Trade Center: Halladay, Lee, and Prospects
This 3 (or 4)-team mega deal isn’t 100% finalized yet but is close enough that I think we can dissect it properly.
Seattle Mariners acquire: Cliff Lee (signed for 2010 for $9 million)
Philadelphia Phillies acquire: Roy Halladay (signed for 2010 for $15.75 million) and $6 million from the Toronto Blue Jays, and LHP Phillippe Aumont (AA), CF Tyson Gillies (A+), RHP Juan Ramirez (A+) from the Seattle Mariners
Toronto Blue Jays acquire: RHP Kyle Drabek (AA), C Travis D’Arnaud (A-) From Philadelphia, and 1B/3B Brett Wallace (AAA) from the Oakland Athletics
Oakland Athletics acquire: OF Michael Taylor (AAA)
*Note the Athletics-Toronto portion doesn’t have anything to do with the overall Halladay-Lee trade
From the Blue Jays perspective they did well in receiving three top prospects for Roy Halladay. Halladay is one of the top five pitchers in the game, but he was going to leave as a free agent after this season, which would only bring back a pair of high draft picks in the 2011 draft. I think the Blue Jays were smart adding $6 million in cash to make this deal work, Toronto will still save almost $10 million and they increased the level of prospects they received.
While all three prospects are legit players with unlimited potential, Drabek and Taylor are the real prizes here. Drabek, son of the former big leaguer Doug Drabek, is a top of the rotation prospect that should move up to AAA this season. If he keeps dominating like he did last season and works on his changeup he could be ready to fill Roy Halladay’s place in the rotation by mid-season. Taylor is even more likely to help in the majors this season as he is ready to step into either corner outfield spot. Taylor doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well, but does offer major league tools across the board. D’Arauad is a longer way away, but does have the talent to become a quality major league starting catcher.
Now it appears that Toronto is flipping Taylor to the Athletics for 1B/3B prospect Brett Wallace. Wallace offers more power and natural hitting ability than Taylor, but doesn’t have the speed or defensive ablity that Taylor brings to the table. This component of the deal I’m not as crazy about from a Blue Jay’s point of view. Wallace is almost as major league ready as Taylor, but the Blue Jays have Lyle Overbay and Edwin Encarnacion at 1B and 3B respectively. While we are at it lets put to bed the Brett Wallace at 3B idea, he’s an awful defender there and not worth the headaches. He should be viewed as a 1B/DH type (potentially could play a little LF but think Adam Dunn). And unless the Jays have a plan to move Overbay Wallace is their DH, meaning Lind and Snider are manning the corner outfield spots. Offensively that has the chance to be great…defensively it could be disastrous. I think I would have rather had Taylor giving you you a defensive boost (while still giving you some offensive value) over Wallace and the home runs. Overall though the Blue Jays end up with three top prospects for Halladay and that is what’s important at the end of the day.
The A’s did pretty good in this side trade. Wallace is a top notch hitting prospect but the A’s already have Jake Fox in the majors, and Chris Carter, Daric Barton and Sean Dolittle in the wings as well. First base was a log jam for the A’s so moving Wallace to get a quality OF prospect is well worth it. Taylor’s defense should be very noticeable in the spacious Oakland Coliseum. His defensive ability and speed will be a solid boost to a young and promising Athletics team.
The Mariners for their part did well in this deal. You can’t argue at adding Cliff Lee to your staff. Lee has been among the elite pitchers in the league for the last two seasons. He had a spotty track record before that, but all in all is a top notch pitcher. When it comes to top notch pitchers who have been traded or signed recently Lee is a slight notch below Santana and Sabathia, about even with Halladay (for one year Halladay though Lee is a few years younger). He is probably slightly above Bedard and Haren, and above Burnett and Lackey as well. In Lee the Mariners get another front of the rotation starter to go next to Felix Hernandez. That is a 1-2 punch that is very capable of winning the A.L. West and doing some serious damage come playoff time. Seattle does take a risk in giving up three highly rated prospects for Lee, because he will likely leave via free agency next season. But the risk is worth it if Seattle is challenging for the playoffs come September. As for the prospects Aumont and Ramirez are nice arms, but nothing to really worry about losing. Gillies is the one player who could really come back to haunt them. He seems to be a great CF prospect, albeit 2-3 years away. The real thing I wonder about this deal from Seattle’s perspective is, why not just increase your offer and trade for Halladay and sign him to an extension like the Phillies are doing? Money is an issue sure, but the Mariners have been among the top payroll teams over the last 7-8 years (easily in the same range as the Phillies), and have even more payroll flexibility than Philadelphia. I would have paid the higher prospect price for the assurance of locking up an ace for 4-5 years. Regardless, the Mariners are going for it out West this season, and should look to acquire a few more bats to give them the edge over the Angels.
It took 5 months but the Phillies finally got their man. Roy Halladay was their target all throughout July, before they “settled” on Cliff Lee for their playoff run. On paper it looks like the Phils made out like bandits in this deal. They got Halladay for 2010 at Cliff Lee prices ( after the $6 million from Toronto), and three young prospects to replace the three they sent for Halladay. In reality though I don’t know if the Phillies gained any ground in this deal. Halladay is an elite pitcher and has been better than Lee, but he’s also a little older and will likely cost more (slightly) per season than what Lee will get in his next deal. Overall I don’t mind the prospects they gave up to Toronto for Halladay, they were going to have to pay a premium price for a pitcher of Halladay’s status. What I do mind is the return they got for Lee. Aumont and Ramirez are both quality arms, but also both profile as relievers, and combined aren’t as valuable as Drabek. Drabek is also within one year away from the majors, while Aumont and Ramirez both are a little further off. Gillies could end up being the best player Philadelphia received, but even his best case scenario he is equal to Taylor as a prospect, and is two or three years behind him in terms of being major league ready.
I think the Phillies really blew it here with this deal. If they weren’t going to be able to lock up Lee long term, then I don’t have a problem with trading for Halladay, but why does that mean you need to trade Lee? Why not have Lee, Halladay, and Hamels in the same rotation together? It can’t be money because for this up coming season Lee is only costing $9 million, not bad for your third starter. The Phillies could have easily traded Joe Blanton and his $8 million dollar salary for prospects, and be able to afford Lee and Halladay in the same rotation. While it is true any potential Blanton trade wouldn’t return you near as much in prospects as Lee did, but the value of Lee over Blanton for one season would be worth it.
Winner(s): No team really lost here though I think there is a definite pecking order. I like what the Blue Jays did here, acquiring three upside players, two of which are nearly ML ready (though I still wonder about the Wallace-Taylor swap), next I like what the Athletics did coming late to the party. Wallace was redundant in Oakland where as Taylor fills a need. After Oakland I like Seattle taking a chance on Lee and going for the ring this season. They gave up nice prospects, but no one they can live without. The Phillies got their man, but I really think they outsmarted themselves here, keeping Lee probably would have been the way to go, or getting back at least one player who could help them this season. Instead they got three prospects who will need some work in the minors before they make their way up to Philadelphia.