Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Halladay - Lee Trade: The Breakdown

With Roy Halladay and the Phillies reportedly coming to an agreement on a contract extension, it looks like this deal is all but done. Honestly, there is a ton to digest in this trade and the last 24+ hours have been a whirlwind of rumors and names of prospects being thrown around. Now that we finally have a concrete idea of who is going where, here is the breakdown:

RHP Roy Halladay (from Toronto)
*RHP Phillippe Aumont (from Seattle)
*OF Tyson Gillies (from Seattle)
*RHP Juan Ramirez (from Seattle)
$6 million cash (from Toronto)

LHP Cliff Lee (from Philadelphia)

*C Travis d'Arnaud (from Philadelphia)
*RHP Kyle Drabek (from Philadelphia)
*1B/3B Brett Wallace (from Oakland)

*OF Michael Taylor (from Philadelphia via Toronto)

*denotes prospect

That's a huge friggin' deal. Now, technically, it's not one mega-trade as much as two seperate huge-trades. However, these trades will be forever linked due to the magnitude of the players changing hands.

I'm not going to break down all the prospects in this deal as I've certainly never seen any of the them play and I'm not a scout. While I read a lot on the Phillies prospects (and understand their value) I can't offer much in the way of what were getting from the Mariners (except from what I've read about them). So, you can go here or here for that analysis.

Now onto my thoughts.

Basically, here is the Phillies thinking (at least in my mind): They operate on a budget of about $140 million. Cliff Lee, whom they love, was going to become a free agent after next season. It appears that Lee, who has never had a large pay day, is looking for a fair market value contract for a #1 starter which means at least a commitment of $100 million over 5 years (and likely more than that). Now, early reports had the Phillies concerned about their ability to sign him long-term to a "team friendly" contract, concerns which are valid (even with today's report that Lee wanted to stay in Philly). That put them in a position of losing Lee after 2010 and not have a #1 starter (we'll get to the Cole Hamels thing later) and that was something that worried them. By sending prospects to Toronto for Halladay and then dealing Lee to the Mariners they not only wrap-up an ace at below market value for 4+ years but they replenish a little of what they lost to get Halladay in the way of prospects. All while staying at the $140 million budget (which is a bigger obstacle than fans what to realize).

Makes sense? No? Ok, I'll break this down through a quick Q&A...

Why wouldn't the Phillies just take the money they used to sign Halladay and use it to sign Lee, while keeping their prospects?

Good question. Here's why: The Phillies (as a holdover philosophy from the Pat Gillick era) don't like to go longer than three years on pitcher contracts. It would have taken at least a five-year deal to sign Lee, something they don't have to do with Halladay (although vesting options could take it that far). To the Phillies this deal was about cost certainty, they KNEW they could sign Halladay long term to the contract THEY wanted. Lee wasn't going to come with that certainty. So, to get Halladay AND the certainty, they had to trade prospects for him.

Is seems like the prospects we gave up are better than what we got back, right?

In short, from what I've read, yes. But they are prospects so who knows. I do know no one will be happy about losing Kyle Drabek, who most people saw as a future linchpin of the Phillies rotation. Drabek probably would have joined the rotation full-time in 2011 and scouts had him as a likely #2 type guy. However, think about it this way: While a top 2 of Halladay/Hamels or Lee/Hamels seems pretty even in 2010, a top 2 of Halladay/Hamels in 2011 and 2012 trumps whatever they were going to put out there, including Drabek. Now if Drabek develops into a Halladay-type dominant pitcher, everything changes, but the odds of that are probably 100 to 1. Honestly, prospects are all unknowns for the most part and everyone overrates their own guys and undervalues other teams. This will likely take years to play out before an answer can be given.

Did the Phillies really HAVE to trade Lee?

Yes, they did. Everything Ruben Amaro Jr. has said points to them having a strict budget of $140 million. They won't go over that, even for an opportunity to have Halladay and Lee for one year. But remember that trading Lee was just as much about get prospects as it was about saving money. They didn't want to deplete their system so much without at least putting something back. The Lee trade enabled them to do so, while saving the money they needed to. Now, whether or not they got enough for Lee remains to be seen...

Well then, did they get enough for Lee?

We won't know for years, but right not it doesn't appear they did. Aumont profiles as an 8th-inning/closer type, Ramirez as a #3 starter and Gillies as a speedy, no-power, good glove CF. If two of the three hit their potential, yes this was more than enough for one-year of Cliff Lee. But that remains to be seen. One would like to have seen them shop Lee around a little more, but who knows who Amaro Jr. talked to. I'll assume he did his due diligence on this. But I'm not thrilled with the prospects we're getting.

Should fans be happy about this trade? Halladay is awesome right?

Yes, you can be happy and sad at the same time. It's a shame that the Phillies had to let Lee go and I really wanted to see Drabek in a Phillies uniform. But I talked to a number of Blue Jays fans on message boards today and they all sung the praises of Roy "Doc" Halladay. In Halladay we get arguably the best pitcher in baseball and at worst top 3. He throws complete games like it's his job and has a history of pitching on three days rest (something that will come in handy in the playoffs). If he's healthy and gets good run support he's a mortal lock for 20+ wins and an ERA under 3.00. The Phillies got the best player in this deal, bar none. So, if for nothing else, be happy about that.

Are you happy with this trade?

Um, kinda. Halladay is a great pitcher and they get him for 4+ years over one more year of Lee. But I'm pretty confident that Michael Taylor and Kyle Drabek will be good players, so it hurts to lose them. I'm still on the fence with this deal and likely will be for some time to come. But I am pumped to watch Roy Halladay in a Phillies uniform, so at least I have that going for me, which is nice.

Ultimately, Ruben Amaro Jr. has tied the Phillies future success to Roy Halladay. And, honestly, their probably isn't a better pitcher to tie your future to. Here's to hoping it all works out.

And, if not, blame Canada.

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