Wow. I think that was probably everyone’s first reaction when the news broke yesterday. The Halladay rumors have been buzzing for over a year, and it finally came to fruition. This deal, as I mentioned in the comments of the other post, is very complex on a number of levels, and is going to require a lot of different angles to be addressed. So I’m going to attempt to do that, looking at it from both the player and salary standpoint, and why it does or doesn’t make sense. I’m sure everyone already has their mind made up, so you can probably skip over my analysis and just post your “We got Halladay, who cares what we gave up” or “This is the worst trade ever” comments and then sit back and watch the reaction. But if you’re bored, give my take a read and see what you think. Check below the fold for more…
I want to go over the players that are moving one by one in detail, especially the Mariners prospects, and then I’ll get to the other details of the deal. As it has been reported, the deal looks like this, in terms of which players are going to which teams;
To Philadelphia: Roy Halladay, $6M cash, Phillippe Aumont (RHP), Juan Carlos Ramirez (RHP), Tyson Gillies (OF)
To Seattle: Cliff Lee
To Toronto: Kyle Drabek (RHP), Michael Taylor (OF), Travis D’Arnaud (C)
Roy Halladay – I shouldn’t really have to get into the details on Halladay. He’s been one of the 5 best pitchers in baseball over the last 6-7 years, he consistently ranks near the top of the league leaderboard in innings pitched, complete games, fewest walks per 9, and groundballs generated. If you designed a pitcher to pitch in Citizens Bank Park, it would be Halladay, as he’s able to keep the ball on the ground, he doesn’t issue free passes, and when he needs the strikeout, he can get it. Actually, that’s pretty much the ideal pitcher for any park. People have commented on his age, the mileage on his arm, etc etc, but to me those things are very minor. Halladay isn’t a max effort strikeout pitcher. He throws a TON of cutters, something in the range of 40% of all of his pitches, and it allows him to roll up tons of low pitch, stress free innings. He’s been durable for the last 4 seasons after dealing with injuries in 2004 and 2005, and there is nothing at all to indicate he’s any more at risk than any other pitcher in baseball. Maybe its wishcasting, but with his profile, I don’t expect him to decline any time soon, and like Mariano Rivera, who also relies heavily on a cutter, there’s no reason to expect him to be any less effective as he ages into his mid-late 30′s. I’ll address the contract issue later.
Phillppe Aumont, RHP – Aumont was the 11th overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Canada. Leading up to the draft, he was praised for his wonderful arm strength, but was considered extremely raw, with scouts noting that he had inconsistent mechanics and a low arm slot that might need to be altered. The Mariners babied him in 2008, having him throw only 55 innings in Low A, and he also had some elbow soreness, which forced them to shut him down early. Standing 6’7, he’s able to generate a ton of sink on his fastball, also helped by his delivery, as he throws slightly across his body and from a lower arm angle. This delivery could have been one of the causes of his elbow soreness, and apparently the Mariners were worried about his long term role as a starter, as they moved him to the bullpen in 2009, a curious move at the time. Some of the talking heads are trying to spin Aumont as the equivalent of Drabek, but I don’t really buy that at all. Drabek still looks like a front of the rotation starter, Aumont now looks like an 8th inning reliever, maybe a closer, and you know the whole value of starter v reliever, so I won’t go any further. Aumont does have massive arm strength and sometimes shows a good looping curveball, but he’s still a project, and it would benefit the Phillies to not rush him to the majors to pitch in the 7th inning.
Juan Carlos Ramirez, RHP – I actually like Ramirez more than Aumont, mainly based on his also plus arm strength but his more fine tuned delivery. Like Aumont, he gets nice tailing movement on his fastball and couples it with a hard slider and a rudimentary changeup. Ramirez, signed out of Nicaragua, dominated the Midwest League in 2008, striking out 113 and walking only 38 in 124 IP. He was moved up to the Cal League this year, and the results weren’t good. As I detailed before, High Desert is one of the best hitting parks in all of baseball, minors or majors, and it appears to have gotten into his head. His numbers suffered mightily at home, and while his road ERA was much better, his peripherals really weren’t. This is one of those cases where you have to look at it, give him a pass for 1 season, and see what happens in a more sane pitching environment. I didn’t read anything indicating he was hurt, or that his stuff had regressed, so I’m chalking it up to simply a bad year in a bad environment. Before 2009, Keith Law indicated that Ramirez had #2 starter upside, which sounds a lot closer to Kyle Drabek than Aumont does.
