BY LOU ORLANDO for High Hopes
It’s been more than two months since the Phillies traded Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners for a cache of young prospects. Yet, the uproar over the trade simply won’t go away. Why?
As recently as this past weekend, both the local talk-radio shows spent considerable time dissecting the trade while callers were still being critical and voicing strong objections. Why?
In my opinion, it’s because the Phillies didn’t tell us the whole truth behind the trade from the start, and to this day, as evidenced by Ruben Amaro’s comments a recent edition of The Inquirer, the Phillies continue to bob and weave while trying to put their own self-serving spin on the story.
I feel like the Phillies were trying to hoodwink myself and the rest of the fans from the very start. Let’s look at the facts.
First, the trade never was the three-team trade the Phillies made it out to be because none of the players the Phillies sent to Toronto ended up in Seattle, and none of the players the Phillies received from Seattle ended up in Toronto. Rather, they were two very distinct trades made at the same time. I’m surprised the Phillies didn’t try to call it a four-team trade when Toronto immediately traded Michael Taylor to Oakland!
The reason the trades were made at the same time was because the Phillies didn’t want the media and the fans, even for a minute, to start going gaga over having a starting rotation led by Roy Halladay and Lee. Had that feeling been allowed to mushroom, trading Lee afterwards would have brought a hailstorm of backlash. So, why not keep both Halladay and Lee?
The Phillies could have afforded to keep Lee for 2010. After all, they freed up $24 million in salary by no longer having to pay Brett Myers ($12 million), Adam Eaton ($8 million) and Geoff Jenkins ($4 million). With $24 million saved plus the $6 million Toronto is paying on Halladay’s 2010 contract, within that $30 million there was room for Lee’s $9 million salary.
The Phillies said keeping Hallday and Lee would have been impossible because they needed money to help pay current players who were arbitration eligible. I can understand that, but, let’s be real, no one in that group (Victorino, Ruiz, Blanton and Durbin) are super star break-the-bank caliber players.
Amaro continues to give conflicting reasons for the trade. Initially, trading Lee was all about restocking the minor league system. Lately, Amaro has taken to saying, “We aren’t the New York Yankees!”
That latter statement allows anyone with even a third-grade diploma realize he’s talking about money. So is it restocking the farm system, or is it the money?
But all that said, if the Phillies go on to win the National League pennant this year and return to the World Series (And I believe they will), come October, no one will be talking about Cliff Lee.
My point is that few would be talking about him now if the Phillies simply had told the whole truth from the beginning. Whatever the reason, I can handle the truth. But what’s the real truth? Presently, one can only speculate.
I think the Phillies preferred Roy Halladay over Lee because they viewed his talent and signability to be greater. Additionally, the Phillies knew, even if they kept Lee for 2010, that they’d have to let him walk because they weren’t going to be able to afford to pay him and Halladay going forward.
Lastly, trading Lee during the season would have been a public relations nightmare. So they opted to do it before the season began, probably figuring the prospects they’d get now are more valuable than the two supplementary draft choices they would have received when Lee signed elsewhere.
I think that’s the way it went down, and if I’m right, I don’t have a problem with any of it. I may not like it, but can see their logic.
All the Phillies had to do was say so in the first place and this Lee talk would be over. Instead, they are still being chastised for the trade by the media and the fans. And the irony of it all is, they brought it on themselves.
The truth sets you free. It’s good to be free.