This is an honest question. Outside Phillies reporters (or ex-reporters) who rely on access to the team in order to put food on their table each day, are there any analysts who like what the Phillies did with Cliff Lee?
Obviously I can only read a small portion of what's out there, but what I've read isn't pretty. (And I agree with it.) Below is my sampling. In the comments, please post links to what you've seen from other analysts about the Lee trade. And if you find someone saying the Phillies did the right thing here, I'd in particular like to see that.
Matt Swartz, Baseball Prospectus: "The only team that does not necessarily come out ahead in this is the Phillies. The team really made two separate trades—three prospects for Roy Halladay conditional on an awesome extension, and Cliff Lee for three inferior prospects. The former will turn out to be a success and the latter will not. . . . The issue I take is that they could have non-tendered Joe Blanton (or, better yet, traded him for some inferior prospects) and Chad Durbin and won two or three more games in 2010 at the same $9 million salary. I say that even as someone who believes Blanton is vastly underrated, but they could have gotten better value by doing that. If Blanton was worth nothing on the trade market (which I am skeptical about), then the Phillies were foolish to offer him arbitration—clearly no one else would have even offered him his arbitration estimate on the free-agent market, so why pay him that much? Figure out what other teams would pay him and offer him that and a cookie."
Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus: "This, in fact, gets to my biggest problem with the sequence: Roy Halladay just left $60 million on the table to come to Philadelphia. The Phillies couldn’t leave $9 million on it in pursuit of putting him on the best team in baseball? . . . The Phillies play in a taxpayer-funded ballpark, have been to back-to-back World Series—with all the direct revenue that generates—and will no doubt pack Citizens Bank Ballpark again in 2010 with another three million people paying even higher ticket, parking, concession, and souvenir prices. To trade away Cliff Lee in a blatant money move is utterly ridiculous under those circumstances, and worse still, turns the Roy Halladay trade into little more than a minor upgrade."
Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus: "Less certain is the necessity of coupling this trade with the deal that put Lee in Seattle. Even if you accept for the sake of argument the suggestion that Amaro had to work within a budget, and that he had to have one or the other, this seems to suggest that the Phillies just blew it by being active early and, true to form, acted fast. If payroll's a problem, then the money spent on Placido Polanco or Ross Gload or Juan Castro or Brian Schneider—in short, the entire pack of elective add-ons, these veteran talents barely above the free-talent alternatives or players making close to the minimum—deserves to be seen collectively as needlessly spent money on players who don't significantly alter the Phillies' chances at a third pennant, not nearly so much as having a rotation with Doc and Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels gives you a rotation that might have been able to handily beat the best the AL might throw at you, and start a case for elevating the Phillies to dynastydom."
Dave Cameron, FanGraphs: "The Cliff Lee to Seattle portion of this trade just seems very light in return for the Phillies. They’re getting two power arms with a lot of questions marks and a speedy center fielder without a lot of power. None of these guys are top tier prospects. This is the best Philadelphia could have gotten for Lee? Really? A pu-pu platter of interesting, high-risk guys not really close to the majors for a Cy Young-quality pitcher who is already well on his way to Type A free agency? And, even if that’s true, why clear $8 million from the books by trading Lee? Surely, you could have moved Joe Blanton without eating any of his salary, even if you didn’t love the deals being offered. Or, how about this – don’t sign J.C. Romero, Brian Schneider, and Ross Gload, whose 2010 salaries are about equal to Lee’s. Replace those three reserves with league minimum guys and you’ve saved enough money to keep Lee around."
Evan Burnell, Hardball Times: "The Phillies overextended themselves financially last year and are trying to keep payroll steady (the $6 million they're receiving in the deal helps tremendously). In addition, the prospects back to Philadelphia help to replenish a farm system gutted by the Lee and Halladay trades. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, I don't think they're receiving anything more than midlevel prospects who are a long shot to have long-term value in town. They all look like eventual major leaguers, but are they anything more than replacement level? We can't answer that definitively. I do credit GM Ruben Amaro, however, for recognizing the need to replenish the farm system. [On the other hand,] the Seattle Mariners made a tremendous move acquiring Cliff Lee for three prospects that don't rank as even guaranteed future major leaguers."