Tyson Gillies, OF – Gillies was a draft and follow of the Mariners in the 2006 draft, and so far he’s shown steady progress. His 2007 debut was fairly uneventful, though he did post a .358 OB% in 109 PA’s. In 2008, he posted a .421 OB% across shortseason ball and High A, an aggressive promotion for a 19 year old. The Mariners sent him back to High A to start 2009, and he completed his breakout, posting a .341/.430/.486 line. Like Ramirez, his home games were played at a pure launching pad, but his game isn’t built on power at all, so its not really something to get worked up over. His road line was .332/.411/.422 compared to .330/.431/.511 at home. So really, if you just get the road OPS over a full season, it still illustrates his strengths. He was a feel good story at the Futures Game this year, as they detailed that he is legally deaf, 30% in one ear and 60% in the other, but that it hasn’t impacted his baseball career. His game is built on his speed, as he’s one of the fastest guys in the minors. He was 45 out of 65 this year, which isn’t great percentage-wise, but he has the tools needed, he just needs instruction. He also has a great feel for the strike zone and understands this his speed is his calling card, both on offense and defense. In many ways, he’s a more advanced version of Quintin Berry. He’s not going to hit for power, so his game is tied to his ability to get on base and run as well as providing defensive value. He turned 21 in October, so its likely that he’ll move to AA in 2010, and he’ll be young for the league, so he’s got prospect value for sure.
Now for what the Phillies gave up.
Cliff Lee – Again, this doesn’t require a ton of words. Lee’s career has been well documented. He started off well, then ran into injury/mechanics trouble in 2007, was sent to the minors, missed the playoffs, then won the Cy Young in 2008 before being traded to the Phillies in 2009 and going on to postseason fame. Lee is set to become a free agent after 2010, and is playing out the final year of his contract, which is a $9M option.
Kyle Drabek – The Phillies best pitching prospect, who I’ve written plenty about. You can read lots of info on Drabek here if you’re not a regular to this site or you’re a Blue Jays fan who has found this place for the first time. I had him as the #2 prospect in our system, and he’s probably going to end up in the Top 15-20 in all of the minors on most prospect lists this winter.
Michael Taylor – Taylor is the more advanced of the Phillies elite outfield prospects (over Domonic Brown), and was knocking on the big league door. You can read about Taylor here. Taylor has been a fascinating case study over the last few seasons. He was terrible in his half season debut, then took off in 2008. Still, most scouts were doubting him after his 2008 breakout and questioning whether it was real, or whether he was just dominating younger competition. He put up a ridiculously good 2009 at AA/AAA, yet still it seems that people are doubting him, and it seems like his biggest doubters are in the Phillies front office, as they seemed to have no trouble trading him the first chance they got. And in a funny twist, it appears the Blue Jays are going to immediately trade him to Oakland for 3B prospect Brett Wallace.
Travis D’Arnaud – D’Arnaud became the Phillies top catching prospect when Lou Marson was dealt in the Cliff Lee deal, if he wasn’t already the top catching prospect at the time. For more on him, you can check here. He posted a solid full season debut in 2009 at Lakewood, and the scouting reports back up the numbers. Tons of doubles, some of which will likely turn into home runs, good defense, good receiving skills overall, and would have likely been the Phillies starting catcher in 3 years. The Blue Jays apparently really wanted him in the 2007 draft, but the Phillies picked him one spot ahead of Toronto. Looks like they got their man now.
Ok, so there are the players involved, if that is truly it. Now, let’s get to some specifics. I’m going to use bullet points to make it easier to read
* This deal is predicated as much on money as it is talent. Halladay is one of the 5 best pitchers in baseball, which makes Lee one of the 15 best pitchers in baseball. Both were entering the final year of their contracts and set for free agency in 2010. Halladay is about 15 months older than Lee, but has been in the majors longer and has a much deeper track record of success. Halladay was set to make $15.75M in 2010, while Lee was set to make $9M in 2010. After talking to Lee’s agent at the Winter Meetings, the Phillies came to the conclusion that he could not be retained long term. Lee said how he liked Philadelphia, but he wanted to test the free agent market and receive the maximum amount of money he could, whether that be from the Phillies, the Yankees, or whoever. You can’t begrudge him that, because unlike Halladay, he’s never received a huge payday, and at 31 going on 32, this window is probably going to be his one big paycheck. He stressed it wasn’t personal, it was business. Fair enough.
