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Now That Cliff Lee Has Joined the Phillies, Rest of NL Heads for the Hills

Teddy MitrosilisAnalyst IJuly 29, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 6:  Pitcher Cliff Lee #31 of the Cleveland Indians throws against the Texas Rangers during the home opener at Rangers Ballpark April 6, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

There won’t be any Roy Halladay parade in the streets of Philadelphia, as it turns out, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a World Series parade in the coming months.

The Phillies' hopes for defending their crown are alive and well after the team agreed in principle to a trade that would send Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee to the Phillies, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports.

The deal is still pending physicals, but it looks like a four-for-two swap, with the Phillies getting Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco in exchange for pitchers Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco, infielder Jason Donald, and catcher Lou Marson.

With the deal, the Indians sell on a sinking season and get out from under Lee’s 2010 contract, while continuing to stockpile their farm system with high-end prospects. This gives the Indians tremendous value for the short and long term.

For the Phillies, this deal is obviously all about winning now, which is the right move. Lee isn’t Roy Halladay, but let's face it, nobody is. Lee is still darn good, though, and is the power arm that the Phils desperately needed at the front of their rotation heading into October.

Some people may think Lee is only a one-year wonder with his remarkable ’08 Cy Young campaign, but he is actually pitching quite well this season despite his 7-9 record with the morbid Indians. Lee has a 3.14 ERA in 152 innings and 107 strikeouts to only 33 walks.

Francisco is a fourth outfielder in Philadelphia and only a side note in this blockbuster deal, but he has a little bit of pop and can be an adequate bench player.

I was in the camp that thought Phillies GM Ruben Amaro should have offered whatever it would take to the Blue Jays to bring in Halladay because their window to win championships is clearly now. But if we size up both prospective deals, this one may be a better all-around fit for the Phillies in terms of impact on their big league club now and on their farm system in the future.

In acquiring Lee, the Phillies did not have to give up prize pitcher Kyle Drabek, the guy that almost had to be included in any Halladay deal; they didn’t have to give up their top hitting prospect in outfielder Dominic Brown; and they didn’t have to ship off any parts of their big league club, namely rookie pitcher J.A. Happ, who has garnered interest by going 7-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 12 starts.

But more importantly than saving a couple pieces of their farm system, this trade now swings the balance of power in the National League back over to the Phillies, in my opinion. I thought the Dodgers were the strongest team for October due to their depth in pitching relative to the Phillies' thin batch of arms.

But now that Lee is in Philly to take some pressure off of Cole Hamels, all bets are off.

No, Hamels hasn’t pitched like the Hamels of ’08, but he has been pitching in uncharted territory for most of the season. He experienced the heaviest workload of his career last season as the Phillies won it all, and he has also had the pressures of upholding a rotation this season that hasn’t had much from Brett Myers and Jamie Moyer.

Joe Blanton has been the only other regular guy to take the ball, and that simply isn’t enough.

But now that Happ has surfaced and is thriving in the big leagues, the Phillies have three arms that they would be comfortable rolling out come October. You may notice that the three aforementioned starting pitchers are all left-handed, but I wouldn’t be too concerned about that because Hamels and Lee aren’t your typical southpaws.

It’s great to match up well against your opponent, but I’ve always stuck to the philosophy that superior talent wins out—and that’s exactly what the Phillies are now equipped with.

They are going to face a strong Dodgers team in the postseason, in all likelihood, but the Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda/Randy Wolf trio doesn’t seem much better than what the Phillies have to offer. In fact, it’s not anymore with the addition of Lee.

Kershaw has taken huge strides towards being considered one of the top starters in all of baseball, and he has been the true rock of a Dodgers pitching staff that hasn’t gotten by so easily now that we are in the thick of summer. Billingsley has had more than his share of struggles recently, and of course there are still plenty of doubts about whether or not he can step up to answer the bell and spotlight of October.

I don’t have those same doubts about Billingsley because I think his one poor showing last fall isn’t enough to completely judge the mental fortitude of a 24-year-old kid, but hey, the ball is now in the Dodgers' dugout in terms of improving their roster.

They are going to ride easily to a National League West crown, but that is no longer enough for the fans in Los Angeles. They want to see a winner, something that hasn’t graced Chavez Ravine since ’88, and there will be a much tougher road ahead once they can’t feast on the likes of the Diamondbacks and Padres.

Maybe the Dodgers now make a play for Seattle’s Jarrod Washburn. Are they in the Halladay sweepstakes or out? Tough to tell, but I would say out as long as Kershaw or Billingsley is being asked for.

Whatever it is, there will be more moves made, because the Phillies have now knocked over that first big domino on their way to playoff power, and they have made it clear that they want a second consecutive crack at a World Series title.

Halladay won’t be throwing their first pitch of October, but Lee will, and that’s not a bad alternative at all.

You can reach Teddy Mitrosilis at tm4000@yahoo.com.

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