Blog Entry

Blockbuster breakdown

Posted on: December 16, 2009 6:51 pm

Nine players, four teams, two Cy Young winners, one three-minute breakdown of what undoubtedly will be THE blockbuster trade of the offseason:


Gets: Lefty ace Cliff Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young winner and ace pitcher in this fall's World Series.

A clear winner in the deal, in conversations with scouts and executives. Especially in the context of what general manager Jack Zduriencik already has done with the Mariners last year (improved their pitching and defense) and this winter (signed sparkplug Chone Figgins). How would you like to have Lee and Felix Hernandez as Nos. 1 and 2 in your rotation?

At 85-77 after losing 101 games in 2008, the Mariners were baseball's most improved team last year. With Lee and Figgins, that trend continues and should make Seattle instant contenders in the AL West.

The Mariners gave up three prospects in the deal, none of whom is projected to land anywhere near Cooperstown. Lee is a free agent following the 2010 season which, as colleague Danny Knobler notes, could make Seattle winners in one of two ways: Either he can pitch them into the playoffs, or, if the Mariners pull a surprise and flop early, they can trade him in July and probably receive better prospects than they traded.


Gets: Roy Halladay from Toronto, prospects Phillippe Aumont (right-handed pitcher), outfielder Tyson Gillies (outfielder) and Juan Ramirez (right-handed pitcher), and $6 million from Toronto.

The overriding question being asked by baseball people everywhere in the aftermath of this exchange of Cy Young winners is this: For Philadelphia, back-to-back NL champs with an eye toward a third consecutive World Series appearance in 2010, are the Phillies better off with Halladay than Lee?

Well, are they? It's a very close call, but the answer has to be yes. Lee has bad back-to-back sensational seasons, but Halladay not only has done it longer, but he's the big, powerful horse that most often comes up as the answer to this question: If you could pick one pitcher to win the most important game of your season, whom would it be?

It may seem absurd to go against Lee, who was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts for the Phillies this year (including 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the World Series). But while Lee beat the Yankees in October, Halladay has made a career of doing it: Lifetime, Halladay is 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA against the Bronx Bombers.

Not that he'll be facing New York regularly in the NL East, but that's the point: In this game, right now, you measure yourself against the Yankees, and go from there. Halladay can handle them -- as Lee did -- in October. Meantime, Halladay should chew up the NL the way a Toro mows through tall grass.

The clincher, of course, is that the Phillies signed Halladay to a three-year extension with an option for year No. 4, while Lee is headed for free agency. Halladay, for the Phillies, is a better answer both short-term and, especially, long-term.


Gets: Three former No. 1 draft picks, right-hander Kyle Drabek (from the Phillies), catcher Travis d'Arnaud (from the Phillies) and  third baseman Brett Wallace (from Oakland).

Take good notes, because this is the last you'll be hearing from the Blue Jays for awhile. They should be nowhere hear contention in 2010. This trade is about stockpiling prospects and, from there, attempting to come up with a core group of controllable, young players who will mature roughly the same time.

It's a fine plan under Toronto's young (32) new architect, new GM Alex Anthopoulos. And whether it works or not, let's just say this up front: This Halladay deal likely will be Anthopoulos' signature moment as Jays' GM. If these prospects produce, he has a chance to look brilliant. If not, the Jays will become even less relevant.

Drabek is a power arm whom the Jays were looking at last summer in the Halladay talks with Philadelphia. Anthopoulos views him as an eventual front-of-the rotation type starter. The GM's hope for d'Arnaud is that he will develop into an All-Star catcher. And the Jays view Wallace as an eventual impact, middle-of-the-order hitter.

Anthopoulos is on record as calling Halladay the greatest player in Blue Jays' history, and to get only one pitcher back in a package for him seems awfully light. Odds are that he will not develop into half the pitcher Halladay is (and that's no knock against Drabek -- there aren't many youngsters who will develop into the next Halladay, or half a Doc).

The Jays do need a catcher and a third baseman. For them, the final evaluation of this deal likely is at least a couple of years away.


Gets: Outfield prospect Michael Taylor from Toronto (via the Phillies).

The Athletics pretty much being the afterthought in this deal, good, sneaky work by GM Billy Beane to move in and snag an outfielder he took a liking to awhile ago.

Why it took so long: For one thing, the Phillies required a negotiating window to enter into a multi-year contract agreement with Halladay, who was on track for free agency following the 2010 season.

