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Friday, July 30, 2010

The Phillies, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt

Before this season, the Phillies traded Cliff Lee to the Mariners for three prospects. At the time, GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. talked about the need for the team to adhere to a strict ceiling for payroll and to replenish its farm system given that it gave up prospects not only to get Lee for a half-season rental, but also to get Roy Halladay.

Before this season's trading deadline, the Phillies traded J.A. Happ (runner up for the N.L. Rookie of the Year award last year) and two low-A prospects to the Houston Astros for their #1 starter, Roy Oswalt, and $11 million dollars (to pay for half of what remains on Oswalt's contract). Naturally, this could be a concession from the budget-conscious at best and cheap at worst front office that the Lee trade to the Mariners was a mistake, they should have kept him all along. Now, what they're saying is, you should match up a) the prospects we got for Lee and b) the prospects we traded for Oswalt to determine how we did and whether, ostensibly, a half-season for Lee versus at least one and a half seasons for Oswalt trade was worth it (with a miserable half-season gap in between of enduring the disappointing Joe Blanton and the quadruple A Kyle Kendrick)?

Am I parsing that right, or am I making a mess of it? Right now, the prospects the Phillies got for Lee compare negatively to the ones traded for Oswalt. Happ could have a decent career as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, and nice words have been written about the upside of the prospects the team traded to Houston. That said, nice things frequently get written about prospects.

Time, as usual, will tell. Jayson Stark wrote on today that at least one scout still favors the Braves in the NL East because the Braves' bullpen is better than the Phillies. That may be so. But I still think it's the case that the Phillies have the best record in baseball in September over the last 5 years. Then again, they still have to play August's schedule, they miss Chase Utley, and Oswalt of 2010 might not be the Oswalt of several seasons ago. Then again (again), a pitcher for a perennial losing team might just get rejuvenated playing before packed houses on a contender.

While Phillies' fans should be happy today with Oswalt, most of them are wondering why the team couldn't have made it easier on itself and just kept Cliff Lee.


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