Trade Analysis: Indians Send Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to Phillies for Four Prospects

Maybe the Blue Jays were asking too much for Roy Halliday…  Philadelphia, already building a comfortable lead in the NL East and still the reigning World Series Champions, dealt away four prospects for last year’s AL Cy Young winner, Cliff Lee.  Along for the ride is a right-handed hitting outfielder, Ben Francisco.  Cleveland gets four ranked prospects, Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, and Jason Donald.

Philadelphia Gets:  A starter who as every bit as good as Roy Halliday, but with a lower price tag.  Lee’s salary is about $6 million per year less than Halliday, and he can stay through 2010 because of a club option…  Don’t look at Lee’s record – the Indians haven’t done diddly when Lee is on the hill.  Check out his control and ERA, which are both solid.  Hamels, Lee, Happ, and Moyer (who has been better), with a dose of Joe Blanton makes for a killer rotation down the stretch, and you have two aces at the top for the playoffs.  The Phillies have to be the favorite to make the 2009 World Series.

The Phillies also get a decent outfielder in Francisco – someone who can play left or right field (he looks more comfortable in left, though), hits with power and still retains a little speed.  He’s certainly an upgrade over John Mayberry, Jr. – who may never be as good as Francisco.  And – none of the prospects that Toronto asked for – Kyle Drabek, J.A. Happ, or outfielder Dominic Brown – were part of the deal.  Happ has been a god send, and Drabek is frequently cited as the best pitching prospect the Phillies have.

Cleveland Gets:  It’s not that Cleveland got NOTHING.  They just didn’t get anyone who might immediately help, the way J.A. Happ could obviously step into the rotation and pitch today (or whatever day he was scheduled to pitch).

Jason Knapp was selected #2 in 2008 out of high school.  He has a tender shoulder right now, which isn’t a positive and may actually hold up the completion of the deal.  As a pitcher, though, Knapp has SERIOUS tools.  He throws high 90s, fanned 111 in 95 innings at Lakewood in the SAL.  When he arrives in 2011, Knapp could be a #2 starter.  Granted, this is early, but this is the kind of prospect you want to see in a trade.  Upside and at least a little proven ability.

Carlos Carrasco is a bit further along – learning a new pitch in AAA.  The good news is he has good control and decent strikeout numbers.  He’s just 22 and yet has had some success in the minors.  Right now, I think he translates out to a #4 starter at best, but he could surprise you.  He may get to make a few starts in September (or sooner) for Cleveland, and prove to be a positive.  The best news is that he has improved his control at each level and that bodes well for him the more he pitches.

Jason Donald is a shortstop who, until this year, had been a decent hitter – mixing a little power with nice patience and a touch of speed.  He suffered a knee injury this year, though, and in AAA has struggled to hit .240.  In time, he might serve as a potential replacement for Jhonny Peralta should he move to third (where Andy Marte has failed to make an impact).  I see Donald as a Rich Aurilia type and could be helpful for a couple of years if he can make one more step up.  Donald might move to second, with Asdrubel Cabrera manning short next year, too.  Either way, it should be a solid infield.

Lou Marson is a catcher with skills – Scott Bradley with more walks.  I thought he might become the Phillies catcher for the next decade.  He’s a good contact hitter, has some patience – and has shown improvement at every level.  And, he’s just 23.  Adding Marson means that Victor Martinez is still (more?) expendable – though you’d like to see someone who can play first base emerge (or, in the case of Travis Hafner, get healthy).

In summary, I like the trade for both teams.  Obviously, Philadelphia could be a solid winner not just for 2009, but 2010, and retains three blue chippers.  If you are a Cleveland fan, though, you have to feel a bit cheated out of what should have been a tiny dynasty over the last three years.  Two aces are gone and a third (Fausto Carmona) fell by the wayside.  The Indians SHOULD have been in the playoffs every year since 2007.  Someone is to blame for that, and I don’t know who.  On the other hand, in the last three days, the Indians have picked up five guys (Jess Todd, in the Mark DeRosa deal) who could be on the major league roster in three years, and four might be on the roster next year.

2 thoughts on “Trade Analysis: Indians Send Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to Phillies for Four Prospects

  1. Hi Paul,

    Nice write up. I’m not sure if Hamels has the same magic stuff this year. Seems like he is getting hit an aweful lot and is giving up a ton of runs. I watched him pitch today and was amazed at how many curve balls he threw in comparison to his bread and butter change up. Not sure what is going on in his head.

    The two players that the Phillies are going to miss are Marson and Donald. I think Marson more so than Donald. There were some issues about Marson’s defense and his ability to call a game but that probably was due to his youth.

    Even with the Lee acquisition, I think calling the Phillies one of the favorites to go to the World Series is bit of a stretch because of two reasons. First, Hamels isn’t Hamels this year. They need for him to pick his game back up again. I know Lee is solid and was nearly lights out in his first game as a Phillie but I want to totally reserve judgement until he pitches in Citizens Bank Park. Second, Lidge isn’t Lidge this year. I wasn’t expecting him to be perfect this year but I didn’t expect him to have a 7+ E.R.A going into August either… There has been talk of Myers getting back early this year and the plan is to put him back into the bullpen. The second point will hurt the Phillies more than the first because you could have any starter pitch a gem and have Lidge blow it late in the game. At that point they become the Mets of the last two years.


    • Thanks for writing, Ron…

      I agree – the pitching isn’t nearly on the same level as last year. Hamels hasn’t been as good, Moyer is down, Myers is out. But no Kendrick or Eaton has helped – so the bottom of the rotation (Happ and Blanton) has helped a lot there. And, the offense has kicked it up. Werth, Victorino are playing better, as is Howard. Utley is strong. Ibanez is lights out better than Burrell. Even the catchers and Pedro Feliz are hitting better (not great, just better). The only offensive performer not doing as well is Rollins and he’s getting hot. So – the offense is making up for the staff not being nearly as good.

      The Phillies are still better than any team in the NL Central, and all but the Dodgers (who aren’t THAT good) in the West. The Mets are downtrodden, the Marlins can’t beat them, and the Nationals wouldn’t win the South Atlantic League (Low A).

      Donald wasn’t going to get playing time here, so he was just a trading chip, but I agree with Marson. I liked him.

      Somebody has to have stats on the Hamels break down. I wonder if you could compare good starts with bad starts and see if there is a difference in control vs. pitch selection or something. MLB has all that data, you just have to find someone to sort through it.

      But don’t sweat it. The Phillies are still the team to beat in the NL.

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