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.
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.
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.