Cubs-A's blockbuster trade helps Phillies

Cubs-A's blockbuster trade helps Phillies

July 6, 2014, 10:30 am
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Friday's blockbuster trade which saw the Cubs send pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for top shortstop prospect Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney, as well as depth starter Dan Straily and a player to be named later, may have appeared to hurt the Phillies' trade market.

It removed from the running an A's team that could have used Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd or Cliff Lee.

But the feeling here is that it helped the Phillies more than it hurt them.

Oakland already had the best team in the American League. They enter play Sunday at least 3 1/2 games better than every AL team and with a run differential of plus-133. The last team with a run differential this high this early in the season was the 1998 New York Yankees, who won 114 games and the World Series.

This moves further distances the A's from the pack. And that places more urgency on every other AL contender to improve.

In the East, the Orioles, Blue Jays and Yankees are within 3 1/2 games of each other. All three teams badly need starting pitching help.

In the Central, the Royals are four games off the pace, and will likely lose James Shields to free agency. The Wil Myers trade from the winter of 2012 will be hard to justify for Kansas City if it results in zero playoff appearances with Shields.

In the West, the Angels have the second-best record in the division and in the league at 50-36, and even after two quiet bullpen trades to acquire Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher, they need some help. The Halos' fifth starter right now is Matt Shoemaker, who has been decent but has never pitched a full major-league season. Replacing a Shoemaker with a Cliff Lee could shift the balance of power in the AL in the Angels' favor.

Then there's the Mariners, who are currently clinging onto the final AL wild-card spot. Seattle needs some offensive help, particularly in the outfield. Marlon Byrd?

Keep in mind, that's just the American League. We haven't even gotten into the needs of the starting pitching-depleted Cardinals and Pirates or the free-spending Dodgers.

Lee makes his first rehab start this afternoon in Clearwater. After that, another rehab outing will likely follow, and then he'll be ready for big-league action. It's looking like Lee will make three or four starts prior to the trade deadline.

So long as Lee can prove he's healthy, the leverage created by the A's trade should help the Phillies bring back a tremendous return. What the Cubs got from Oakland is considered a tremendous return -- a top-five overall MLB prospect in Russell, a lefty-hitting outfielder in McKinney who should stick in a corner spot for years, and an inexpensive, major league-ready No. 4 NL starting pitcher in Straily.

This week, we will unravel a group of prospect packages the Phillies should consider when shopping their talented veterans. Russell and McKinney were set to appear on the list. Now they won't, but for the Phillies that looks like a good thing.

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