Halladay, Lee blockbuster change complexion of three teams

In one fell swoop, the Philadelphia Phillies handed the Seattle Mariners the A.L. West title while giving the Toronto Blue Jays the kick in the pants their rebuilding phase needed.

The particulars first: Philadelphia receives SP Roy Halladay and $6 million from Toronto in exchange for prospects in P Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor and C Travis D’Arnaud. Seattle takes Cliff Lee from the Phillies for RP Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies, P Juan Ramirez, all prospects. The Jays then flipped Taylor to the Oakland Athletics for 3B Brett Wallace.

Yankees vs. Jays

On Philadelphia’s end, I completely understand the logic behind the deal. The Phillies were able to get the pitcher they originally wanted and immediately lock him up through 2014 (three years, $60 million is the reported figure along with two club/vesting options). Halladay is an absolute workhorse who should carve up National League hitters, and is a better bet to hold up down the line than Cliff Lee is. Of course, if Lee was willing to sign a three-year extension like Halladay was, this blockbuster likely never happens. It’s the three-year deal — very club-friendly — that makes this a significant upgrade from Lee when isolated in a vacuum. Sure, the upgrade could be neutral in 2010, but you’ve got to be forward-thinking in your deals, and the odds that Lee left Philadelphia after 2010 were looking rather high.

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.

The Seattle Mariners made a tremendous move acquiring Cliff Lee for three prospects that don’t rank as even guaranteed future major leaguers. Any time you can get a top five pitcher in that scenario, you have to strike. Lee is also very affordable for 2010, as he will pull in $9 million. Of course, he’s a free agent the following year and is reportedly looking for a deal around $20 million annually. I’d be surprised if he gets it, but $18 million should be a lock. I do wonder about Lee’s long-term potential: after all, it was only 2007 that he was demoted to the minor leagues.

What transformed Lee from a midrotation starter to one of the best pitchers in the game was an increased ground ball rate, improved command and a couple of ticks on his fastball velocity. When Lee signs his eventual long-term contract, I’ll worry about deteriorating command and a fall-off from his fastball. It remains to be seen if Seattle will be that team to commit five or more years to Lee.

Philadelphia's Cliff Lee pitches against Los Angeles during game three of the NLCS in Philadelphia

Putting aside any long-term valuation of Lee, this deal is still tremendous when looking through the lens of 2010. Lee will be a Cy Young candidate… acquired without giving up any of their top three prospects.

Onto Toronto. Toronto had no chance of holding onto Halladay long-term and even through all their blustering, I don’t think anyone (at least, anyone not a Blue Jays fan) truly felt the team was being serious about letting Halladay play the string out. They had to deal him this year — even with the two compensatory draft picks they could have gained, having prospects with minor league track records is much more valuable.

If former GM JP Ricciardi had been willing to allow Roy Halladay to talk contract extension with the Phillies this past July, I bet they could have gotten an extra piece out of the Phillies. Other than that, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the exact trade that would have gone down in July. Toronto made out extremely well, netting a high-upside pitcher in Kyle Drabek that they don’t have anywhere in the system. Toronto has solid rotation depth, especially in the major leagues, but no one you can give the ball to on Opening Day and expect to win. Drabek can be that guy.

Travis D’Arnaud has been coveted by Toronto ever since he was selected a pick ahead of the Jays in 2007. The Blue Jays have J.P. Arencibia in their farm system, but there are questions about his ability to stay behind the plate, and D’Arnaud is the better value anyways. Michael Taylor was a Blue Jay for only the briefest of moments, as he was immediately shipped to Oakland for Brett Wallace.

While Taylor might evolve into a 20/20 player and provide good overall value out of the outfield, Wallace is the type of hitter Toronto needs in its next wave of youngsters. Toronto absolutely needs the upside that Wallace brings with the bat and can afford to worry about defense later. Assuming Wallace can’t stick at third (which is not a done deal just yet), he has the options of moving to first or designated hitter, with no one blocking him at either position.

Toronto has put themselves in great position to field a young, competitive club as soon as 2012. That’s all they could have asked for in a trade of Halladay. Seattle has two aces atop their rotation, but put themselves in a tough financial position in terms of extending both aces. Philadelphia remain the favorites to win the NL pennant in 2010, although their settling of prospects from Seattle’s end could greatly compromise their long-term future.

