Hey, it could be worse

Reports now say that talks between the Yankees and Mariners have broken down. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

UPDATE (3:55 p.m.): Of course, now reports say talks between the Yankees and Mariners have broken down. So it's still possible Lee goes to a National League team, a far worse scenario for the Phillies. But you can go back to bashing me...

Phillies fans: It could be worse. Much, much worse.

Say the Mets acquired Cliff Lee. Or the Reds. Or even the Dodgers. Then, Lee could be directly responsible for pushing the Phillies out of the playoffs. That was the doomsday scenario for Ruben Amaro Jr. and Co.

Yes, Lee going to the Yankees will make plenty of Phillies fans angry. After all, he was the one who stuck it to the Yankees in the World Series. He made it look easy. His effortless catch in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium was the embodiment of how cool, calm and collected the ace can be.

Now he will very likely wear pinstripes and give the Yankees the finest rotation in the majors.

It's not the worst possible scenario.

Should the Yankees and Phillies somehow wind up in the World Series again, then yes, losing Lee to the Yankees will seem appropriately cruel then. But right now, given the Phillies are four games over .500 and 5.5 games back in the division, making the World Series should be the least of the Phillies' worries.

How about making the playoffs first?

And had the Mets, Reds or Dodgers -- teams who had reportedly shown interest in Lee -- won out in acquiring him, competition within the division or for the Wild Card spot would have been that much tougher.

A lot of the chatter since the original Lee trade went down centered upon the package the Phillies and Ruben Amaro Jr. received in return for Lee. Baseball America had Phillippe Aumont rated as Seattle's third best prospect at the time of the trade. J.C. Ramirez was ranked as the team's fifth best prospect.

The Yankees, it appears, will give up their top prospect, catcher Jesus Montero, in the package for Lee. Rumors are Zach McAllister, who is rated fifth best in the Yankees system by Baseball America, could also go. Is the package the Yankees are giving up for Lee better than what the Phillies got in return? On paper, yes.

Remember this, though: Amaro's trading partners were limited. Imagine the backlash had the Phillies traded Lee to a National League team in the off-season? Lee in Seattle had no direct effect on the Phillies' competition in 2010. What if he had gone to a National League contender?

Reports say the Phillies and Yankees discussed a Lee trade in the off-season, also involving Montero. But the Phillies backed out, weary of trading Lee to the team that beat them in the World Series just a few weeks earlier.

It's hard to judge what the Phillies received in return. All three prospects came to the organization with immense pressure from day one. It's been a half of a season. Aumont has already been demoted after struggling at double-A. Ramirez has been average since his promotion to Reading. Tyson Gillies, the other prospect acquired, has missed a great deal of time with a nagging hamstring injury.

Just because neither of them have reached Domonic Brown status (the benchmark, apparently, for all prospects now) doesn't mean the trade was a failure. Yet.

Should Lee have been traded originally? That debate will never end. Ultimately, the Phillies decided because they would not be able to retain Lee past 2010, they wanted to find an ace they could. That was Roy Halladay.

It was a brash move by Amaro and one that will follow his career forever -- or until he wins a championship.

The point is, today -- should a deal be consummated -- is far from a terrible day for the Phillies.