* The Phillies operate under a budget. I know most people have already formulated the “they are so cheap!” argument and they’re going to run with it, no matter what the facts say. The facts say that the Phillies opening day payroll is going to be right around $140M. Which will put them in the top 5-6 teams in all of baseball. The Phillies have one of the best offenses in the league, and they’re paying well for it to guys like Utley, Howard, and Ibanez. Rollins, Werth, and soon Victorino, will all be paid nice sums of money. Its easy to say that Cliff Lee only makes $9M in 2010, and that the Phillies could have afforded it for one year. I made that argument elsewhere. But it simply creates the “well, we did it last year, why not this year” problem. And as much as we don’t want to believe it, the Phillies are a business, and a business is trying to make money. There are limits. The Phillies were at/over their limit.
* This trade was made in the way it was because the Phillies wanted to retain one of Lee or Halladay after 2010, and they knew they couldn’t retain Lee for anything they were comfortable with. Lee wasn’t going to take a 3 year deal with options because he had no attachment to the Phillies. Halladay, on the other hand, has a home right near the Phillies spring training complex, and he expressed his desire to play for the Phillies this summer. He wanted to be here, and the Phillies wanted him. However, if he were to play out 2010 on another team, the Phillies would have faced a bidding war with that team, plus other big spending teams like the Red Sox and Yankees, if he didn’t land on one of those teams already, and while the Phillies are in the top 5 in payroll, they can’t outspend Boston or New York. So by acquiring Halladay now, they were able to get an extension worked out.
* That extension is the best bargain in the deal for the Phillies. The Phillies, as its been noted before, are very against offering more than 3 years guaranteed to pitchers. They gave Cole Hamels three years right as he was coming off a dominant postseason and presumably entering the prime of his career. They understand the risk of long term deals, and you can browse through the 5 and 6 year contracts given to pitchers and probably count on 2 hands the number of deals that have been beneficial for the team that gave them. Pitchers get hurt, and outside of the very elite, they are subject to lots of luck/things out of their control in any given season. Again look no further than Hamels, who posted peripherals very similar to his 2008 numbers in 2009, yet saw his ERA rise dramatically, and appear to be not the same pitcher. No one really expected that. Anyway, the Halladay extension, a 3 years and 60M, will pay him less than he’d have received per year on the open market, and it keeps the deal under the 5 or 6 guaranteed years that Cliff Lee is going to want. It also contains vesting options, which the Phillies will have no problem exercising if Halladay is healthy. This represents a big win for the Phillies.
* However, thats not the whole story. One of the allures of adding Halladay was keeping Lee, and creating a three headed juggernaut in Halladay, Lee and Hamels. Of course we know this isn’t happening now. Halladay does represent an upgrade over Lee. It might not be a huge upgrade, like going from Cliff Lee to Kyle Kendrick, but its still an upgrade, and that’s not meant as a slight to Lee, we’re just talking about arguably the best pitcher in baseball over the last 5 years. Now the rotation is probably going to be Halladay – Hamels – Blanton – Happ – Moyer. That doesn’t look all that promising, to be perfectly honest. A good rotation, and two great pitchers at the top, but I think we’re going to have serious problems at 4 and 5. I see very little chance in Happ repeating his 2009. His peripherals were not good, and he was lucky on balls in play, especially with runners on base. He won’t be able to sustain an 80% strand right going forward unless he’s able to miss more bats. Still, if the Phillies make the playoffs, Halladay is a huge trump card being able to pitch on short rest.
* So back to the payroll. The Phillies are getting a reported $6M in this deal from Toronto. This covers the difference between Halladay ($15.75) and Lee ($9) in 2010. So basically they are a wash in terms of money for the 2010 season, then Halladay’s extension kicks in.