Also, and this is why you hear of so many trades anymore that take several days to be announced, contracts are so big now that medical reports never have been so important. Teams anymore are incredibly diligent about making sure the players they receive are healthy, risking humiliation if they don't. It's why the deal between Boston and Texas sending third baseman Mike Lowell to the Rangers essentially was agreed upon eight days ago and still hasn't been completed -- the Rangers are triple-checking Lowell's medical reports.

In this deal, there was concern from Toronto on third baseman Brett Wallace's shoulder due to a previous injury.

Lastly, rules state that the Commissioner's Office needs to approve any trade in which $1 million or more changes hands. That's pretty much become a formality anymore, but it still slows down the process.

What got the deal done: Several facets, but the overriding one was the fact that Halladay clearly wanted to pitch for the Phillies. No small part of that is because Halladay's home is in Odessa, Fla., not far from Toronto's spring training base in Dunedin, Fla. Which is only about 10 minutes from Philadelphia's spring base in Clearwater. Halladay essentially gave the Phillies the old "hometown discount" in signing on the dotted line for $20 million a year and waiving his free agency rights next winter. Remember, CC Sabathia set the bar last winter by signing with the Yankees for seven years and an annual average value of $23 million a season. Next to that, Halladay looks downright generous in the deal he gave the Phillies.

Winners: Seattle, no question. Mariners' GM Jack Zduriencik, who, in barely more than a year on the job, has established himself as one of the most creative minds in the game. Philadelphia, which stands an excellent chance to play in its third World Series in three years in 2010.

Losers: Toronto's fans, at least in the short term.  It's just too bad that the Blue Jays never could win when they had Halladay, because he gave his blood, sweat and tears to that franchise and to that city and he desperately wanted to win there. For his sake and for that of the franchise and its fans, its sad that it never came to pass.


Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: December 3, 2010 1:09 pm

Blockbuster breakdown

Well, a year has come and gone.  An unexpectedly good season from the Jays (who saw all those homers and the rapid development of the starting rotation coming?) and now, I can finally answer my own question--why did the Jays give the Phillies six million dollars?

Because the Phillies told them to, or else they would not make the trade.  And because Roy said he would accept a trade to Philadelphia and nowhere else, the Jays stood to lose their ace for very little return, unless they submitted to this extortion.  This is the only explanation that makes any kind of sense. 

As for the future--I think a little regression on the part of the Jays record next season is realistic.  What is not realistic is the perception of Halladay as some sort of Toronto sports icon.  Yeah, he pitched great here, and of course he had every right to go to another team, if he wanted.  And, I wish him the best wherever he plays.  But his trade demand (if that is in fact the way it played out) certainly didn't do the Jays any favours.  People here will fall all over themselves welcoming Roy back when the Phils come to Toronto next summer.  You'll forgive me if I'm under the stands having a beer when this happens.

As far as the Phillies are concerned, let's just say that I really enjoyed the NLCS this past season.  Nothing personal Roy, strictly business.

Since: Aug 7, 2008
Posted on: December 30, 2009 9:30 pm

Blockbuster breakdown

You make some good points. Although Cliff Lee is an All Star caliber pitcher he won't get much run support from the weak Mariners lineup. What might also be a problem is the fact that Cliff Lee was somewhat terrible at the beginning of last year and for the better part of the season. I always thought Cliff Lee was very overrated because he pitches for the high offense Indians.

Since: Aug 23, 2006
Posted on: December 18, 2009 3:30 pm

Blockbuster breakdown

Lee's agent wants major money for his client.  There's been talk of possibly the first $200 million contract for a pitcher.  There's no way Lee commits to a contract unless he given the moon, and then King Felix will ask for more.  Lee's agent believed that they would get that big contract from the Phillies to continue going to the playoffs year after year.  I think Lee & his agent didn't believe that the Phillies still had interest in Halladay.  I don't think that Lee is going to like Seattle too much.  In closing, Seattle only gets 2 picks if he's offered arbitration, is a type A player, and the other team doesn't sign a higher ranking player.  They could possibly wind up with nothing if all the chips fall in place.

Since: Aug 23, 2006
Posted on: December 18, 2009 3:15 pm

Blockbuster breakdown

First they gave up less than what Toronto wanted last July.  Lee's agent was looking at 7 years/$175,000,000 as a starting point.  The Phillies got Halladay for $15.75 million in 2010 and $80 million for 2011-2014, and 2014 is an option year.  I don't think there was any way that Lee was coming back, considering the Yankees desire to always spend more than a players worth.  I'll miss Lee, but the telling tale of this story will be how the prospects in all the trades pan out.

