Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Next Deal

The Cliff Lee trade leaves the Phillies with an embarrassment of riches.

They now have seven starting pitchers projected to pitch in the majors in August: Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, JA Happ, Jamie Moyer, Rodrigo Lopez, and the still-rehabbing Pedro Martinez.

Since there's never been a surplus of pitching in Major League Baseball, it's virtually guaranteed that Lopez, a journeyman who's pitched well since replacing the best-named pitcher in baseball, Antonio Bastardo, who also pitched well until he was injured after replacing the still-injured Brett Myers (Yeah, the fifth spot in the Phillies rotation has seen more occupants than a seen on Septa's El during rush hour.) that Lopez will be shipped out of town.

So, the irony can't be missed that despite all of this chaos--which itself is an incomplete picture of all of the moves the Phillies have had to make with their rotation (anybody remember Andrew Carpenter's spot start?)--the Phillies nonetheless find themselves in the position of being able to be a seller in the trade market before Friday's trade deadline. And they're offering up that most elusive quantity...a proven, healthy starting pitcher with Major League experience and in the midst of a career year.

Farewell, Rodrigo Lopez!

We barely got to know you. Your 3.09 ERA is almost a half run better than your previous career-best of 3.57 with the Orioles in 2002. And it's hard to ask more of an ace (let alone a fifth starter) than to go 3-0 in four starts.

What more could you have done?

Nothing. But that's beside the point.

You re-established your career, and you're about to receive a reward for that. You're about to become the centerpiece of a trade deadline deal that will send you to someone direly in need of a fifth starter (last I checked that was about 29 of the 30 teams in baseball) who have an expendable Triple A catchier because that's the one area that yesterday's trade opened up in the Phillies system.

And it truly says something about the changes to the Phillies organization that a blockbuster trade at the deadline to acquire the previous year's Cy Young award winner, said trade including two top pitching prospects, that that type of deal doesn't leave the Phillies light in pitching depth. Instead, it was the loss of Lou Marson, who appears likely to inherit Victor Martinez's spot behind the dish in Cleveland, that is going to have the greatest ramifications for the Phillies.

While Chooch Ruiz and Paul Bako are fine for now with the major league team, you can't expect Ruben Amaro, Jr. to go into a penant run with no back-up at Triple A for the second-most precarious position in baseball (second only to starting pitching).

So, goodbye, Lopez. I wish you well, and I'm really anxious to see how highly other teams view you. Tonight's start will almost certainly be your last for the Phillies, but that doesn't mean it's your last contribution to this year's team.

The catcher you bring in return could easily wind up playing a crucial role in what's turning into the most exciting Phillies season since...well, since last year.

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