Thursday, August 27, 2015

Well played, Ruben

Why the trade for Cliff Lee makes so much sense for the Phillies.

Well played, Ruben

The Phillies have reportedly reached a deal with Cleveland that will send starting pitcher Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco to Philadelphia for four prospects.
The Phillies have reportedly reached a deal with Cleveland that will send starting pitcher Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco to Philadelphia for four prospects.

I wanted Roy Halladay. You wanted Roy Halladay. Some people said they didn't care what it took to get him. But, well, come on. There had to be some limit, right?

Now it will be Cliff Lee and right-handed bat Ben Francisco, in exchange for Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp, Lou Marson and Jason Donald. Lee is not Halladay. Carrasco & Co. are not Kyle Drabek, Jay Happ and Dominic Brown. These are both true facts. The Phillies and their rookie GM, Ruben Amaro Jr., played this right.

Long-term, we all can agree that the Phils are in better shape than if they had traded Drabek and Brown as part of the package to get Halladay. That isn't to say that Carrasco won't be useful and that Knapp -- a big kid with a huge fastball -- won't end up being very, very good. This wasn't theft. The Phillies did give up four players who could very well end up being major-league contributors. But they kept their big pieces -- Drabek, Brown and Michael Taylor. Again, long-term, this is clearly a win.

Short-term -- ignoring Francisco, a need -- we can boil everything down to this question: which would you rather have in October, Halladay alone or the combination of Lee and Happ?

More coverage
The Idle Rich: Well played, Ruben
High Cheese: Lee 'excited' to join Phillies
High Cheese: Breaking down the Lee deal
Phillies Zone: Phillies agree to Lee trade
Poll: Was this a good deal for the Phillies?
Photos: Cliff Lee
Stats: Cliff Lee
Photos: Ben Francisco
Stats: Ben Francisco

Let's take an opening-round series against San Francisco as one example. In Game 1, you would have Tim Lincecum against either Lee or Halladay. Neither would have a clear-cut advantage over the other. If each man pitched to expectations, the game likely would be decided in the bullpen -- Halladay or Lee, doesn't matter. Now, go to Game 4. In one case, if they trade for Halladay, it is Moyer/Martinez/Lopez vs. whatever able-bodied guy the Giants can find (remember, Randy Johnson is on the 60-day DL, scrambling everything). Again, you are likely looking at a game decided in the bullpen. In the other case, with the Lee trade, you still have Happ and you suddenly have a clear advantage in Game 4.

Again, if you want to argue that Lee isn't Halladay, that's fair. But the differences are incremental, not enormous. The fact that you get to keep Happ turns incremental into something even smaller, and maybe shrinks the difference to nothing. Again, that's in the short-term.

Now, if Halladay ends up in Boston, the conversation might change. But between then and now, Amaro played this exactly right.

Daily News Sports Columnist
About this blog
Rich Hofmann arrived at the Daily News in 1980 for a job whose status was officially designated as "full-time, temporary." A senior at Penn at the time, he was hired to fill in on the copy desk during a staff illness. The notion of him covering the Eagles or being a columnist did not exist in anyone's imagination. It was supposed to be six weeks and out, but he never left. It is only one of the reasons why so many people have concerns about him as a potential house guest. Rich has blogged the postseasons of the Flyers and Eagles. E-mail Rich at Reach Rich at

Rich Hofmann Daily News Sports Columnist