* Now the prospects. The Phillies are giving up a lot more than they are receiving in terms of prospects. I’m not a fan of Aumont, as I detailed above. I presume the Phillies will keep him in the bullpen and might even rush him to the majors in 2010, which seems like a really risky/shortsighted move. Ramirez is definitely an intriguing prospect. He’s been young for his league, he has a clean arm action/delivery, and a very good fastball. His slider is behind Drabek’s curveball, but I think the difference between those two isn’t all that huge. Ramirez has more question marks, but Drabek also has a major arm surgery. Gillies is an interesting guy. To be honest, I didn’t really see anything interesting in him when I did my preliminary research, but the more I look at the numbers and the more scouting reports I read, the more optimistic I am. I still think hes less valuable than Taylor, maybe by a wide margin, but the margin between Taylor and Gillies isn’t as wide as the margin between Drabek and Aumont. Losing D’Arnaud stings. The Phillies now basically only have 1 catching prospect in the minors, and that is Sebastian Valle. Who hasn’t succeeded at A ball yet. That’s a huge concern. Ruiz is great and all, but he turns 31 in January, and the Phillies have no real succession plan now.
* This deal has almost as many unknowns and things that don’t really make sense
A. Why did the Phillies trade Lee to Seattle for the package they did? Was there not more available for Lee from other teams? Originally, reports indicated that Seattle had guys that the Blue Jays wanted, so the Phillies would make a deal with Seattle, get prospects to send to the Blue Jays, and maybe only send one of Taylor, Brown or Drabek. Instead we dealt with Seattle and kept the prospects. Is that the best offer we could have gotten for Lee? Presumably Amaro made phone calls on this, but I just find it hard to believe.
B. If the Phillies were willing to trade Drabek and Taylor for 1 year of Halladay plus the right to negotiate with him, why weren’t they willing to trade Drabek, Taylor, Happ and Gose for him last July, get 1.5 years out of him, have the right to negotiate with him long term, and then keep Carrasco, Knapp, Donald and Marson?
C. Is Ruben Amaro terrified of the arbitration process? Last winter he appeared confused on the Jamie Moyer situation. Moyer, 46 at the time, didn’t appear to have any other team willing to give him a 2 year deal. Had the Phillies offered him arbitration, they’d have been locked in to giving him a 1 year deal worth anywhere between 6 and 10M. If a team wanted to give him 2 years and he wanted to accept, the Phillies would have received draft picks. Instead, the Phillies gave him a 2 year deal, and the second year of that deal is now valued around $8M. Think that $8M could have come in handy now? That $8M basically meant we had to sell our prospects for $6M in cash from Toronto and dump Cliff Lee for 3 prospects from Seattle. He also decided not to offer arbitration this year to Chan Ho Park. Park could have netted an offer from another team to start, and if he did choose that route, the Phillies would have received a pick. Instead, he let him go for nothing. Next winter, with Jayson Werth staring down the barrel of free agency, will Amaro choose to not offer arbitration for fear of having to pay him $13M for 1 year? When you trade away huge chunks of prospects for major league help, you need to offset those losses in the draft. The Phillies didn’t have a first round pick this year, and they didn’t flex their muscle to sign unsignable players. Grabbing Brody Colvin was nice, but they let Andrew Susac (a catcher) and Jake Stewart (a 5 tool outfielder) go to college. Those two guys would certainly have lessened the blow to the system. Will he realize this and be aggressive in the 2010 draft? I sure hope so.
* People are going to write that the deal ultimately was;
Carrasco + Knapp + Donald + Marson + Drabek + Taylor + D’Arnaud for 3 months of Cliff Lee + Ben Francisco + 4 years of Roy Halladay + Aumont + Ramirez + Gillies.
And while that is technically true, I think you have to treat this as 3 separate deals. The Cliff Lee deal was wildly celebrated, both here and all throughout Phillies fandom. Everyone thought that the deal favored the Phillies, with many calling it a steal. And looking back, it was. You can’t say the Phillies made the World Series because of Cliff Lee. You also can’t say they wouldn’t have made it without him, because baseball doesn’t work like that. But he was obviously a huge part of getting there, and once they got to the playoffs, Lee was magnificent. The deal actually ended up being
Carrasco + Knapp + Donald + Marson for 3 months of Cliff Lee + Ben Francisco + Aumont + Ramirez + Gilles.
