Philadelphia Phillies Swap Aces: What's the Deal?

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Philadelphia Phillies Swap Aces: What's the Deal?
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Update: After endless hours of changing stories the picture is starting to become clearer.  Essentially, the Phillies are making two trades:

- Trade #1: Phillies receive Roy Halladay and $6 million from the Blue Jays in exchange for prospects Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D’Arnaud

- Trade #2: Phillies trade Cliff Lee to the Mariners in exchange for prospects Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, and Juan Ramirez

What baffles me in this scenario is Trade #2.  It doesn’t make any sense!  The Phillies are making two completely separate trades which is much different than the earlier scenario of them using the Mariners to receive prospects that they could pawn off to the Blue Jays for Halladay.  In this scenario the Phillies are trading Cliff Lee and three prospects (essentially 7 prospects if you count the four that we gave the Indians for Lee in July) for Roy Halladay, two prospects, and $6 million.  That is an awefully steep price to pay even though Halladay is perhaps the best pitcher in the game.

My main concern is the Phillies reasoning for depleting their farm system for a slight upgrade.  I’m aware that Cliff Lee wants to test free agency after the 2010 season and he will cost an arm and a leg if that happens so it’s best to lock up the best starting pitcher for a few years over taking the chance that Lee wouldn’t resign.  I understood the trade and why everything was happening the way it was until a few of the remaining pieces were divulged: the $6 million, Kyle Drabek, and the fact that they were two SEPARATE trades!

The Phillies are concerned about their payroll, which they should be since it would approach $160 million with Halladay and Lee, but hear me out here.  The Blue Jays are giving us $6 million.  Joe Blanton has one year left on his deal and his contract is at $7 million for the 2010 season.  Cliff Lee is set to make $9 million in 2010.  Why wouldn’t the Phillies just deal Blanton and keep Lee?  They would be $4 million better off and would have the most dominant pitching staff in the major leagues with Lee, Halladay, Hamels, Happ, and a 5th starter that is still TBD.

It just doesn’t make sense to me that the Phillies wouldn’t go all out for 2010 and work to keep Lee in the mix for this season!  The World Series showed us that the Phillies need two dominant starters to beat a team like the Yankees and keeping Lee in the fold would do give us that.  If Halladay is ready to sign a 3-4 year extension then why should he care if we keep Lee for 2010?  I doubt he would want the team to be worse considering he has never been to the playoffs in his career and would love to get a World Series ring before hanging up his cleats.

If you were Ruben Amaro, Jr. and you had to make this decision would you put together the best team you possibly could, or would you settle for 2nd best?  I know what I would do, but hey, I’m not the GM.

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