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14 years ago

Excellent analysis. I speak for all Blue Jays fans when I say: 2012!!!1

14 years ago

if im the Phillies, i do the Halladay deal and i also keep Lee for 2010. then i’m the hands-down favorite for the Series (and i’m saying that as a Yankee fan). if Lee walks after 2010, i get 2 first round picks.
it doesnt sound like Philly got enough of a prospect upgrade for the trade down in championship odds.
but hey, as a Yankee fan, i’m relieved.

Evan Brunell
14 years ago

Even more baffling is if Amaro signs Fernando Rodney for what they would have paid for Lee. I really am waffling on the execution of Amaro on this between “acceptable” and “just plain bad.” The rest of his moves will dictate the answer.

14 years ago

its a sad day in jays town.

we’ll always love you doc.

2012 here we come

14 years ago

Your reasoning on Wallace over Taylor makes no sense. You say Taylor can be a20/20 OF, Wallace likely to DH/1b. I think most would take the broader range of skills of taylor over wallace whos value is all tied to his bat. No one is blocking wallace, but neither is anyone blocking Taylor. Wallce also wouldve had competition at 1b in oakland w/ barton, fox, doolittle, carter with varying upside among them. I’d say they are comparable bats, but taylor the edge in almost every other area.

Evan Brunell
14 years ago

Chalk it up to a difference of opinion, then. Keith Law agrees with me, though. In his article, he said he’d take Wallace over Taylor.

Dan in Philly
14 years ago

FWIW, here’s the result of Lee’s involvement with the Phils:

Phils got: 1/2 season of Lee, plus an historic postseason
Ben Francisco – cheap platooner with some pop, under control for another few years.
Phillippe Aumont (RHP)
Juan Carlos Ramirez (RHP)
Tyson Gillies (OF)

Analysis – of course the production was great, but looking at the minor leaguers, they seem to be, acording to Phuture Phillies, second tier guys, only Ramirez might be higher upside than replacement level or so.

Phils gave up:
Carlos Carrasco, RHP
Jason Donald, SS/3B
Lou Marson, C
Jason Knapp, RHP
None that close to the bigs, none were top prospects.

Bottom line, looking at Lee in a vacuum, we didn’t give up top tier guys to get him, and didn’t get top tier guys when we got rid of him.  Throw in Francisco, and it’s hard to say we lost overall in the net of it.  No one could have predicted Lee’s postseason, of course, and it’s not a reliable predictor of future postseasons. 

Overall, I’m calling the Lee experiment a big success for Armaro.

14 years ago

I don’t get it, Wallace is only 8 months younger than Taylor, and Taylor clearly had a much better season this year in similar levels . he pretty much did everything well, including hitting for more power than Wallace.  and significantly better K/BB ratios

I know that Wallace gets high praise for his bat potential, but he really didn’t show it too much this year. as he was just a decent hitter in the context of a elite prospect.  and Taylor’s a gigantic hulk at 6’6 250 , where as Wallace is more of a pudgy type guy.

What are we looking at really? Wallace seems like he’s going to be a 1B eventually, and not likely a great one. so is he going to hit to the point of being a impact player there? (a consistent .900+ OPS guy )

Also, I don’t get why people think the Jay’s need impact bats. Adam Lind had a .930ish OPS this year.  obviously the more the merrier. but not at the expensive of a potentially better overall player.

14 years ago

Great article, and great comments to follow up. I love this stuff! This is one of the reasons why I check THT every day. The Mariners have had one hell of a post season so far—you can’t write off the Angels yet, by any means, but the M’s have gone a long way to changing the balance of power in the AL West. It will be really interesting now to see how the Angels respond.

14 years ago

Think the mariners got away with one here. they now have 2 aces, possibly the most powerful 1-2 punch in the American League. If they make the playoffs, watch out!

14 years ago

I know the Jays hate to see Doc leave, but I like this analysis because it gives their front office the credit I think they deserve for making the best of the situation. 

For the Mariners, it’s now time to lineup the prospects for 1b/DH duty.  Griffey is an impediment on the roster, but Zdurencik should be able to over come it.  After all, look what he gave up for Cliff Lee.

Big Jays Fan
14 years ago

Great article.

