Phillies acquire ace Cliff Lee from Indians

Jayson Stark is reporting that the Phillies have officially acquired Indians’ ace Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco for four minor leaguers.

Triple-A right-hander Carlos Carrasco, Single-A righty Jason Knapp, catcher Lou Marson — the likely heir apparent to Victor Martinez — and shortstop Jason Donald will be sent to Cleveland.
The trade is pending physical exams.

The Phillies weren’t required to give up pitcher J.A. Happ or the three prospects they balked at trading for Roy Halladay — outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor, and pitcher Kyle Drabek.

The Phillies get an ace (and a former Cy Young winner) and don’t have to give up prospects Kyle Drabek or Dominic Brown? Or J.A. Happ? Wow. Complete victory. That’s not to say that the Indians were losers in this deal because they are trying to acquire more young talent to restock their farm system. But it’s amazing that Philly was able to get the second best arm on the trade market without giving up their best prospect.

The Phillies are now set for another World Series run with a rotation that now features Lee, Happ, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer. The Dodgers still have the best record in baseball, but this move might put Philadelphia in the driver’s seat in the NL.

As for the Indians, fans have come to trust GM Mark Shaprio’s judgment when it comes to trades, but they must be a little disappointed that they didn’t get Drabek or another young arm (i.e. the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw). But the reality is that one good season doesn’t mean that a team can get a haul for a specific player. Lee was outstanding last year and is an excellent pitcher, but he isn’t Roy Halladay and therefore the Tribe still did well to get Carrasco and Knapp, even if they couldn’t land Drabek.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Kazmir, Halladay and Lee

– ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that the Angels have interest in Rays’ starter Scott Kazmir, although its unclear at this point if this could be a precursor to a trade for Tampa, who apparently has their eyes on Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

– Sticking with the Angels theme, owner Arte Moreno tells the L.A. Times that he remains interested in landing one of the top arms on the market, which includes Halladay and Lee. Apparently he’s also willing to pay a hefty price to acquire one of the big names.

– Speaking of Lee, ESPN’s Jayson Stark says he is available, but it appears that the Indians would have to be overwhelmed by a deal. Stark is also reporting that the Reds will listen to offers for starter Bronson Arroyo.

– According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Twins are interested in Oakland shortstop Orlando Cabrera and reliever Michael Wuertz.

– The Padres are making Heath Bell available.

– SI.com’s Jon Heyman is reporting that the Rays are kicking the tires on possibly acquiring Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez.

– Brian Anderson has asked the White Sox to trade him according to MLB.com.

Report: Indians open to trading Lee, Martinez

While it would have to take quite the package(s) to pry them away from Cleveland, the Indians are open to the idea of trading pitcher Cliff Lee and catcher Victor Martinez according to a report by the Plain Dealer.

The Indians could put together a decent rotation next year with Lee, Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona, Aaron Laffey, David Huff, Jeremy Sowers, Hector Rondon and others. Without Lee, it could be worse than it is this year.

Replacing Martinez, despite his big bat and strong voice in the clubhouse, wouldn’t be as difficult. The Indians played well in the second half last season while Martinez was recovering from surgery on his right elbow.

They would probably have to sign a veteran catcher to bridge the gap until Carlos Santana is ready in 2011.

The chances of keeping Lee and Martinez beyond 2010 are not good. They’ll both be eligible for free agency after next season.

The Indians gave a hint of where the Lee negotiations are headed when they wouldn’t discuss a contract extension in spring training. Lee’s won-loss record doesn’t show it, but he has pitched like a Cy Young winner this year, which means it’s unlikely he’ll consider a multiyear deal this winter when he’s just a year away from the open market.

The Indians would probably have a better chance of signing Martinez to a multiyear deal, but with the loss in revenues that the Indians and other teams are expected to take this year because of the economy and drop in attendance, that’s probably not going to happen.

Still, 2010 might not be bad if Lee and Martinez return, Westbrook, Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner stay healthy and the bullpen can be repaired. If not, Lee and Martinez can be turned into Sabathia clones and dealt to the highest bidder. The return might be as good as anything Shapiro could get this year.

