Big Time Deal
A year ago during the summer draft, the Phillies went for a 6-5 high school pitcher out of Annandale, NJ, in the second round. Power arm was the scouting report, 95-98 mph.
Little did anyone know that 13 months later, this 18-year-old pitcher at Class A Lakewood would be the key player in a six-player trade that brought a Cy Young Award winner and a right-handed bat to the Phillies.
Jason Knapp has a high ceiling and that’s what appealed to the Indians. Ruben Amaro Jr., rebuffed in Toronto, didn’t waste any time and moved on to Cleveland. When the dust had cleared, the Phillies had acquired LHP Cliff Lee and right-handed hitting OF Ben Francisco. You know the specifics of the deal.
Amaro’s been shopping for both and found them in one-stop shopping.
Amaro may get the credit for pulling the trigger but he quickly pointed out that credit belongs to scouting director Marti Wolever and his band of scouts. Scouts are the unsung heroes in a successful baseball organization. They are constantly looking for gems by scouting thousands of players. Long hours, lonely trips.
Because of the scouting staff, the Phillies minor league system is as deep and strong as it has been in many years. It resembles the farm system from the 1970-80 era, the most successful era in franchise history. Right now we are living in an era that will surpass that one.
Parting with a young pitcher with such a power arm isn’t easy. The late Hugh Alexander, who scouted in baseball for some 50 years, once said, “Never hold up a deal because you don’t want to part with a player in Class A ball.”
The trade was huge in many ways:
–The core of super prospects (RHP Kyle Drabek, OF Dominic Brown and OF Michael Taylor) remains in the organization.
–Lee improves the rotation big time, a top of the rotation winner. With Pedro Martinez soon to join that rotation, two current starters will move into the bullpen, which is thin right now because J. C. Romero, Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey are all on the DL.
–Lee is signed through 2010, so he’s just not a two-month rental arm.
–Francisco gives the Phillies a right-handed bat and adds depth to the outfield. He can play all three positions. Should an injury happen to Raul, Shane or Jayson, Francisco is an experienced replacement. And, at age 27, he’s got his career ahead of him.
–John Mayberry, who has a high ceiling, can return to playing every day at AAA. It is best he plays rather than sit on the bench in the bigs.
–Lee is financially less costly. That enables the Phillies to have some financial flexibility going forward.
So, on paper, the Phillies have improved themselves. Baseball is played on the field and not paper. No better example than last night, Petit was 0-5 with a high ERA, and he shut out the Phillies.
Winning another championship is the goal. Adding Lee and Francisco improves those chances.