Does Cliff Lee Deal Puts Pressure On Cashman, Epstein and Ricciardi?

Joseph DelGrippoAnalyst IJuly 29, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 16:  Cliff Lee #31 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the New York Yankees during opening day at the new Yankee Stadium on April 16, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. This is the first regular season MLB game being played at the new venue which replaced the old Yankee Stadium as the Yankees home field.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Tired of waiting around and wanting to hold on to their best prospects (at least this season), the Philadelphia Phillies made a bold move and traded for Cleveland Indians pitcher Cliff Lee plus outfielder Ben Francisco.

The Phillies gave up RHP Carlos Carrasco, C Lou Marson, UT man Jason Donald, and RHP  Jason Knapp. The first three players are currently at AAA Lehigh Valley, while Knapp (a 2008 3rd round pick out of high school) is at Low A Lakewood in the Sally League.

The Phillies felt that a deal with Toronto Blue Jays GM JP Ricciardi for Roy Halladay, the best pitcher available (and arguably the best pitcher in baseball) wasn't going to happen. And Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. seems like a guy who doesn't like to wait around.

This deal is an absolute steal for the Phillies, but could be good for the Indians as well.  

But, I can not believe how Amaro fleeced the elder (at least in terms of GM years) Mark Shapiro of the Indians, by not having to give up any of the top prospects the Jays were seeking from the Phillies for Halladay.

At least get one of this season's top guys Mark!

Rumors abound that Amaro went to Cleveland and confronted Shapiro about the deal, actually ripping the shirt off himself and demanding Shapiro "man up and make the trade!"

But as I said, these were just rumors.

I can see the Indians maybe not going for Drabek in the deal, but the Tribe then needed to at least get Happ (a Cliff Lee clone), or either Michael Taylor or Dominic Brown, one of the Phillies young power hitting outfielders, especially when the gave up Francisco.

By The Way: Drabek threw another gem Tuesday night. He went 7 innings, allowing 7 hits, 2 ER, 0 walks and 5 K's.

The Indians did get some pretty good players. I wrote a piece in the off season saying that Jason Donald was going to fill in for Chase Utley if Utley's hip injury kept him out at all this season. Although he has struggled this season in AAA, Donald could be a Mark DeRosa type, filling in at all four infield positions and playing some outfield.

Prior to this year, Donald was a consistent .300 hitter, while showing flashes of power in his two prior seasons.

Marson and Carrasco were considered studs last year, having somewhat down years in 2009, but offer good potential as major league players.

Donald, Marson and Carrasco were 75% of the Phillies big four prospects last season, along with Happ.

However, Knapp is the jewel of the trade, a NJ kid (me, too!) who pitches in the Sally League for the Lakewood Blue Claws, the local minor league team.

While his overall numbers aren't great, Knapp throws hard, locates well and has really good secondary pitches. I have seen Knapp pitch several times this season, and he has yet to disappoint with repertoire and command.

But I still can't believe the Tribe did not get any of THIS YEAR'S Big Four Phillies prospects, which only goes to show how fragile being a prospect can be. Last year at the deadline, guys like Donald, Marson and Carrasco were high in demand from the Phillies farm, but this season it appears only the Indians still had interest.

The Phillies refused to trade any of those players last season for CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday or even Manny Ramirez. They did, however, get Joe Blanton from the A's.

While the deal is tremendous for the Phillies now and in 2010 because Lee is signed through next season, it will continue to be great for the Phillies even later. Lee can still be signed on an extension (especially they win another title) while Drabek, Happ, Taylor and Brown can continue to develop and become part of what can be a true juggernaut  team for the next five to seven years.

But Halladay still is out there for the taking, and while recent reports suggest he likely will not be traded this year, I still think the Angels could use him and have the right pieces to part with.

If the Angles still do not have to give up their top young pitcher in Jered Weaver, then it is a deal the Halos have to make.

But what about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox? Based upon last night's blown game and today's action so far, the Sox need pitching. The Yankees also could use another future HOFer, right?

But both teams are probably smoke screening each other. GM's Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein would rather Halladay stay where he is, and maybe look to "buy his services" when he becomes a free agent after 2010.

Both GM's DO NOT like to give up quality prospects, and that is why a deal won't get done within the division. It is a game of chess, and Ricciardi is the pawn.

The biggest loser in this entire fiasco is JP Ricciardi. He was also the biggest loser GM at the Winter Meetings as he suffered through the death of his boss, Ted Rogers, just before the meetings, having his hands tied on making deals and spending money. I specifically asked Ricciardi at the meeting if he was budget constrained after Rogers’ death, and he replied, “not at all.”

Also, one of the biggest free agents in the winter, AJ Burnett, opted out of the contract Ricciardi negotiated and signed with a division rival. But since the Yankees also signed Type A free agents CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, the Jays only received back a third-round pick from the Yankees, plus the supplemental pick.

That is a situation which Ricciardi suffered through, but one which NY Mets GM Omar Minaya would sign on the dotted line for right now.