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The Modest Proposal: Phillies trade SP Cliff Lee and LHP Antonio Bastardo to the Rangers for 3B Mike Olt, LHP Robbie Ross, OF Leonys Martin and RHP Cody Buckel.
Why It Makes Sense for the Rangers
Yup, you're reading this correctly. Not Cole Hamels. Cliff Lee.
It's not entirely out of the question, and that has everything to do with Hamels. ESPN's Jayson Stark has reported that the Phillies are making a "major push" to re-sign Hamels before the trade deadline. They're prepared to offer him a six-year deal worth Matt Cain-esque money ($127.5 million).
If the Phillies do re-sign Hamels, the Rangers will have to cross one of their top starting pitching targets off of their wish list. They could, however, then just turn their attention to Lee.
Danny Knobler has reported that the Rangers are very much open to the idea of reuniting with Lee, whom they traded for at the deadline back in 2010. They still like him, and they can afford to take on what's left of his massive contract.
The Rangers would absolutely have to give up Olt in order to do this deal. That's something they don't want to do, according to Ken Rosenthal, but surrendering him would be well worth it in this deal because Lee wouldn't be a rental. He's under contract through 2015 with a vesting option for 2016.
The Rangers would have go give up more than Olt, though. Ross can go because his value has been boosted by his incredible performance out of Texas' bullpen this season. Martin is the team's top outfield prospect, but they can afford to part with him because he's a couple of years away from being an impact player. Buckel is a solid pitching prospect, but he doesn't project as an ace. The Rangers wouldn't miss him.
I doubt the Rangers would part with this much talent to get Hamels as a rental. But for Lee, it would be well worth it for them to pull the trigger.
Why It Makes Sense for the Phillies
If the Phillies do end up re-signing Hamels, their payroll is going to go through the roof. Jettisoning payroll will immediately become a top priority.
As Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested in June, parting with Lee wouldn't necessarily kill Philly's ability to contend in 2013. They'll have Hamels if they re-sign him, not to mention a healthy Roy Halladay, a healthy Chase Utley and a healthy Ryan Howard. With a few offseason pickups, the Phillies could easily put themselves in a position to contend in 2013.
But they'll need payroll flexibility, and trading Lee is the best way for them to gain it. Trading him is also a much better way to accumulate young talent than trading a rental player like Hamels.
The talent that the Phillies would be getting back in this deal is significant. Olt could be the team's Opening Day third baseman in 2013, Ross could be used either as a starter or a reliever, Martin could be in the team's outfield mix and they'd be free to develop Buckel.
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