Until this season, if you said the words “Phillies” and “deadline deals” to me, it did not invoke good memories. Throughout my lifetime, trade “deadline” has been an appropriate term for Phillie fans, because it’s often been the signal that our season is, in fact, dead. Not that I was the biggest fan of Scott Rolen or Curt Schilling, but suffice it to say that I was even much less of a fan of Bud Smith and Trevor Lee. Even as recently as 2006, Bobby Abreu was shipped off to the Yankees.
While the team may have gone out and added a Kyle Lohse here or a Corey Lidle there to solidify the team for a possible late-season run, they were never the ones pulling in the names that lead on SportsCenter. Until Wednesday. Funny how winning a championship can change things. Cliff Lee is just a season removed from a Cy Young Award, and he may just make the Phillies the most purely talented team in baseball. This is the first time in my life that I’ve been able to make that statement.
Other Comments on the Deal:
-Hats off to Ruben Amaro. As Jayson Stark wrote the other day, he was in an extremely tough position as this deadline approached, and he handled it beautifully. While a piece of my heart will always belong to Roy Halladay, if you can land a Cy Young winner in his prime without giving up any of your top 3 prospects or any major-league talent, you deserve a lot of credit. Between this deal and the way the Ibanez signing has worked out, Amaro has to be feeling pretty good right now.
-Hats off, one last time, to Mike Arbuckle, the former director of player development that departed after he was passed over for the GM job in favor of Amaro. Amaro acquiring Lee without giving up a top-3 prospect is impressive, but it was only possible because of the job Arbuckle did in making sure the farm system was so well-stocked. The Phils gave up four good looking prospects in the deal, but the minor-league cupboard is still far from bare.
-Lee’s stats will be much discussed in the coming days, but here’s my favorite: in 223 innings last year he gave up 12 home runs. That’s the kind of pitcher you need at the Bank.
-I don’t know much about Ben Francisco, but he looks like a nice addition to the bench. He plays all three outfield positions, has decent pop, and he already has 13 stolen bases this year, so he brings some speed to the bench as well, which the Phillies need. Also, it looks like he must have played at least one season of college ball with Chase Utley, as he was a 2002 pick out of UCLA, and Chase was taken in 2000.
-Suddenly, the Phillies have a surplus of starting pitchers, with seven: Hamels, Lee, Happ, Blanton, Moyer, Rodrigo Lopez, and Pedro when he comes back from the injury. It will be interesting to see who end up as the odd men out. Lopez is the first obvious choice, but he’s pitched really well. Moyer is also a candidate to be bumped from the rotation, but that would be tough to do to the 46-year-old, and he wouldn’t really have any value coming out of the pen. These things tend to work themselves out with injuries or ineffectiveness, but there could be some bruised egos before it’s all said and done. In the end, of course, it’s a good problem for the team to have, and the four best guys will emerge as the eventual playoff rotation. It also might be worth moving Lopez in a trade. He must have at least some value right now, and it doesn’t seem like we have a place for him. In the meantime, Phillie fans will be anxiously waiting to see when the team manages to squeeze Lee into the rotation for his first start.