Cliff Lee to Philadelphia: What's Next For The Phillies?

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Cliff Lee to Philadelphia: What's Next For The Phillies?
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

On July 29, 2009, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired Cleveland Indians' standout Cliff Lee. Lee was the left-handed ace for the Indians, and now he has been brought in to make an immediate impact for the defending world champs.

The other player who was shipped to Philly was outfielder Ben Francisco. In return, the Indians picked up four minor league prospects out of the Phillies' farm system.

Right-handed Triple-A pitcher Carlos Carrasco was one of the players sent to Cleveland. The other three players, all of whom played in Class-A, are right-handed pitcher Jason Knapp, catcher Lou Marson, and shortstop Jason Donald.

While these players will all be difference makers for their respective clubs, Lee is the missing piece the Phillies needed to contend for a championship.

Ace Cole Hamels was phenomenal in 2008 for Philadelphia, especially in the playoffs.

But this year was a different story for Hamels, as well as the rest of the team's pitching staff.

Here is a breakdown of the Phillies' five starting pitcher's ERAs:

Cole Hamels: 4.42; Joe Blanton: 4.11; Jamie Moyer: 5.32; J.A. Happ: 2.97; Chan Ho Park: 4.97. Out of this group, the only impressive ERA is that of Happ.

This is not the pitching of a team that is in serious contention for a World Series victory.

The addition of future Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martinez will help, but it is not enough to push them over the top due to the fact that he is past his prime. Currently, Martinez is on the 15-day DL.

Brett Myers is also injured, leaving the Phils short-handed on their pitching staff.

Myers was the No. 2 pitcher, but after he went down, all of the other pitchers moved up a spot in the rotation, and veteran Rodrigo Lopez was used as the team’s fifth starter.

However, the addition of Lee will provide relief to a group of pitchers that desperately needs a break.

Right now, it looks like Hamels will remain the No. 1 pitcher, with Lee at two, and Blanton, Moyer, and Happ coming in at three, four, and five, respectively.

Despite weak play from some of the pitchers in their rotation at times, this does seem like a pretty solid lineup when these guys are at their best. If Pedro can get healthy, the Phillies could be a nightmare for opposing teams come playoff time.

Lee could end up being the ace of the rotation. The Phillies still have faith in Hamels, which is the only reason Lee is not the immediate go-to-guy.

Lee is the American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner, an award that is one of baseball's most honorable distinctions. He was also the 2008 American League Comeback Player of the Year and was selected to that year's AL All-Star team.

While Lee is not having such a great season in 2009, with a record 7-9, this is due largely in part of a weak Indians offense that has not been up to par in run productive.

Now, Lee is on a team with sluggers like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, as well as base-hit machines such as Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. So don't be surprised to see Lee's record make a substantial improvement in Philadelphia.

Lee has put up some solid numbers in 2009, and his stat sheet would look great if you take the win-loss column out of the equation.

In his 22 starts, he has pitched 152 innings and stuck-out 107 batters, while only walking 33, and giving up just 53 earned runs and 10 home runs on 165 hits.

It is apparent that a change of scenery will do a great deal for Lee, especially a "change of scenery," means that he will be playing in Citizens Bank Park, home of the defending World Series champs.

For the first time in his career, Lee will have a supporting cast that can take some of the pressure off of his shoulders.

Before we talk about what is next for Philadelphia, it is important that we take a quick at the other players involved in this trade.

Besides Lee, Philly is also adding outfielder Ben Francisco. Francisco will not be the starter in his new town, but has been labeled the top backup for all outfielders.

This means that if anybody in any of the three outfield slots is hurt or needs an off day, Francisco is the first guy manager Charlie Manuel will turn to as a replacement.

In fact, when speaking about Francisco's playing time, Manuel said, "He is going to play more than you think. Our outfielders are going to need some time off."

He even started in his first game with the team, filling in for the injured Victorino.

Francisco is a good fielder and is strong as a hitter. This season, he's got 78 hits, 33 RBI, and 10 homers. He is a young, athletic talent that may find himself starting some time down the road in Philly.

On the other hand, the Indians will have to wait before they get any real production out of their pickups.

This is because the Indians are receiving players who have never played in the big leagues before, and they will need some more time in the minors before they can make it to the top level.

First, there is the right-handed pitcher Carlos Carrasco. Although he is having an average year in 2009, every season prior to this one, he has been phenomenal.

He is a dominant young player with a rocket arm and a lot of potential. He has a wide range of pitches, so he is definitely a beneficial addition to the Indians’ farm system.

Carrasco will probably make it onto the Indians’ roster in a few years, once he can perfect the skills that he has been developing in Philadelphia.

Next, there is Jason Knapp. Knapp is a right-handed pitcher who is also not doing well this season. But to his credit, he is very young and was magnificent in his first season in 2008.

He is an accurate thrower who has a high ball-to-strike-ratio. This will help him when he is vying for a spot on the top roster in the Cleveland organization.

Then we have catcher Lou Marson. He is fairly efficient in the batter's box and is very reliable behind the plate on defense.

Now that catcher Victor Martinez has been traded to the Boston Red Sox, Marson has a great chance to become Cleveland's starting catcher in just a couple of years.

A week ago, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez were easily the best players on the Indians. But now that they have made their departures, these three prospects have been given the opportunity of a lifetime.

The last piece of the trade was shortstop Jason Donald. Donald is another young prospect who, although he is really starting to pan out well, has plenty of room to improve.

As a hitter, Donald is very productive. So far in 2009, Donald has 104 hits, 34 RBI, and two home runs. However, he needs to limit his number of errors in the field if he wants to play in the big leagues any time soon.

However, he does have the skill-set to one day make the Indians’ lineup as a reserve.

Overall, the Indians are getting a talented group of young players who will not provide immediate help, but all have a shot at being very good sometime down the road.

As for the Phillies, they have made it clear what their purpose in trading for a big name like Lee is. They want to win now.

By pulling the trigger on the deal to bring in Lee, they are setting themselves up to do just that.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made a valuable and possibly season-saving move for his team, but it was not the only one being considered.

For about a week, it looked like the Phillies were going to try to trade for Toronto Blue Jays' ace Roy Halladay. But the Jays wanted top-notch prospects like Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown, and Michael Taylor.

This was something that Philly made clear from the beginning that it did not want to do, and the Phillies stuck to their guns throughout the discussions. Now that Lee is a member of the reigning champs, it appears that any talks of "Halladay To Philadelphia" to sleep.

While the decision to go after Lee is a choice that shows the Phillies want to win and worry about the future when it comes.

But by holding on to all three of their "untouchable" prospects, they have also shown an interest in future success.

In the aftermath of this trade, many top baseball analysts have proclaimed Philadelphia to be the undisputed favorite in the National League East, and some have even put them ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers as the team to beat in the NL.

Whether they overtake the Dodgers for home-filed advantage in the postseason, the Phillies have made it clear they want to win and have set the stage for a deep playoff run.

After supplying depth to the outfield with Francisco and significantly strengthening their rotation with Lee, the Phillies appear to have what it takes to be in it until the end, while the Indians are stepping back and stocking up for years to come.

Cliff Lee is no Roy Halladay, but by adding him, the Phillies are in the next best situation, getting one pretty good constellation prize.

With Lee in the lineup, it looks like the Phillies are destined to finish the year strong, maybe even repeating as the 2009 World Series Champions.

 

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