Cleveland Indians: Evaluating the Cliff Lee Trade Three Years Later

Brian Belko@@BrianBelkoContributor IIIAugust 11, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 05: Starting pitcher Cliff Lee #33 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park on August 5, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

A little more than three years ago today, the Cleveland Indians traded reigning Cy Young Award winning starting pitcher Cliff Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies.

In return the Indians received a package of prospects that they hoped would help them contend in the A.L. Central for years to come.

Enough time has now passed since the trade to accurately evaluate how each team fared with the players they received.


Philadelphia Phillies

The obvious centerpiece of this trade for the Phillies was Cliff Lee. However, they also received outfielder Ben Francisco.


Cliff Lee

The Phillies got immediate help from Lee and made it all the way to the World Series the same year. In his first World Series appearance, Lee threw a complete game, giving up only one run on six hits.

The Phillies ultimately lost to the New York Yankees in six games. However, Lee helped the Phillies make it all the way to baseball's biggest stage.

Although many thought Lee was in Philadelphia to stay, the following off-season saw Lee get traded to the Seattle Mariners. This trade enabled the Phillies to obtain ace pitcher Roy Halladay who they tried to get before trading for Lee.

Lee's time in Seattle was very short-lived as the Mariners failed to live up to their lofty expectations. So once again, Lee found himself traded to another contender in the Texas Rangers. For the second season in a row, Lee helped his new team make it all the way to the World Series. Although the Rangers lost to the Giants in five games, Lee had proven himself to be a clutch pitcher.

After his World Series appearance with the Rangers, Lee decided to resign with the team that originally traded for him. He has now pitched for the Phillies for the past two seasons.

Since being traded from Cleveland, Lee has gone 38-27. In the postseason, he has pitched to the tune of a 7-3 record to go along with a 2.52 ERA over 82.0 innings pitched.


Ben Francisco

In addition to Lee, the Phillies also got outfielder Ben Francisco from the Indians. Francisco's main role was as a fourth outfielder and he played that role well for the Phillies in 2009. After 2009, Francisco spent two more seasons in Philadelphia as a back-up outfielder. He has also played for the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros.

Since being traded from Cleveland, Francisco has hit .273 with 19 home runs and 82 RBI over 621 at-bats.


Cleveland Indians

In return for Lee and Francisco, the Indians received four young prospects from the Phillies farm system. These players included shortstop Jason Donald, starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp, and catcher Lou Marson. These four players were meant to be cornerstones of the Indians for years to come.


Jason Donald

The Cleveland Indians have mainly used Jason Donald as a utility infielder since the trade. His most game action with the Tribe came in 2010 when he appeared in 88 games at various positions. Since being obtained by the Indians, Donald has batted .265 with six home runs and 38 RBI over 480 at-bats. Donald has been a serviceable utility player for the Indians, but that appears to be his ceiling.


Carlos Carrasco

At one point, Carrasco was considered one of Philadelphia's top pitching prospects. However, by the time this trade came around, the Phillies were prepared to let him go without ever seeing him pitch at the major league level. Carrasco got his first shot at the majors with the Indians in 2009, starting five games. He then started seven games the next season before earning a permanent spot in the rotation in 2011.

Since coming to Cleveland, Carrasco has gone 10-15 with a 4.93 ERA and 134 Ks over 191.2 innings pitched. He is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery after blowing his elbow out towards the end of the 2011 season. He is expected to be ready for this upcoming spring training.


Lou Marson

Lou Marson was expected to be Cleveland's catcher of the future to replace Victor Martinez. He had solid offensive stats in the minor leagues and stood out because of his stellar defense behind the plate. He had appeared in only eight games prior to coming to the Indians and then played in 14 games for the Tribe.

His most playing time came during the 2010 season when he appeared in 87 games for Cleveland. During that season, he batted only .195 with three home runs and 22 RBI. Needless to say, his offense did not hold up to the Indian's expectations. However, his defense came as advertised. He threw out almost 38 percent of the players who tried to steal while he was behind the plate. He also called a good game for his pitchers.

Since coming to Cleveland, Marson has hit .220 with four home runs and 53 RBI over 679 at-bats.


Jason Knapp

After this trade was completed, it was revealed that the Indians would not have done the deal if Knapp was not included. Knapp was on the disabled list when the Indians obtained him with what was thought to be bicep tendinitis. However, it turned out that Knapp's injuries were far worse.

He eventually underwent two major shoulder surgeries which he never fully recovered from. Knapp ended up only throwing 39 innings for Cleveland's minor league system before being released on Wednesday, August 8th, 2012.



The obvious team that came out on top in this trade is the Philadelphia Phillies.

They were able to get a starting pitcher to help carry them into the playoffs and eventually to the World Series. They were then able to trade him for more prospects which then allowed them to obtain Roy Halladay. The fact that Lee eventually resigned with the team was only icing on the cake. The Phillies also got a serviceable fourth outfielder who contributed to the team in a positive way before moving on.

On the other hand, the Cleveland Indians did not end up doing well in this trade.

Only two of the prospects they received are currently on the major league roster and are only part-time players at best. Another of the prospects is recovering from major elbow surgery and the fourth is no longer with the team. Although it was unlikely that the Tribe could have retained a player of Lee's caliber with their lack of spending, they definitely could have gotten a better package of prospects for him.



Philadelphia Phillies: A

Cleveland Indians: D+


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