Mr. Lee Goes to Philadelphia

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Mr. Lee Goes to Philadelphia
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Yesterday the Cleveland Indians traded Cliff Lee along with Ben Francisco to the Philadelphia Phillies for Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Jason Knapp.

That move effectively took Philadelphia out of the Roy Halladay Sweepstakes and gave the Phillies the arm they were looking for.

Many have speculated that this could be the move that puts the Phillies back into the World Series with a chance to repeat. Yet will it really help Philadelphia or will it just be another big time deadline deal that never pans out?

Lee currently has an ERA of 3.14 with 107 K and a WHIP of 1.30, all of which are better than the league average for starting pitchers, but decently far off from the league leaders. This is opposed to Lee's Cy Young Award winning numbers from 2008 of 2.54 ERA, 170 K, WHIP 1.11. It's not a significant fall off, but it's enough to tell that this is definitely not the same Cliff Lee we saw last season.

Sure, an arm like that will be crucial in the latter points of the season along with the experience the 30-year-old brings, but in the end is it really worth it? The Phillies will get Lee for the final 63 games of this season along with all of next year if they are willing to pick up his $8+ club option for 2010.

Jayson Stark brought up some interesting points in an article on ESPN.com entitled, "Biggest myths about the trade deadline." Stark points out that the deals made to bring in a star pitcher almost never work out in terms of bringing championships home. This fact I found quite interesting:

Over the past 32 years, exactly three pitchers who changed teams in midseason have won a World Series game: Joe Blanton for the 2008 Phillies, Jeff Weaver for the 2006 Cardinals, and Mike Torrez for the 1977 Yankees. Combined Cy Young Awards for those three guys: Uh, that would be zero.


This trade could end up working out well for the Phillies, but I'm always skeptical of moves like this. Essentially a team trades away a decent amount of prospects for an aging pitcher whose best stuff is probably behind them. The pitcher brings wins, but not championships. Meanwhile the prospects pan out and become great players. The latter doesn't always happen, but more times than not, it seems like it does. While I don't agree with trading for a big star at the deadline in the first place, it makes more sense to go after an everyday player instead of a starting pitcher that can only contribute every fifth game.

For further proof, look at the trade Cleveland acquired Lee in. In 2002, the Expos traded Lee, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Lee Stevens in exchange for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew. At that point in the season, the Expos were contending and traded away prospects in hopes of using Colon as a veteran arm and presence that would help lead them to the playoffs. You think Washington wishes that trade never happened?

I'll take the Phillies repeat talk with a grain of salt, figuring that it will never work out as intended. Yet, I could be wrong, for all we know the Phillies may have found the missing piece. I mean the law of averages would dictate that eventually a Cy Young winner traded at the deadline would win the World Series that year...right?

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