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Ben Francisco, the New Bat Off the Bench

Ben Francisco - AP Photo/Ron SchwaneDepending on the outcome of the 2009 season, general manager Ruben Amaro could be hailed as the wisest man to ever grace the front offices of the Phillies organization.  At the very least he will be remembered as thief extraordinaire.

The Phillies have landed their ace pitcher days before the MLB trade deadline.  Welcome to Philadelphia Cliff Lee.

Despite the multiple up to the minute rumors surrounding Roy Halladay and despite the tug of war over prospects between Amaro and Blue Jay’s GM / village idiot J.P. Ricciardi, the Phillies came away like the raccoons that terrorize your trash cans at night.

Some may argue that there is no way that this deal is better than if we obtained Halladay, but I beg to differ.

Compared to a Halladay deal, the Phillies essentially traded a bag of balls, two Wilson batting gloves, and an autographed Chase Utley bat to get the top flight pitcher. Ricciardi wanted a king’s ransom.  The Indians only wanted a jester’s day of pay. And so the deal was made with Cleveland and the Phillies gave away mid-level prospects to obtain one of the top pitchers in baseball.

Second on the list of Phillies needs was a right-handed bat off the bench. Last week Pat explained in detail why this was such an urgent matter. In short, the Phillies current bench is not producing. And this is what makes the Lee deal better than a Halladay one.

Welcome to Philadelphia Mr. Ben Francisco.

Francisco has been decent this season batting .250 with 10 bombs and 33 runs batted in and 48 runs scored this season for the Indians. His 13 stolen bases show that he carries a bit of speed on the base paths as well. This is one thing the Phillies have been lacking from their bench; and that is what makes him so versatile as an option for Charlie Manuel in the late innings.

Francisco’s hitting chart suggests that he is a pull hitter and he hits his fair share of fly balls. That bodes well for the right-hander because of Citizen’s Bank Park’s shallow left field dimensions.

In the field, Francisco has been near flawless for the Indians this season, committing only one error in 189 total chances. This gives Manuel another option for a defensive replacement instead of going with Brunlett. More importantly, his fielding skills in the outfield gives Manuel a viable replacement for Raul Ibanez, should his groin injury return this year. If anything, having Francisco as an option will allow for Ibanez to take a day off occasionally when the Phillies are facing a left-handed pitcher.

Will Ben Francisco represent the difference in the Phillies winning a title in 2009? The short answer is no, probably not.

What Francisco does represent is the fact that the Phillies general manager is as crafty as the 46-year old veteran who toes the rubber every fifth day. It shows that Amaro wasn’t so narrow-minded to think that a starting pitcher was the cure all for his team’s needs. Most importantly helps Amaro step out of the shadows of the general manager who handed him the reigns.

Ruben Amaro made a deadline deal in his first year as GM for the Phillies. Boy, was it a good one.

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