Jul 122010

July 12 Camden Courier-Post columnist Martin Frank

“Somewhere, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro was breathing a sigh of relief Friday, when pitcher Cliff Lee was traded to the Texas Rangers.

His worst nightmare was averted when Lee went to Texas instead of to a divisional rival such as the New York Mets. Even the proposed deal to the Yankees would have been a disaster for Amaro.

But the trade last December, when Amaro sent Lee to the Mariners for three prospects, has to haunt him every day. That’s especially true now that Amaro has stated that his top priority at the trade deadline is to acquire a starting pitcher and that he would be prepared to give up an everyday player.

The irony, of course, is that the Phillies had such a starting pitcher on Dec. 15, 2009, the day before they acquired Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays. But Amaro decided to trade Lee because he said the Phillies needed to restock their farm system.

The Yankees, of course, make these kinds of trades all the time. They were prepared to give up a package of prospects, including catcher Jesus Montero, to get Lee, whom they didn’t really even need.

The Yankees thought they had the deal done before the Rangers swooped in at the last minute.

Replenish what?

You never hear Yankees GM Brian Cashman say he had to trade a top player to replenish the Yankees’ farm system.

No, the Phillies aren’t the Yankees, and they don’t have a limitless payroll like the Yankees do. But keeping Lee this season would have added about $10 million to their payroll of about $140 million.

Is that too big an expense for perhaps the best starting rotation in the National League? How many more games would the Phillies have won this season with both Halladay and Lee in the rotation?

Lee went 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA for the last-place Mariners, whose offense is much worse than the Phillies’. He had an incredible strikeout-to-walk ratio of 89-to-6. Lee had a stretch where he had four complete games in five starts. Over his last seven starts, he had a 1.68 ERA and had walked just three batters.”

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