Cliff Lee is a Phillie.
Today, the Phillies officially became the team to beat in the National League as they trumped the recent Cardinals’ moves with an ace acquisition of their own. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who had been courting Roy Halladay for over a month, realized that the price tag for Halliday was too high and Amaro went for the next best thing–2008 Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee.
Cliff Notes on Lee
Lee has been one of the top left handers in the game for the past season and a half, but he wasn’t a sure thing just two seasons ago when he spent July 2007 in the minors to gain some confidence back. Since that trip to the bush, however, Lee has improved both his velocity and his control, especially in the lower half of the strike zone.
For a bad Indians team this season, Lee, who will be 31 next month, was 7-9 with a 3.14 ERA. Lee had a 1.30 WHIP thanks to allowing just 33 walks in 152 innings.
Lee Invades Pennsylvania
But, how will Lee fare in the hitting friendly confines of Citizen’s Bank Park? Flyball pitchers have notoriously struggled there, especially when facing a bevy of right-handed hitters with that short porch in left field. Lee is, no doubt, a fly ball pitcher; 54.5% of his hit balls are fly balls this year.
You know opposing teams are going to stack their lineups with right-handers when in Philadelphia and facing Lee. Righties are hitting .303 this year versus Lee while lefties are hitting just .216.
The dimensions of Progressive Field and Citizen’s Bank Park are similar. Progressive is 335′ to the left field foul pole while Citizen’s is 329′. The left-center power alley is 378′ in Cleveland and 374′ in Philly. No doubt, however, that Philadelphia is portrayed as more of a hitting friendly park. Just look at how the flags in center field flap outward, even on a relatively calm evening.
While Citizen’s might be slightly more difficult to pitch in, it shouldn’t be too bad for Lee. Lee has the second lowest ratio of homeruns per fly ball allowed in the MLB at just 3.4. Only Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum is lower at 3.3.
Expect General Lee Better Performance
Cliff Lee is a fly ball pitcher, but we believe his fantasy baseball stats will actually improve with Philadelphia and his fantasy baseball value will increase. Lee is getting no support in Cleveland where his 3.14 ERA actually translates to a losing record on the year. Moreover, he’ll benefit from a very solid Phillies defense and Lee will enjoy facing the opposing pitcher every night for the rest of the season.
As for the fly balls, we believe that Lee’s ability to stay away from the gopher ball will carry over to Citizen’s Bank Park and his homeruns allowed total will rise only slightly.
Fantasy Baseball Analysis of Others in the Cliff Lee Trade
The Phillies picked up another major leaguer in the Cliff Lee trade. Ben Francisco, who played at UCLA with Chase Utley, will join the Phillies and provide a solid right-handed pinch hitter coming off the bench. This has been a sore spot for the Phillies all season as Eric Bruntlett, he with the bad beard, has been a miserable failure with just 10 hits and a .127 average on the year. John Mayberry Jr. has been called up and down from the minors, but he’s at just .189 on the year.
Francisco is hitting .250 on the year and has provided 10 homeruns, 33 RBI, and 13 stolen bases. He has only 17 stolen bases in his career so this is his area of greatest fantasy baseball improvement.
Francisco’s fantasy baseball value has clearly declined, however. Francisco has been relegated from a starter in Cleveland to essentially a bench player in Philadelphia. The entire Phillies outfield made the NL all-star team this year so don’t look for Francisco getting a lot of time from Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, and Raul Ibanez.
Phillies Stable Full of Talent
The Phillies picked up two major leaguers and gave up none so obviously two guys have got to go. Relief pitcher Steven Register is a sure thing to head back to the minors and Mayberry is still young so he’ll likely go as well. Bruntlett should probably be the guy to go, but he’s more versatile so he’ll likely stick around a little while longer.
As for the starting rotation, the Phillies now sport four southpaws in the starting rotation with Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ, Jamie Moyer, and Lee pitching from the port side. The other starter, Joe Blanton, is the sole righty.
Mexican veteran pitcher Rodrigo Lopez is the likely starter who will be dropped from the rotation, but Lopez is 3-0, 3.09 in his four starts. Lopez deserves a better fate.
Then, there’s a guy named Pedro Martinez. If Martinez pitches well in his debut, does this mean the end of the line for the ageless 46-year-old Moyer? Moyer is 5.32 on the year, but leads the Phillies with 10 wins.
What the Indians Got in the Lee Trade
The Indians were not going anywhere this year and even next year in the futile AL Central so it makes sense for them to make this deal for prospects. None of the four players the Tribe picked up will likely help your fantasy baseball team this season.
Carlos Carrasco is a very good young starting pitcher and will likely be in the Cleveland rotation in 2010. Jason Knapp is only in Single-A, but the dude can bring it. Knapp has 149 K’s in 116 innings this season. Knapp has hit 97 on the radar gun.
Then, there’s catcher Lou Marson. Marson was a solid Phillies prospects and is likely the heir apparent to take over for Victor Martinez who has also been speculated to be involved in a trade. Finally, Jason Donald is a solid shortstop, but obviously has nowhere to go in Philly with Jimmy Rollins secure there. Donald looks like a nice platoon player or back up infielder for the Indians in the future.
Amaro Gets His Ace
Ruben Amaro Jr. is not just one of the best looking general managers in baseball as evidenced by his nomination as the only GM named to Hottest (Looking) Baseball Players team. Amaro is also a genius.
Amaro felt the Blue Jays’ asking price for Halliday was too high. He was not keen to give up on Happ plus the Phillies’ top prospects pitcher Kyle Drabek (son of ex-Pirates pitcher Doug Drabek), and outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor. So, he got a Cy Young Award winner and didn’t have to part with his best three prospects.
Now that’s a deal even Philadelphia fans won’t boo.