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Charlie’s Right…

Two days ago Phillies manager Charlie Manuel lamented the loss of Cliff Lee from his starting rotation:

Manuel said he would have preferred to have both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in his rotation, but said he understood the decision the Phillies’ front office made.

“Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball right now,” Manuel said. “Cliff Lee may be a tad behind. . . . Baseball is a business. I understand a lot of things. I have my own opinion and suggestions, but at the same time, I have a boss.

Two things here.  First, Manuel is going to love Roy Halladay.  There’s no other way. Doc just oozes work ethic and professionalism.  He comes to the park every day, works his arse off, pitches a gem every fifth day, and turns up ready to work hard the next morning.

Second, Manuel is right.  The Phils would have been much stronger with both Doc and Lee.  Baring major injury, the Phils are pretty much locks to make the playoffs and once in there’s nothing more important than who you can put out on the mound.  Remember, in baseball momentum is tomorrow night’s pitcher.  A playoff rotation of Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels would have been the best in baseball and enough to topple even the mammoth Yankee hitters.

So, here’s the weird part… There’s absolutely no logical reason they don’t have both.  Not from the perspective of the trade, not from the perspective of the future talent on their roster, and not from a money standpoint either.

When the Phillies acquired Halladay, it was largely reported that he was acquired in a three team trade with the Mariners (latter amended to a four team trade when the Jays swapped prospects with the A’s), this is inaccurate and misleading.  In reality, the Jays traded Doc (be still my beating heart) and six million (be still my queasy stomach) to the Phillies for three prospects (be still that rush of vomit).  In a separate deal, the Phillies then moved Lee to Seattle for the poo-poo platter of outfielder Tyson Gillies and right-handers Phillipe Aumont and Juan Ramirez.

Now, in the interests of fairness, I should note that Ruben Amaro and his staff have a very good track record of assessing talent, so maybe there’s more to those three Seattle prospects than anyone believes, but on its face this was a terrible trade.  The three guys that Toronto acquired for Halladay each ranked in Keith Law’s Top 100 prospects, with two in the top 50.  None of the guys that the Phils received from Seattle were on the list.  None.  Not a single one.  This is for a pitcher who won the Cy Young two years ago and beat the Yankees twice in the World Series last fall.  Why give him up for such a lousy assortment of players?

It’s likely that the Phils were terrified about shipping out seven players from their farm system in the span of four months.  That’s a fair concern, but if they resign Lee, as they did Halladay, then while the cost for those two stud pitchers was high in terms of bodies, it was low in terms of quality.  If Lee leaves as a free agent, then the Phillies get two first round picks as compensation (well, technically, it’s a first rounder and a sandwich round, but lets keep our eye on the prize here), which given their recent draft success, they surely could have used more favorably than the Seattle threesome.  Also, if they keep Lee, they could have moved Joe Blanton for a prospect probably in the range of the guys they got from the Mariners.  Add that prospect to the two draft picks and you have the same number of bodies they received in the Mariners deal.

The other reported reason that the Phils moved Lee was for fiscal reasons, but given that they’re paying Blanton 7 million this year, I’m not entirely sure how they couldn’t afford the 8 million that Lee’s going to make.  Believe me, the difference between these twos’ performance is worth a lot more than one million dollars (it works better if you say that in the accent of a maniacal, evil genius while stroking an imaginary hairless cat).  Yes, next year Lee will cost a lot more than Blanton, but, again, if they didn’t want to pay him, then they could have just let him leave and taken the two draft picks.

So, just to recap.  They didn’t need to move Lee as part of the trade that brought them Halladay.  They didn’t make their farm system any stronger by trading Lee, and they didn’t need to move him for financial reason.  So, why exactly did they move him?

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