With the glory years clearly in the rear-view mirror, I will take the next couple of weeks to review the major transactions that led up to the best period in Philadelphia Phillies history and how it impacts the team today and going forward. The previous three installments can be found here, here and here.
Today’s focus: Dec. 15, 2009 the Phillies trade Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners for J.C. Ramirez, Tyson Gillies and Phillippe Aumont.
Background: The Phillies long coveted Roy Halladay, nearly trading for him instead of Cliff Lee at the ’09 trade deadline. After losing to the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series in large part because of a leaky rotation, they decided to take the plunge and go get their guy. It cost them three of their better prospects. As a result, however, they felt the need to replenish their farm system by trading away impending free agent and best trading commodity, the recently acquired and fan-adored Cliff Lee to Seattle.
Evaluation for Mariners: Lee pitched fantastically for an awful Seattle team. He went 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and a sub-1.0 WHIP. He was voted to the All Star team but was traded to the rival Texas Rangers before the break and attended as a Ranger. The Mariners received five prospects from Texas for Lee, none of whom have lived up to their potential. Lee reached the World Series yet again in 2010 with the Rangers before electing free agency and re-signing with the Phillies prior to the 2011 season.
Evaluation for Phillies: Despite the 1-2 punch of Halladay and Hamels at the top of the rotation, the Phillies missed Lee and needed to trade for yet another ace, Roy Oswalt, during the 2010 season. The prospects the Phillies received can mostly be defined as a failure to this point. Aumont still lives off of his potential and as recently as last week was sure that he had figured out his mechanical problems to finally succeed at the major league level. Originally a starter, he is now a reliever with closer potential, and the Phillies would surely like for him to be that. Ramirez worked his way to the Phillies’ bullpen last season and struck out the side in his debut. But he was out-righted following the season and is now in the Cleveland Indians’ system. Gillies, once thought to be a potential replacement for Shane Victorino, has floundered as a prospect and has a tenuous future with the Phillies. He is more known for being deaf and for his off-the-field issues than his baseball skills. He is unlikely to make a difference for the Phillies.
Who Won?: Check in with the Halladay article for an evaluation of winners and losers among all three teams involved.
What If They Didn’t Trade Lee?: Well now, isn’t this the question of the decade? The prospects they got back haven’t made much of a difference, but Lee sure would have on the 2010 Phillies team. They would not have been forced to scrape the bottom of their farm system for Oswalt, keeping JA Happ and teeming superstar Anthony Gose. Their chances of returning to the World Series would have grown significantly considering how well Lee pitched in Texas that October. Fans wishing and praying for a super rotation eventually got it when Lee re-signed with the Phillies that offseason, and surely his departure made his heart grow fonder for the City of Brotherly Love. Then again, they likely wouldn’t have had Oswalt in 2011 for that magical run. However, 2011 aside, a third straight pennant likely would have made the Phillies even more of an iconic team in the late 2000s than they already were and would have given them their best chance at a World Series championship in 2010.
What’s Next? Lee/Halladay Swap Part II