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Cliff Lee and Jack Wilson: Big Deal

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2009

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 06:  Jack Wilson #2 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sends the ball to first for the out during Opening Day on April 6, 2009  at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Two more big trades so far today.

 

The Cliff Lee Deal

The Indians sent Lee and 27-year-old, right-handed hitting outfielder Ben Francisco to the Phillies for youngsters Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Jason Knapp.

All things considered, it looks like a better deal for the Phillies than the proposal that the Blue Jays turned down for Roy Halladay.  Mainly, the Phillies get to keep J.A. Happ, who’s pitched really well for them this year, while adding Lee.  Since this is a “win now” trade for a team already capable of doing just that, getting Lee without weakening the major league squad is great.

Lee has had a 2.37 ERA for the month of July, and given that he’s a control pitcher going to a team that can pick it and score runs, he should win a lot of games in the next two months.  As a right-handed hitter with some pop, Francisco is also a useful bench player for a team looking to go deep into the post-season.

I’ve already recently commented on Carrasco and Donald, so I won’t do it again here.  Lou Marson is a 23-year-old catcher, who had a great season at AA Reading last year when he posted a .433 OBP.  He’s hit .295 with a .384 OBP at AAA Lehigh Valley this year.

Marson’s only real drawback offensively is his lack of power so far in his professional career.  However, he’s young enough to develop in the next few years, and a catcher who gets on base the way he does at his age has real potential.

Jason Knapp was the Phillies’ second round pick in the 2008 Draft (71st overall).  He’s got a good, live arm (111 Ks in 85.1 IP in the Sally League so far this year), but he’s a long way from the majors.  He’s only 2-7 with a 4.01 ERA in Class A ball this year, so it’s likely to be years before he’s ready.

Reports are that no cash will be sent to Philly to pay for the new acquisitions.  This makes sense, since the Indians, who are listed with baseball’s 15th highest payroll, while having a bad year in a small market, badly need to dump salary.

 

The Jack Wilson Deal

The Pirates and Mariners swung a seven player deal that sends SS Jack Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell to the M’s in exchange for catcher Jeff Clement, shortstop Ronny Cedeno, and pitchers Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock.

Clement was the No. 3 player selected in the 2005 Draft.  However, he turns 26 on August 21st and still hasn’t established himself as a major league player.

Clement looked extremely promising in 2007 and early 2008, but his 203 AB trial with the M’s last year didn’t go as hoped.  He hit only .227 with a .655 OPS, which while not terrible for a catcher, isn’t good enough for a starter at the position.

Clement has been back at AAA Tacoma this year, and his .865 OPS there is solid, but it’s nothing to write home about either.  At his age, you’d kind of expect him to be over .900, what with playing in the Pacific Coast League and all.

26-year-old Ronny Cedeno has substantial major league experience, mostly for the Cubs, but he can’t hit.  His .618 OPS in over a 1000 major league ABs pretty much says it all.

Pribanic is a 22-year-old right-hander with a 3.21 ERA in the Class Midwest League.  However, his strikeout numbers are not impressive for this level of the minors.

Brett Lorin is another 22-year-old right-hander pitching at Class A Clinton.  His ERA is 2.44, and he has 87 K’s in 88.2 IP, so he’s a lot more promising than Pribanic.

Nathan Adcock is a 21-year-old right-hander who is currently overmatched at Class A+ High Desert in the California League.  He has a 5.29 ERA and lacks control.  He looked better last year in the Midwest League.

In short, the Pirates got five B-grade prospects for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell.  Wilson plays great defense, but he’s overpaid for the offense he provides, and the Pirates were eager to unload Snell because he wasn’t happy in Pittsburgh.

Snell is pitching great after six starts in AAA Indianapolis, with an 0.96 ERA and 47 Ks in 37.1 IP.  He’s 27 this year, and it’s still really anybody’s guess whether he’ll ever have a great season at the major league level.

The Pirates seem to make a lot of trades where they choose quantity of prospects over quality, apparently in the hope that if they get a lot of warm bodies a few of them will develop in major league stars, if only by the law of averages.  The problem is that the Pirates constantly seem to be in a rebuilding mode, but never quite manage to get rebuilt.

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