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Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Not to go all Nook LaLoosh on you, but an overused cliche' keeps popping into my head with regards to the Philadelphia Phillies these days - sometimes the best trades are the ones that are never made.
If you remember, Toronto ace Roy Halladay heading to the Phillies was the raging rumor heading into the non-waiver trade deadline. It seemed a foregone conclusion, going into that final week in July, that Doc was bringing his Cy Young-caliber skills to the City of Brotherly Love.
We all know what happened in the end, though. Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro balked at Toronto's exorbitant asking price and did not want to include prized-prospect Kyle Drabek in any deal. So, Amaro turned elsewhere and the team had to "settle" for reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee for a lesser package.
Well, I don't think anyone is complaining about getting the second-place prize anymore.
Besides winning all four of his starts with Philly, Lee has surrendered just three earned runs (0.82 ERA) in 33 innings and has drawn comparisons to CC Sabathia, who also came over to the National League from Cleveland a year ago and led Milwaukee to the playoffs by dominating the Senior Circuit.
Of course, things did not go as planned for Mr. Sabathia come playoff time, as fans in Philadelphia should remember. By the way, Halladay is a pedestrian 2-2 since the trade deadline, giving up 11 runs in 30 innings over four starts.
However, even if Lee wins every game from here on out, a second straight parade down Broad Street is a pipe dream if the Phillies can't straighten out their bullpen situation late in games, namely closer Brad Lidge.
Lidge was the driving force behind last year's championship team, converting all 48 save opportunities, including the postseason.
This season has been a different story, as Lidge is 0-5 with a league-high eight blown saves, while pitching to an unimaginable earned run average for a closer of 7.21, up almost six runs from his sensational season a year ago.
The longball, which plagued him in the past, has again become a thorn in his side this season, as he has matched a career-high by allowing 10 home runs in 43 2/3 innings. Last year, just two people left the yard on him in 69 1/3 innings.
To his credit Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel has stuck by his embattled closer, but even he is starting to waver, and rightfully so.
But, what are the Phillies' other options?
Ryan Madson failed miserably in the role when Lidge was relegated to the disabled list with an "injury" earlier in the year. Brett Myers could be a possibility, but his scheduled rehab assignment was pushed back after he somehow wound up with a puffy face the night before he was slated to throw an inning.
Even if Myers can get back, which I still think is a long shot, he is coming off hip surgery. How effective can he possibly be?
San Diego closer Heath Bell could probably be had, but the price will likely be too rich for Amaro. I guess they could have made a move for John Smoltz, but St. Louis scooped him up right away. The Phils are probably better off not going down that road...Smoltz is done in my opinion.
An intriguing name to watch could be Billy Wagner. The Mets reportedly put him on waivers Wednesday, which would expire on Friday, the day the team is expected to activate him from the disabled list.
Wagner is unlikely to be claimed since any team that does so would have to pay close to $2.7 million of his $8.5 million salary for this year, plus a $1 million buyout of his option for 2010. The likely scenario will be that he goes unclaimed, and the Mets would be able to trade him.
Now forget the hefty price tag for what amounts to two months worth of work, Wagner has a history with Philadelphia, and it's not all good. He did save 59 games for them from 2004-05, but has not had a nice thing to say about the city, the fans, or his former teammates since leaving.
Stranger things have happened, though. By all accounts Wagner has looked good following Tommy John surgery. Not to mention that you could get him for a song and a dance. Plus he has stated that he doesn't have a problem setting up, especially for a contender.
How long would Manuel stick by Lidge, knowing he had Wagner in his back pocket?
Lee was the move to put the Phils over the top and so far it looks like a genius trade. Now, go get the bullpen straightened out. Show me the team who wins in October with a shaky closer.
Wagner to Philly makes too much sense for it not to happen.
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