Since: Aug 23, 2006
Posted on: December 18, 2009 3:04 pm

Blockbuster breakdown

GM Hoyer already stated that Seattle doesn't have the prospects that they'd need in a trade.

Since: Dec 18, 2009
Posted on: December 18, 2009 12:07 pm

Halladay's Intangibles worth much more

There are a lot of reasons the Phillies are the winner in this trade.
The best player? The Phillies "win" hands down - Halladay is a beast, and is now going to rip up the NL - his numbers for his entire career have been in the Beast of the AL East - Constantly facing the Yankees, BoSox, and more recently, the Rays.  His numbers against the tougher teams makes him even more incredible. 
He's now in the big parks of the NL, with no DHs?  He'll destroy them.  With the bats of Utley and Howard behind him?  His run support in Toronto was atrocious. 
Really the only thing that might be a problem is that Halladay is a ground ball pitcher and the Phillies don't have the greatest feilding infield.  His BAABIP will probably go up, but he'll be fine. 

However, no one has mentioned the myriad of intangibles that Halladay brings - he's a stud of a #1 - hard-working, respectful, competitive, and a team player - he leads by example.  Do you think that the Blue Jays' young and inexperienced pitching staff is really as good as it had shown over the past few years?  AJ Burnett, a veteran by accounts when he joined the Blue Jays' staff, said that Halladay "taught him how to be a real pitcher."  The young Jays' staff continually learned from Halladay - how to handle celebrity, questions about your team, questions about being traded, everything that had to do with pitching all the way through to the personal.
Just you wait - Hamels, Happ, and the rest of the Phillies staff will do nothing but get better with Halladay at the helm.  Even if Halladay's numbers slip over the next 5 years, what he brings internally to that pitching staff will be invaluable.

Halladay is a class act, a fierce competitor, and true staff ace.
Phillies win this trade, big time.

Since: Sep 28, 2007
Posted on: December 18, 2009 10:27 am

Blockbuster breakdown

What everyone else fails to remember is Halladay & Hamels give the Phils a rotation of game 1)Halladay, game 2) Hamels,
game3) Happ/Blanton, Game 4) Halladay, game 5) Happ /Blanton.  Game 6) Hamels, Game 7) Halladay.  As opposed to Lee pitching 2 games because he doesn't go on 4 days, Halladay is a horse who makes a living that way.  I'll take my chances in a 7 game series with Halladay and Hamels pitching 5 of 7 games.  Provided Hamels bounces back to NL and Series MVP form which at age 26 seems more than likely. 

The Phillies decimated their farm in the early part of this decade in deals for Wagner and others that produced second place finishes, when they needed to add parts wthout subtracting from the roster they couldn't because the prospects were gone.  Aumont was ranked #2 as a prospect by Baseball America in Seattles system.  Gillies is ranked #5 in Seattles system and is a slap hitting top speed leadoff hitter who makes contact and steals bases.  Think Michael Bourn that makes better contact.  So Victorino is covered if injuries arise.  I love Lee but come July when pieces need to be added you need chips. Considering how well they have strengthened their bench Amaro has had a great off season even with the trading of Lee.

Since: Mar 12, 2009
Posted on: December 18, 2009 2:16 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Jul 9, 2009
Posted on: December 17, 2009 9:19 pm

Blockbuster breakdown

Actually, one other part of your post is open to question, though I'm not sure it's wrong. 
You indicate Lee was traded for salary reasons.  Maybe.  But if salary were all, it would have made more sense for the Phillies to simply non-tender Joe Blanton and keep Lee, since Lee's scheduled to make only slightly more than Blanton this season assuming Blanton gets his expected raise (from arbitration or otherwise). 
So maybe they weren't just shedding salary.  But this makes it all the more mystifying that they failed to get more in exchange for Lee than they did.
All in all, very puzzling.

Since: Jul 9, 2009
Posted on: December 17, 2009 9:10 pm

Blockbuster breakdown

I can agree with most of your post except for your assumption that the prospects are a wash.  There's no reason to assume that.  The prospects the Phils gave up must be better than the ones they got.  How do we know that?  Because if Seattle's prospects had been better than the Phillies' prospects, Toronto would have TAKEN Seattle's prospects rather than the Phillies' prospects.  This is pretty well confirmed not only in Miller's article, but in Danny Knobler's, where he mentions two different executives (unnamed, of course) who indicate the Mariners could get more for Lee than they gave up, if they trade him away now (or in July).  Translation: the Phils didn't get enough for him.  Shame.

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