Toronto Blue Jays right-handed pitcher Roy Halladay is the obvious headliner in the trade deadline derby this season, but could Indians pitcher Cliff Lee steal his thunder?
Rosenthal writes that Phillies neither confirm nor deny that they are still persuing Lee, only saying they have "have many balls in the air. And we are still looking for top-of-the-rotation help."
It all could be a ruse to create a perception of a market, but in a lot of ways Lee makes more sense, he writes.
In theory, the price in talent for Lee should not be as high as the price for Halladay. But Lee is owed about $11.5 million in salary through 2010, including a club option. Halladay is owed about twice that much, making him — in one important sense — less attractive.
The Indians, knowing they cannot compete next season if they move Lee, would consider moving him only for a knockout proposal. Such a proposal would need to start with a major-league ready starting pitcher such as the Red Sox's Clay Buchholz or Braves' Tommy Hanson.
The Phillies have such a pitcher — left-hander J.A. Happ, who is 7-0 with a 2.68 ERA. Adding Class AAA right-hander Carlos Carrasco and Class A outfielder Dominic Brown to the package surely would get the Indians' attention. But if the Phillies were to trade Happ and Brown, they probably would prefer Halladay, right?
Halladay is 11-3 with a 2.73 ERA this season, while Lee is 5-9 with a 3.31 ERA — and the fifth-worst run support in the American League. Lee also leads the league with 136 innings pitched, though Halladay has thrown only four fewer innings in two fewer starts.
Teams use sliding scales when determining the values of potential trade acquisitions: What players are they giving up? How much salary are they taking on? Thus, Lee would be more appealing than Halladay, if the overall price was right.
In any case, the Phillies would be wise to explore every option.
Rosenthal also writes that Indians starter Carl Pavano is part of a group of second-tier starting pitchers who are getting ignored, for the most part, in the trade market.
Rafael Betancourt is a reliever who is drawing attention.
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