If the Philadelphia Phillies are able to pull off a deal for Indians' left-hander Cliff Lee, the Dodgers and Cardinals will have to be concerned about their World Series chances.
The Phillies are of course the reigning World Series champions, and there's no question that they have the strongest lineup in the National League, and perhaps in all of baseball. There are no weaknesses in a lineup that boasts Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, and Shane Victorino, with the exception of maybe Carlos Ruiz (who is valued for his defense and leadership, anyway).
But the Phillies' Achilles' heel has been their starting pitching. Cole Hamels was named World Series MVP last year, but he's been average -- at best -- this season. Chan Ho Park and Antonio Bastardo were failed experiments in the rotation, and Pedro Martinez will likely be added to that list.
On the bright side, J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton have really picked things up of late. The great news for Philly fans is that the projected deal for Cliff Lee doesn't include Happ. The proposal, one that the Indians are said to be considering, includes four prospects: Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp, and Carlos Carrasco. The first two are of the "throw-in" variety, but Knapp and Carrasco are the real deal.
Carrasco has long been considered one of the top prospects in the Phillies' organization, and one scout recently compared Knapp to Roy Halladay. Talk about high praise. But if the Phils can retain Happ and acquire Lee, they are looking at a rotation of Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Jamie Moyer, and Rodrigo Lopez/Pedro Martinez (whomever steps up). Not bad at all.
Lee would give the Phillies a legitimate ace, as -- in my opinion -- he's the second-best lefty in all of baseball, slightly behind the Mets' Johan Santana. Lee was the best pitcher in the world in 2008, and his numbers are strong again this season. His stuff looks sharp, especially his cutter, and he's been locating extremely well.
Lee is exactly what the Phillies need to make things easier on themselves come playoff time. It's too bad my Mets aren't in the running for his services...
(The Red Sox are the new Yankees. How did they make the transition? "JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land."
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