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9 players, 1 clear winner in Halladay-Lee trade

Dec 15, 2009, 4:37 PM EDT

OK, so it’s not officially a four-team deal, but I’ll treat it like one, since it’s that much more fun.
First, a recap of who is landing where (ages as of Opening Day, 2010):
RHP Roy Halladay (32, from Blue Jays)
RHP Phillippe Aumont (21, from Mariners)
$6 million (from Blue Jays)
RHP J.C. Ramirez (21, from Mariners)
OF Tyson Gillies (21, from Mariners)
LHP Cliff Lee (31, from Phillies)
Blue Jays
RHP Kyle Drabek (22, from Phillies)
INF Brett Wallace (23, from Athletics)
C Travis d’Arnaud (22, from Phillies)
OF Michael Taylor (24, from Phillies via Blue Jays)
In truth, it’s three two-team deals.
The Phillies give up one top-five pitcher a year away from free agency in exchange for another and downgrade their minor league system in the process. They think it’s worth it since Halladay is the better of the two and will sign the cheaper extension. I think they see the second factor as being more important than the first, and I’m not going to be convinced that they were better off doing this than they would have been keeping Lee and trading Joe Blanton to make room for Halladay.
Again, the Halladay trade is simply a two-team transaction. The Phillies didn’t need anyone from the Mariners to make it work. The Blue Jays even willing to kick in enough cash to bring Halladay’s 2010 salary down to $9.75 million. Instead of trading Lee, who is due $9 million, the Phillies could have dealt Joe Blanton, who will make $7.5 million in arbitration. Such a move probably could have produced the eighth-inning setup man that team still needs now. And when Lee proved impossible to sign next winter, the Phillies would have received two draft picks for him.
It’s not necessarily a bad trade, mostly because Halladay was willing to sign the below market extension. But the Phillies had a chance to put an even better product on the field in 2010 and passed. Plus, they’ve lost a top talent in Drabek, who was shaping up as the ideal replacement for Lee in 2011.
Phillies grade: C-
I called the deal a steal for Seattle last night and the addition of Ramirez to the package doesn’t change much.
Concerns about Aumont’s durability and a desire to see him in the majors as soon as possible caused the Mariners to move the big right-hander to the pen last season. He posted a 3.88 ERA and a 59/23 K/BB ratio in 51 innings between Single-A and Double-A. The 2007 first-round pick also pitched in the AFL and, despite averaging 95 mph with his fastball, he gave up 16 earned runs in 12 innings.
If the Blue Jays had acquired Aumont, I imagine they would have put him back into the rotation. The Phillies, though, may well keep him in the pen and hope that he develops into a long-term closer. It’s certainly a possibility, and I’d rank him among the game’s top-five relief prospects. However, he comes with plenty of risk.
Ramirez went 8-10 with a 5.12 ERA for high-A High Desert last season, but that was as a 20-year-old pitching in an extreme offensive environment. He had a 3.09 ERA in road games, even though the California League is filled with nice parks for hitters. That his slider hasn’t developed into a big strikeout pitch is a concern, but he has a nice arm and plenty of time left to improve.
Gillies was a teammate of Ramirez last season, and he took advantage of the very favorable conditions to hit .341/.430/.486. Eight of his nine homers came at home. Gillies is never going to hit for real power, but he does have a knack for getting on base and plenty of speed, though he’s a mediocre basestealer (he was 44-for-63 last season). The package should make him a fourth outfielder in the majors, but he’s an overachiever and it’s possible he’ll continue to surprise.
And that’s it. Three minor leaguers, only one of whom will make any of this winter’s top 100 prospects lists. That the Mariners could get Lee and keep Brandon Morrow, Michael Saunders, Shawn Kelley, Carlos Triunfel and Adam Moore makes this a huge win for the Mariners. They’re only spending $9 million on Lee, so there still in position to add one more key player this winter. There’s every reason to think that the team will contend next year, and on the off chance that things blow up, Lee should bring a superior package in return at the trade deadline. Just the draft picks the Mariners would get for losing Lee next winter would recoup a great deal of what they lose with the trade.
Mariners grade: A
The Blue Jays had to settle for two top prospects as the return for Halladay, and neither is the up-the-middle acquisition that should have been a priority.
Still, I’m not sure they could have done better.
In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Drabek went 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA and a 150/50 K/BB ratio in 158 innings between Single-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. His fastball-curveball combination gives him top-of-the-rotation ability, though he still needs to come up with a better changeup to counter left-handed hitters. Lefties hit .322 off him in Double-A last season. A half-season in Triple-A will surely do him some good, and it figures that the Jays will give it to him.
Getting Wallace from the A’s for Taylor is interesting. Third base is a big hole in the Oakland organization, so the A’s wouldn’t have made the move if they thought Wallace could stay there. But it’s been assumed since the day he was drafted 13th overall by the Cardinals in 2008 that Wallace would end up at first or at DH. Wallace delivered a .293/.367/.455 line in his first full pro season, most of which was spent in the PCL. He’s been a disappointment in the plate-discipline department since being drafted, as he’s amassed a 155/66 K/BB ratio in 734 at-bats. Wallace doesn’t project as a 30-homer guy, so he’ll need a .380-.400 OBP to become a star and he’s not showing that ability yet. I still like him as a long-term regular, but I’d put Taylor slightly above him at this point.
D’Arnaud, a 2007 supplemental first-round pick, hit .255/.319/.419 for Single-A Clearwater in the pitcher friendly Florida State League last year. He’s still raw as a catcher, though scouts like his tools. At this point, there’s not enough to his game offensively or defensively to project him as a regular. However, he’s still awfully young and catchers tend to develop slowly.
It’s well worth noting that the Blue Jays also gave away $6 million here. Now, that doesn’t take away from their non-existent chances of contending in 2010, but it’s $6 million that can’t be spent on draft picks or international signings. It’s a big loss, and it drops the grade here.
Blue Jays grade: D
The A’s apparently injected themselves into the deal at the last moment, taking the prize from last summer’s Matt Holliday deal with the Cardinals and turning him into Taylor, a chiseled 6-foot-6 outfielder who has put up some of the best numbers in the minors over the last two years. Taylor hit .346/.412/.557 for two A-ball teams in 2008 and .320/.395/.549 between Double- and Triple-A last season. He doesn’t hit for quite as much power as one would expect given his frame, but he also doesn’t strike out very much and he has an above average walk rate and plus speed. It’s just too bad he’s not quite a legitimate center fielder. He’ll probably settle into right, and he could be ready to compete for a job in spring training, though the A’s have several options at the position. I doubt he’ll be quite the player his minor league numbers suggest, but he should have a nice run as an above average regular.
Athletics grade: B

