Unable to land this year's leading contender for the American League Cy Young Award, the Phillies did the next-best thing on Wednesday by acquiring last year's AL Cy Young winner.
In a deal that demonstrated the trade deadline at its best, the defending world champs picked up lefty starter
It is a trade that gives both teams exactly what they were seeking. The Phillies get a front-of-the-rotation starter to keep the rest of the NL East at arm's length and bolster a potential run at a second straight World Series title, while the Indians restock with a bevy of talented young players, at least three of whom could be ready to make an impact at the major league level as early as next season.
This is just the latest sign that the Phillies intend to be annual contenders for the world championship that eluded them for all but one of their first 125 seasons. Not only do they get Lee this year to help defend their crown, but because of his extremely reasonable 2010 club option of $8 million, they can re-load for another championship push next year as well, and all the while get first crack at signing the 31-year-old to an extension.
Though he has been unable to duplicate the success he had in 2008, Lee is enjoying what may be the second-best season of his career, despite his 7-9 record. Along with ranking seventh in the AL with a 3.14 ERA and leading the league with 152 innings pitched, his HR/9 ratio is nearly identical to what it was a year ago (which will come in handy in the bandbox that is Citizen's Bank Park) and his ERA+, BB/9, K's/9 and K/BB ratios are all better than any season of his career except for 2008.
As much as the Phillies would like Lee to be the pitcher he was while leading the league in wins and ERA last year, they don't really need that to solidify their status as a top title threat. With a battle-tested
That is a concern for October. In the meantime the Phillies not only improved themselves this year, but they also managed to hang on to both of their top starting pitching prospects, Happ and
Those four players should quickly help the depleted Indians retool in what has been, along with the NL West, the most mediocre division in baseball in recent years (both of those divisions have placed four different teams in the postseason over the past three years). Marson, who was named the top minor leaguer in the Phillies system last year, has had a cup of coffee in the bigs but has spent the majority of his year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he was batting .294/.382/.370 in 63 games. Though he hasn't shown much power in the minors yet, he is a high on-base guy (he had a .433 OBP in 2008 at Double-A, the highest by any player at that level -- and is .388 for his minor league career). And despite being in his sixth minor league season, he just turned 23 last month. He has received rave reviews for his handling of pitchers and will be increasingly valuable if the Indians follow through on their rumored trade of All-Star catcher
Along with Marson, Donald had long been considered a bright part of the Phillies' future. Though his path to the majors had been blocked by the presence of
While Marson and Donald are nice, it is pitching where the Indians were really hurting, and this deal helps them greatly. Unlike last year, when they dealt
To shore up the rotation, the Indians received Carrasco and Knapp. Carrasco, a 22-year-old righty, has been projected as a top-two starter and boasts an effective changeup to complement a low-90s fastball. He was outstanding during his first Triple-A stint last year, posting a 1.72 ERA and 11.3 K/9, but this year he has regressed to a 6-9 record and a 4.18 ERA while notching 8.8 K/9.
Knapp is still just 18 years old, and he has a fastball that reaches 97 mph, two attributes that make him much more attractive than his 2-7 record and 4.01 ERA would suggest. He has struck out 111 batters in just 85.1 innings this year.