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Phillies Come up Huge in Trade for Cliff Lee

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst 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)

Everyone knew the Phillies were in talks to add a big-time starting pitcher.

On Wednesday, they finally got one.

They got Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco from the Cleveland Indians for minor leaguers Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson.

They got the 2008 American League Cy Young Award Winner and did not have to give up Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor or J.A. Happ.

For the Phillies, this is a blockbuster of a trade that just improved their chances of not only making the postseason, but potentially repeating as National League Champions and World Series Champions.

This is also the first big trade made by first-year General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., and he made a great deal.

Most of the baseball world knew Amaro was in negotiations with the Blue Jays to get Roy Halladay.  Toronto General Manager J.P Ricciardi wanted Drabek and Happ as the starting offer, but Amaro didn't want to part with either one of them. 

His counter-offer was similar to the package the Indians got, but Ricciardi rejected it. He did so, hoping to get the Phillies to up their offer and include Drabek and Happ.

But now that the Phillies have gotten Lee, and didn't surrender Drabek or Happ, Ricciardi lost his leverage in those negotiations.

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The Phillies are adding Lee to a rotation with Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP who has been pitching better of late; Joe Blanton, who also is pitching better; Happ, who is 7-1; and Rodrigo Lopez, who has surprisingly given the Phillies quality starts. 

The Phillies could add Pedro Martinez to the mix. He is currently pitching in the minor leagues to get his arm ready for major league hitters.

So now, the defending champions just got stronger and better in the one area that was considered their weakness.

What makes this an even smarter deal? Lee has an $8 million dollar club option that is easily affordable to the Phillies.  If Lee is dominant, I easily see the Phillies picking up his option and keeping him in the rotation for at least 2010.

Lee is 7-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 152 innings pitched with 107 strikeouts and just 33 walks. Those numbers on a dismal Indians team are phenomenal.  The 7-9 record is due to Lee not getting any run support from Cleveland whatsoever.  In Philadelphia, that won't be the case, especially in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.  Lee will get plenty of run support from Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth.

The Phillies have gotten hot since the All Star Break.  They were on a 10-game winning streak and currently have won eight of their last ten games.  They are now seven games in front in the N.L. East race after at one point being only a half game up on the Florida Marlins.  The Phillies are getting stronger as this season is progressing and now adding Lee only helps their winning surge.

Kudos to the Phillies and Amaro for pulling this deal off and for not backing down in the Halladay negotiations.  Ricciardi made himself look really bad there and Amaro looked really smart.

Can anyone stop the Phillies now?

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