  1. viola - Dec 17, 2009 at 1:45 PM

    Well, Joe Sheehan says “the big winners here were the Blue Jays” who received a package that “dwarfs what the Twins got for Santana two years ago.” Keith Law calls it a good trade for the Jays.
    I can understand the seeing the $6M the Jays sent to Philly as a minor irritation in the larger scheme of things, but giving the Jays and Alex Anthopoulos a “D”? Really? It sounds to me as though someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday morning. The Jays came away with three very good prospects (including two top-25 prospects, as per Baseball America) when many people were predicting they wouldn’t get *any* top talent in return.

  2. Andrew Kwon - Dec 17, 2009 at 6:28 PM

    CC makes what 23 million per year? While he is a bit younger Doc still ranks above him as a starting pitcher. Some team would likely give him 7 years, but a 5 or 6 year 20million + a season deal would be a sure thing if that’s what he wanted. On a shorter team deal he could have gotten 25 million a year.
    We won’t know this for years to come, but if things work out well for Roy in philly he will likely be more then willing to sign another extension in 4 or 5 years and could go his whole career as the best pitcher of his era and never once testing free agency. MLBPA must not be a fan of his.

  3. Kirpuck34 - Dec 19, 2009 at 11:38 AM

    Matthew got it right…the Phils get a below average grade because they didn’t have to trade Lee at all. They are getting Halladay at a discount this year and could have easily paid Cliff Lee for one year and then gotten two drafts picks that probably turn out better than the riff raff they got from Seattle.

  4. Andy - Dec 19, 2009 at 1:35 PM

    Phils got ripped off. Just look at the prospects they gave away for Lee in the first place and then the prospects they got in return for Lee. The mariners prospects given to philly is shakey. If phils kept Lee and have Hamels Lee Haladay as a 1-2-3 that would be the best in the game and a chance to win the WS alone with those guys. Just think in the WS starting Haladay first Hamels second Then Lee Then Haladay again. That is sick and that should have been the case.
    Win the WS now not later. Blue Jays and mariners made out on tis deal.Drabek is going to become a great pitcher. Mariners will have one of the best 1-2 punches in the game. Lee signs with someone else next year, so what mariners get two picks in return. Phils should have went after Haladay last year in the first place.

  5. cincy-fan - Dec 19, 2009 at 5:49 PM

    Rpy will turn 33 in May and will be 38 at the end of this deal. He may well be worth $20M a year right now, but where teams get into trouble is assuming that someone will be a superstar performer for the length of a long-term deal. Like the Giants and Barry Zito
    On the other hand, maybe in 5 years the top players will be commanding $30M a year.

  6. dextly - Dec 20, 2009 at 1:27 PM

    Lee indicated a strong willingness to extend. If the Phillies had any chance at all to get decent (not great) market value on such an extension, I would have liked to have seen them retain Lee instead of acquiring the Mariners’ prospects. Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Happ is the kind of rotation that allows the Phils to match the success of the Braves in the 90s. Instead, they seemed to be gambling that they could have comparable success, without Lee, at a cheaper price. Bah, humbug!

  7. Natt - Dec 21, 2009 at 6:49 PM

    Even if the Mariners let Lee walk, they get 2 1st rounders, and they could still trade him before the deadline, and that’s if they aren’t competing and taking full advantage of a beast lefty to go behind King Felix. Great job Jack Z, My vote for GM of the year already…

  8. catherine pierroni - Dec 22, 2009 at 4:12 PM

    Just because Lee was lights out in the playoffs this year doesn’t mean he will be next year. Just look at how good Hamels was in 2008 and how bad he was this year. There are no guarantees. That being said, I do wish they had found a way to get Halladay and keep Lee, even for just one year. The window for this team is probably 3-4 years so I agree you have to go for it every year. As a Phillies fan, its so great to see my team in the mix during the off season.

  9. Jonesy21 - Dec 23, 2009 at 8:44 PM

    Phils fan and i must say we swapped stud pitchers and weakened our prospects (combination of Lee & Halliday trades). I would have preferred to roll the dice and see what 1 year would have been like with Lee & Halliday. at the very least we would have gotten 2 high draft picks if we couldn’t re-sign Lee.
    I just don’t get it. The M’s prospects are questionable at best.

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