The Phillies have acquired left-hander Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco from the Indians for Class A right-hander Jason Knapp, Class AAA right-hander Carlos Carrasco, shortstop Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson.
“I’m going to miss all these guys here, but it’s an opportunity for me to help a team that’s in first place,” Lee said after the Indians lost to the Los Angeles Angels 9-3 in Anaheim, Calif.
“They’re the defending world champions. So as far as that goes, I’m excited. But right now I’ve got to figure out how to get there and meet up with them and get acclimated to their team,” Lee said.
The deal, which does not include any cash, is a coup for both the Phillies and Indians.
When Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. walked through the locker room hours before his team played in Arizona, many Phillies greeted him with applause.
“One of our goals has been to add someone to our rotation that can be a difference-maker,” Amaro said in a conference call. “It’s important to show our guys on the field that we’re making the best effort to put the best team out there.”
The Phillies got Lee without giving up any of the three players the Blue Jays initially wanted for Halladay — left-hander J.A. Happ, right-hander Kyle Drabek and outfielder Dominic Brown.
Francisco, who is batting .250 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs, upgrades Philadelphia’s bench, which has lacked a solid, right-handed hitter. Lee gives the Phillies four left-handed starters, along with Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and Happ. But Happ or Moyer could go to the bullpen once right-hander Pedro Martinez is ready to pitch in the majors.
The Indians, meanwhile, get four of the Phillies’ top 10 prospects according to Baseball America’s preseason rankings. Carrasco was rated second, Marson third, Donald fourth and Knapp 10th. All could be ready for the majors by next season.
Knapp, who does not turn 19 until Aug. 31, is currently sidelined with shoulder stiffness, but one scout says his upside is greater than Drabek’s, calling the 6-foot-5, 215-pound righty a “Halladay clone.”
Another scout thinks Knapp might develop into an elite closer, comparing him to Lee Smith.
Last year, Cleveland dealt CC Sabathia, then the reigning Cy Young winner and in the final year of his contract, to the Milwaukee Brewers. Sabathia helped the Brewers into the postseason before signing a $161 million, seven-year contract with the New York Yankees.
“Losing one Cy Young winner one year and another one the very next year is probably hard for a fan to swallow. But it’s the nature of the game,” Lee said.
Lee turns 31 next month and his contract includes an $8 million club option for next season.
“At the root of this deal was balancing the conviction of our ability to compete in 2010 with the opportunity to impact the team’s construction for years to come,” Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said in a statement.
Lee gives the Phillies another top starter to join Cole Hamels. The left-hander is 7-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 22 starts this season after going 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA last year. Hamels, the MVP of the World Series, has been inconsistent this season. He’s 7-5 with a 4.42 ERA, though he pitched well in a victory at Arizona on Tuesday.
The Phillies have a comfortable lead in the division — seven games ahead of second-place Florida going into Wednesday’s games. They’ve sought pitching help since No. 2 starter Brett Myers had hip surgery in June. Jamie Moyer leads the staff with 10 wins, but he is 46 and has a 5.32 ERA.
The addition of Lee means Philadelphia has to drop someone — possibly Rodrigo Lopez — from its starting rotation. Lopez, though, is 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA in four starts. The Phillies also have Martinez rehabbing in the minors. The three-time Cy Young Award winner signed a $1 million, one-year contract during the All-Star break.
“I’d rather have a surplus than have needs,” Amaro said. “It’ll work itself out.”
Manager Charlie Manuel said he’ll probably make a decision about the rotation on the team’s plane ride to San Francisco after the game.