With Lee, Phils are halfway there

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Cleveland Indians' Cliff Lee pitches to the Seattle Mariners during the first inning of a baseball game in Seattle, Sunday, July 26, 2009. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

The Phillies got half their midseason retooling done yesterday, as rookie general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. engineered an outstanding trade that strengthened the starting rotation for this fall and next.

Now Amaro needs to work another well-crafted deal to bolster the bullpen. If the Phillies have a fatal weakness, that would be it.

But Cliff Lee is the talk of the town right now.

By getting the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner out of Cleveland, the Phillies made themselves a formidable outfit in October.

Best of all, the four prospects surrendered in the deal were not going to be contributors this year. And maybe not next year, either.

All four - righthander Carlos Carrasco, infielder Jason Donald, catcher Lou Marson, and single-A pitcher Jason Knapp - could become quality major-leaguers. But they weren't going to get there in the next year or so.

And that has the remaining baseball fans in Cleveland frothing at the mouth.

Listen to the voice of longtime Indians beat man Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon-Journal:

"With the possible exception of the deal that sent Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn 49 years ago, Wednesday's trade of Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to the Philadelphia Phillies might go down as the most unpopular trade in Indians history."

And here you thought it was when they lost Von Hayes to the cagey Paul Owens.

By the way, not everyone in baseball automatically assumes the Phillies have abandoned the trading table.

Toronto manager Cito Gaston, asked about his club's hanging on to coveted righthander Roy Halladay, wasn't breathing easy just yet.

Gaston pointed out that all of the top prospects the Blue Jays had requested for Halladay were still in the Phillies' system.

"Who knows?" he said with a chuckle. "They may come back and get [Halladay], too. That'd be a pretty good staff there, wouldn't it?"

It would be a fabulous starting staff, but the hole at the back of the bullpen remains a worry. Right now it's just a nagging worry, but if closer Brad Lidge continues to struggle, it will be an albatross by October.

Even if Ryan Madson recovers some effectiveness as a set-up man and J.C. Romero comes back strong as the seventh-inning guy, the lack of a closer will be fatal.

That's why a trade for Baltimore closer George Sherrill is still a real possibility.

In the meantime, Phillies execs can ponder the list of Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, Rodrigo Lopez, J.A. Happ, Chan Ho Park, a recovering Brett Myers, and assorted minor-leaguers and try to assemble a middle-relief corps.

For a day or so, all is bliss with the rotation.

 


Contact staff writer Don McKee at 215-854-4611 or

dmckee@phillynews.com.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.