It’s amazing how far the Tribe have fallen from their run in 2007. The Indians’ core that year was expected to be successful for a long time, but injuries and a drop off in production from players like Carmona sunk them in 2008 and now this season has been an utter disaster.

It might not appease fans, but trading guys like Lee and Martinez now might ensure a winner in 2011 and beyond. No fan wants their team to punt a season in hopes that the future will be brighter, but sometimes that’s the best option. If Lee and Martinez aren’t going to help Cleveland win next year and the club isn’t going to sign them long term, then what’s the point in hanging onto them?

The Tribe front office certainly has a dilemma on its hands.

Tribe come from 10 runs down to beat Rays

With their 11-10 win over the Rays on Monday night, the Indians became the first team to win a game after trailing by 10 runs since the Rangers rallied to beat the Tigers in 2004.

Thanks to another brutal performance by Fausto Carmona in which he walked the first four men he faced in the second inning on 20 pitches and gave up five runs while getting only one out, the Tribe fell behind 5-0 after only two innings. Cleveland then surrendered five more runs to fall behind 10-0 after three and a half innings before scratching across two runs in the fourth and two more in the eighth to make it 10-4 Rays.

The massive rally in the ninth started when Grady Sizemore walked, Victor Martinez popped out to third, Jhonny Peralta singled to left and then a throwing error on a ground ball by Shin-Soo Choo allowed Sizemore to score and Peralta to get to third. Mark DeRosa then lined out for the second out of the inning, but Ryan Garko belted a three-run dinger to cut Tampa’s lead down to 10-8. After Asdrubal Cabrera, Ben Francisco and Jamey Carroll all walked, Rays’ reliever Jason Isringhausen then walked Sizemore to force a run home to make the game 10-9. The final dagger for Tampa came when Martinez singled home Francisco and Carroll to give the Indians an improbable 11-10 win.

It’s amazing how games can turn in the blink of an eye. Had Rays’ shortstop Reid Brignac not made a throwing error on Choo’s grounder, Tampa probably would have turned a double play and the game would have been over. But one thing leads to the next and before you know it, your team loses. (Of course, the 67 walks in the ninth didn’t help the Rays either.)

Despite the win, Carmona once again had major control issues. It’s amazing to think that he was viewed as one of the better young arms in baseball just two years ago and now he’s on a crash course to baseball purgatory. Also, top pitching prospect David Price failed to get out of the fourth inning in his debut, although he did strike out six. Like Carmona, Price had major issues with his control and threw 100 pitches to record just 10 outs. He walked five in total.

Tempers flare between Indians, Rays in Tampa this weekend

Cleveland Indians C/1B Victor Martinez has one simple rule for opposing pitchers that throw inside on him during an at-bat: If you throw at his head, he will go after you. And evidently his pitching staff also has his back, as Tribe closer Kerry Wood threw two inside pitches on Tampa Bay Rays OF B.J. Upton that began a brief scrum in the bottom of the eighth inning of Sunday’s game.

The beanball war began on Friday night, as Martinez thought Rays lefthander J.P. Howell was purposely throwing at his head. After ducking away from a high and tight fastball, Martinez began yelling (click here to see video) at Howell before home-plate umpire Greg Gibson stepped in to calm the situation.

After the game, Martinez explains his side of the incident:

“I don’t like that, throwing at my head,” Martinez said. “If you want to hit somebody, [throw at] a different spot. But don’t throw at the head.”
Howell shrugged off the whole incident.
“I was just pitching, man, playing ball,” he said. “I mean, whatever. I threw a pitch in. Whatever. Where the ball was, if his face was in that area, you make up your own mind what you think. I just threw a pitch barely in, a little up. And whatever. He didn’t like it. I don’t know what that is.”

After the first two pitches went behind and inside to Upton, Rays manager Joe Maddon got into a shouting match with Martinez before both benches emptied. Maddon felt Wood was intentionally throwing at his player in retaliation to the incident in Friday’s game. The Indians have denied the accusation.

These two teams meet again in Cleveland for a four-game series beginning on May 25. Stay tuned!

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