Phillies Acquire Cliff Lee, Reigning Cy Young Winner

The Deal
As Roy Halladay trade talks between the Blue Jays and Phillies came to a halt, the Phillies changed directions and got a different frontline starting pitcher for the stretch run.

The Phillies acquired lefthander Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco from the Indians for righthanders Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp, shortstop Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson.

After winning the American League Cy Young award last year, the 30-year-old Lee went 7-9, 3.14 for the Indians this season with 107 strikeouts and 33 walks over 152 innings. Lee has a $9 million club option for 2010.

Francisco, 27, is hitting .250/.336/.422 over 355 plate appearances this season. He will be an upgrade as the Phillies’ fourth outfielder.

The Young Players
Knapp, 18, was the key piece in the deal for Cleveland, allowing the Phillies to hold on to coveted prospects such as righthander Kyle Drabek and outfielders Michael Taylor and Dominic Brown. At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, he’s a hard-throwing righthander who ranked as one of the top 50 prospects in the game in our midseason snapshot. Knapp went on the disabled list two weeks ago with a fatigued shoulder after throwing 85 1/3 innings, but he’d already shown premium power stuff. During those innings, Knapp, who was selected as a second-round pick last year out of North Hunterdon High in Annandale, N.J., went 2-7, 4.01 with 111 strikeouts and  39 walks. Knapp sits 94-96 mph with his fastball, and has touched 98. He was was young for his class and won’t turn 19 until the end of August.

Carrasco, 22, was the Phillies’ top-ranked prospect in 2007 and 2008, and ranked second behind Brown heading into this year. He has ranked among the organization’s top 10 since 2003 when he signed out of Venezuela. Carrasco topped the list for his stuff and potential. The 6-foot-3 righthander sits 91-94 mph with his fastball that can touch as high as 96 and has late life. Carrasco also throws a plus changeup, but tends to fall in love with it.

After appearing in six games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year, Carrasco has spent the entire 2009 campaign with the Iron Pigs. In 20 starts, Carrasco went 6-9, 5.18, but struck out nearly one batter per inning (112 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings). Over the years, Carrasco has earned a tag for folding in pressure situations, though, and has struggled with command of late. Carrasco still has the stuff to be a front-line major league starting pitcher, but the Phillies clearly no longer considered him their top pitching prospect; that would be Drabek. Carrasco could be a September callup, and at the very least will be ready to contribute in the big leagues next year.

Marson, 23, spent a portion of mid-June on the DL with a bruised right foot, but has been hot ever since. To that point, Marson had a .323/.317/.330 line in 32 games, but since, the fourth-round pick in 2004 hit .313 in June and is hitting at a .354 clip in July. Marson has been up for a cup of coffee with the Phillies each of the last two seasons, but has largely spent 2009 in Lehigh Valley where he’s hitting .294/.382/.370 with one home run and 24 RBIs. Marson has a disciplined approach at the plate and is a polished hitter, but doesn’t hit for much power—he’s collected just 14 extra-base hits this season. Still, Marson is able to hit the ball to all fields, and should hold his own as a big league hitter. Behind the plate, he is athletic and moves well behind the plate. His raw arm strength is a shade below average, and he’d thrown out 25 percent of opposing basestealers in the International League this season. Marson projects as a solid-average big league catcher.

Donald, 24, went down with a torn meniscus on June 12, and made his return for the Iron Pigs on July 28, going 2-for-4 with a double. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder was a third-round pick in 2006 out of Arizona, and was the Phillies’ fourth-ranked prospect prior to the season. The same scout, Therron Brockish, signed Donald and Marson.

Donald broke out in 2008 at Double-A Reading, parlaying his season into a spot on the U.S. Olympic bronze-medal team. Overall, he batted .307/.391/.492 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs at Reading. He has solid power to all fields, thanks to his strong forearms. He projects better defensively at second or third base as his range is shy for a shortstop. Donald’s numbers this year aren’t impressive (.236/.297/.332), but he has battled the knee injury. Donald projects as an average everyday infielder, but might be better served as a super utility-type player.

Quick Take
While the package of players heading to Cleveland is a good group, the Phillies have to be happy that they were able to significantly upgrade their big league team while still hanging on to their top three prospects. Lee gives them another front-of-the-rotation starter to go with Cole Hamels. The Indians signal they will be in rebuilding mode, especially after giving up a player of Lee’s caliber on such a favorable contract.

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