Rolling Wave: From what I’ve heard Taylor’s projected as capable of handling LF or DH. Snyder is also only capable of playing LF/DH, as is Lind unless he plays 1st. That would have forced us to move Lind to 1st (a move the Jays haven’t seemed to want to do….they probably know Lind won’t be good), play Taylor in left and have Snyder DH. How long will that 6’6 250 frame last running on that turf out there? His upside is only 20 steals, and being that big I see him being more of a 10-15 SB guy.

IF Wallace can play 3rd in the BIGS it will be HUGE. He probably can’t, but a move to 1st should be much easier for him than it would be for Lind.

From what I’ve read Wallace has much better plate discipline than Taylor and still he has 30HR potential, I’m not worried about less speed and slightly less power if he’s a better overall hitter.

Seems to me like down the line we could roll Wallace 2nd, followed by Hill, Lind and Snyder.
That 2-5 will be monstrous.

Round out the order with Vernon the old vet, a young catcher, a defensive 3B and/or SS all we need is a speedy RF (actually more like a CF and move Wells to RF) or SS to leadoff.

Oh and Halladay will clearly be back with the Jays in 4 years when his contract is up. He’ll be like our Andy Pettite, 4th/5th starter with just enough gas left to be useful and help lead us to glory.

Steve in Philly
14 years ago

Reply to Dan in Philly:

I’m calling the trade FOR Lee a great success, and the trade OF him a (likely) failure.  Trading Lee for those three guys was a big net negative for this year and in the long run (since the Phils would have gotten two compensatory picks when he left next offseason.  And, as Yankee fan jsolid points out, the Yankees are probably relieved.  There’s no way the Yankees beat a Phillies 7-game rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Halladay, Happ, Lee, Halladay.  Substitute Joe Blanton for Lee and you have a repeat of 2009—another NL pennant, best case.

The trade FOR Lee was a +8 on a scale of -10 to +10.  The trade OF him today was a -8.  Why is it okay to completely offset the good trade he made in July?

Steve in Philly
14 years ago

To Carole Ford:

As a Phillies fan, I honestly hope you are right.  I’d like to know why you think that though (oustide of “Roy Halladay may be the best pitcher in baseball,” because any player, realistically, could be had for the right price; but what about Cliff Lee’s low price?)—there seems to be a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth in Philadelphia.

14 years ago

Big Jays fan:

I know what the scouting report say, but I just like to point out that the results seem to suggest something completely opposite,  Taylor had a much better K/BB ratio than Wallace this year (walking more AND whiffing less. both in significant % and doing so in a league that generally had less offense)  which puts the whole plate discipline thing in doubt. and I really can’t see how anyone would downplay Taylor’s power potential, not only did he slug more than Wallace this year (and over their minor league career). he’s freaking 6’6 250 .  it doesn’t take a whole lot more to explain his power potential than 6’6 250.

Both of them should be major league ready here. so it’s not a real development curve thing, Wallace was drafted a year later than Taylor but was widely seen as the much more polished player comming out of college (and indeed, since Taylor’s initial performance at rookie ball was horrendous)

To me, a guy who’s value is tied to his bat and is supposedly a polished college guy need to put up convincing numbers .  Wallace’s year wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t convincing that he’d be more than an average 1B either.  where as Taylor’s overall line was very convincing, and from a physical perspective there isn’t a whole lot more to say than 6’6 250 vs 6’1 245 .

Carole Ford
14 years ago

This seems like an incredibly good deal for the Phillies

Tony A
14 years ago

Sounds to me like the most important part of the Lee portion of the deal was $$$$$$$$$$$$$$.  They got rid of Lee’s salary AND pick up a cool $6KK in the bargain.  If I were a Philly fan, I’d rather have Lee and Doc for a 1 year crapshoot, but it’s still a crapshoot, with or without Lee.

Steve in Philly
14 years ago

No, Tony A.  They got $6 million and Halladay from the Blue Jays.  Great deal.

Amaro gets an F- in trading Lee for three middling prospects when he was an under-market-priced ($9 million salary) superstar pitcher.

Lee was the starting pitcher (5 games) in more of the Phillies post-season wins (9 games) than the rest of the staff combined.  How does trading him help them?  Why are Russ Gload (.729 OPS in 259 PAs in 2009) and Brian Schneider (.627 OPS in 194 PAs) worth $3.1 million between them but Lee (3.22 ERA in 34 starts) isn’t worth $9 million?