Phillies Must Pursue Cliff Lee Deal; Boston a Potential Suitor

Posted: June 2, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s no longer a matter of if. Instead, it’s a matter of when.

Cliff-LeeFor the once thriving Philadelphia Phillies, the time has come to explore dealing LHP Cliff Lee at the trade deadline. At 24-30, the Phillies are mired near the bottom of the NL East. Their sinking ship, held together by the aging patchwork of Ryan Howard’s $25 million Achilles tendon and Chase Utley’s $15 million balky knees, is capsizing before our very eyes. The only option left is to sell, sell, sell. Is Ruben Amaro the right man for the job? Probably not. But, he’ll have to be. As Phillies’ ownership seems content with letting the veteran GM go down with the ship.

Lee, 35, is still out with arm trouble. So, if Philadelphia hopes to get anything more than 10 cents on the dollar, they’ll have to see him return within the next month. At 4-4, 3.18, and boasting a sparkling 61:9 K:BB ratio, Lee has shown that he’s as competent as ever at the top of the rotation. With one year left at $25 million and a vesting option in 2016 at $27.5 million, the Phillies would likely be forced to eat some money in any deal involving Lee. But, in a market devoid of high end arms, Lee could be the grand prize come deadline day. The cherry on top of one lucky contender’s delicious shopping spree.

When the Phillies’ surprisingly inked Lee that fateful evening in December, 2010, it was believed to be the beginning of a new era in The City of Brotherly Love. With Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels already in tow, Amaro burnt the midnight oil to sign Lee, the best free agent on the market. Lee has held up his end of the bargain, going 41-29 with a 2.83 ERA since that night. But, the aggressive erosion of the Phillies’ offense, coupled with the rapid aging of the rest of their core, has left the once proud franchise in a state of disrepair.

Citizen’s Bank Park is no longer the place to be in Philadelphia. Gone is the record shutout streak and sea of red; replaced with falling ticket prices and islands of empty blue seats. At this rate, how long will it be before ownership orchestrates a massive fire sale? By dealing Lee, they could begin to rebuild what has already become a discombobulated mess.

There will no doubt be plenty of suitors. Teams like Detroit, Baltimore, and Toronto in the American League will join the bidding. Keep an eye out for the Angels as well as they continue to stalk the first place Athletics in the AL West. If Philadelphia chooses to deal their ace inside the National League, they’ll find welcome takers in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well.

But, the one team that may be best equipped to land Lee is Boston, as the defending champion Red Sox boast an impressive farm system and the financial flexibility to make a deal work. With Jon Lester a free agent at season’s end and John Lackey set to make $500K next year on a team option, the Red Sox will have the funds and the need to approach the Phillies regarding Lee. Boston’s farm system is vast, with Major League ready arms like Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby de la Rosa, Brandon Workman, and Allen Webster all potential targets. Their minor league supremacy stretches to the diamond as well, as infielders Garin Cecchini, Brock Holt, and Mookie Betts join catchers Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart among a deep crop of prospects. If the Phillies do in fact shop Lee, the Red Sox are perhaps best equipped to put together a package enticing enough to get Amaro to finally pull the trigger.

redsoxFor Boston, the deal makes sense. They’d acquire a bonafide postseason performer who throws strikes and knows how to pitch in hostile markets. It’s also unlikely they’d have to surrender ace prospect Henry Owens or MLB regulars like Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley. In a division as tight as the American League East, Lee could be the difference between a division title or a berth in the Wild Card Game. A rotation of Lee, Lester, Lackey, and Jake Peavy come playoff time would allow Boston to forget about the enigma that is Clay Buchholz, whilst threatening Detroit for the claim of best rotation in baseball.

For Philadelphia, a deal with the defending champions also seems rational. The Phillies would be able to clear up at least a little bit of salary, while also landing valuable prospects at positions of need. Other than JP Crawford and Maikel Franco, Philadelphia’s minor league infield depth is laughable. An influx of Boston’s amateur talent would go a long way to making this team a contender again come 2015.

The time is rapidly approaching for a decision to be made, and decisions are made by those who show up. Will Ruben Amaro wait idly in July once again? Or, will the Phillies’ GM recognize that his hourglass is almost empty, and that now is the time for action? These are the questions that will soon be answered; with the answers deciding the fate of Philadelphia’s baseball future.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s