Breaking down the Lee deal
I've had a chance to sit down and make some sense of the pending deal that will bring lefty Cliff Lee and right-handed bat Ben Francisco to the Phillies for prospects Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Jason Knapp.
Here is how I see it:
I. The Rotation
1) Right now, here is how the Phillies rotation sets up:
Fri - Blanton at Giants
Sat - Lee at Giants
Sun - Hamels at Giants
Tue - Happ vs. Rockies
Wed - Moyer/Martinez vs. Rockies
Thu - Lee vs. Rockies
After some further review, I've adjusted this rotation. I figure Lee would pitch Saturday on five days rest, preceded by Blanton. After that, a lot depends on what the Phillies do in the bullpen. A number of people seem to think that Happ would head back to the pen. But we'll see.
2) If the Phillies go with Moyer, they'll have four lefties in their rotation. If they go with Martinez, it will be a little more balanced. Lee has struggled against righties this season. They are hitting .303 against him. lefties, meanwhile, are hitting .216. Last year, when he won the AL Cy Young, Lee held lefties to a .245 average. Then again, Lee pitches in the American League. In four interleague starts this season, he allowed eight runs in 29 innings, striking out 20, walking nine, and allowing 21 hits.
3) Forget about having four lefties in the rotation during the regular season. Let's look ahead to the postseason. Right now, a rotation would likely consist of Lee, Hamels, Blanton and Happ. That means three lefty starters. Last year, the Phillies had two lefties in their postseason rotation. The last time a World Series champion had three lefties in its postseason rotation was in 1996, when the Yankees tossed Andy Pettitte, Jimmy Key and Kenny Rogers in addition to David Cone. So it has happened before.
II. Roster moves
1) The Phillies are adding two players to their major league roster while not subtracting anybody. That means somebody has to go. The likely candidates are John Mayberry off of the bench and Steven Register out of the bullpen. But once Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero and Clay Condrey return, it will make for some interesting roster maneuvering. A lot depends on what the Phillies do with the Martinez/Moyer situation. I can't even begin to accurately speculate what might occur.
III. Ben Francisco
1) He is a 27-year-old right-handed bat. After this season, he will have two-plus years of major league service time. In 2008, he hit .266 with 15 home runs in 447 at-bats. This season, he is hitting .250 with 10 home runs and 308 at-bats.
2) Francisco hits .269 off lefties in his career, .258 off of righties. He doesn't have much pinch-hitting experience.
3) Francisco played one season with Phillies second baseman Chase Utley at UCLA in 2000.
IV. The Future
1) A big part of this deal is the money the Phillies save over adding Roy Halladay. Lee is due to earn $9 million next season. Halladay is due to earn $15.75 million. But just how will that impact the Phillies. Let's look:
2) Inclduing Lee, the Phillies have $103.5 committed to 12 players for next season. This year, their Opening Day pay-roll was right around $132 million. I'm sure there is some room for expansion, given the impressive string of sell-outs at Citizens Bank Park this year. And a postseason run would only add to those coffers.
3) In addition to the 12 players signed to multi-year contracts, seven others are under club control. Carlos Ruiz, Clay Condrey, Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino are arbitration eligible. Victorino and Blanton are in line for big raises. They'll definitely tender an offer to Victorino. And if Blanton continues pitching the way he has, there is a good chance he'll be worthy of the $7 to $8 million he could earn next season. Pedro Feliz has a $5 million club option with no obvious replacement in the minor leagues. Again, if Feliz continues to produce the way he has, $5 million seems like a bargain. Francisco and J.A. Happ are both under club control.
4) If the Phillies keep all 19 of their players under club control, I estimate that the they will have about $127 million committed to them, with three vacancies in the bullpen, one at back-up catcher, and two on the bench. So there would appear to be some financial room to make some additions.