher with a limited track record of success in the major leagues.  I would say it is even more impressive than the haul they received last year for CC Sabathia, although he was only a half-season rental.  The Indians have done well to restock their farm system, and within a couple of years have an excellent core of young players to support star Grady Sizemore.

This trade was the definition of win-win, and was well played by both sides.  The real losers are the Toronto Blue Jays, who played hardball with the Phillies and may be left with nothing at the deadline.

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