When you look at that, the Phillies still probably come out on top. For as many faults as I believe he has, Aumont has more value than Carrasco right now. Ramirez and Knapp have similar value. Knapp has better raw stuff, but Ramirez has better mechanics/no arm surgeries. Gillies is probably more valuable than Marson and Donald right now, mainly because he’s younger and he projects to be an average regular, possibly more. Marson might still be a starting catcher in the big leagues, but he looks like a tweener right now, and Donald is a utility guy more than likely. The 3 months of Cliff Lee obviously helped the Phillies win a pennant. So there’s little room to complain. Also, the Phillies will have Francisco on relatively cheap terms for the next 4 seasons. Then you have
Drabek + Taylor + D’Arnaud for Halladay
Obviously this is the tough one to swallow. Everyone who visits here regularly understands how valuable Drabek and Taylor are, but this type of thing requires perspective. Drabek looks like a solid #2 starter, maybe even a #1 starter, and he’s probably only a year away from being ready to jump into a big league rotation. Taylor is close to MLB ready, and if Werth left in 2010, Taylor seemed like an easy replacement. But neither guy figured to be in the Phillies plans in 2010. While Drabek’s value as a prospect could still increase, especially if he dominated at AAA in 2010, Taylor’s value would begin to atrophy if he was stuck in AAA because the Phillies didn’t have room for him. It might not have happened in 2010, but if they didn’t have a spot for him in 2011, then he’d start to lose value, especially since he turns 24 in a few days. D’Arnaud, while our best catching prospect, just finished his first full season. He had a ways to go, and he wasn’t a slam dunk. Roy Halladay is a slam dunk.
And I already know what the responses will be. “Why didn’t they just wait to sign Halladay next winter, and we could have kept our prospects”…again, this is charting into the unknown. You have no idea if the Phillies could have gotten Halladay next winter. And if they couldn’t, they’d have been left without a true #1 starter, as they wouldn’t have gotten Lee or Josh Beckett (also potentially a FA) for 3 years. So the Phillies paid a price, a hefty price, to assure themselves of having at least 1 ace beyond 2010. If Drabek and Taylor go on to have all star seasons after all star seasons, the trade will always sting. But if the Phillies get back to the World Series in 2010, with Halladay winning 4 or 5 games and hoisting the trophy, all will be forgiven.
* Now we have to look forward and figure out where this leaves the organization. The current core of the big league club is in its prime and is very expensive. After 2010, they potentially lose Jayson Werth. Rollins will have his option exercised, and everyone else returns. After 2011, Ibanez, Howard and Victorino are free agents, and Hamels will need to be addressed. In fact, after that 2011 season is where things are going to get really complicated. Most of the team (sans Halladay, Lidge and Utley) will be free agents. The Phillies will need to fill a ton of roster spots, and they just got done trading most of their upper level talent in the minors. Domonic Brown is still here, and now Aumont, Gillies and Ramirez, but that’s really it. The cast of guys in shortseason ball and A ball in 2009 are going to be huge after 2011. The Phillies better have made the proper analysis of their own players here and have confidence that Gose, Cosart, May, Valle and others will be ready.
* I’m writing the top 30 prospects feature of a Phillies magazine that will come out this winter, and with this trade I’m going to have to do a bit of re-organizing. I had Drabek ranked #2, Taylor #3, and D’Arnaud #4, with Domonic Brown #1 and Trevor May #5. Looking at my list, and including the guys from Seattle, I’d say our Top 10 looks something like this
Not horrible at all, but you can tell we’ve lost a ton of talent. I might be underselling Aumont in a big way, but I just don’t really like the stuff I’ve read and seen. Obviously there is upside, but I see a lot of risks and red flags, and I’m just not a fan.
Really, this whole thing kind of feels “meh”. We got Halladay, one of the best pitchers in baseball, and we have him for at least 4 years, possibly 6. Theres a ton of value there. But we also really didn’t improve our chances in 2010 by a substantial amount. The team still has holes, there are still issues, and the Braves look like a really tough team on paper. Amaro didn’t completely rape the system, because he got back 3 interesting prospects, but we lost 2 of our 3 best prospects, and none of the guys we got back have the same combination of upside, probability, and proximity to the big leagues. The Phillies assured themselves of having an ace beyond 2010 to go with Hamels, but spots 3, 4 and 5 are still big question marks.
You’re going to read lots of articles where guys put a value on draft picks and the prospects traded. Its something to consider, but its a really fluid situation. Michael Taylor might be worth, say, $7M over the next 7 years, or he might be worth $70M, or he might be worth $2M. It depends on how the Blue Jays handle his service time, and how well he produces in the majors. Same with Drabek and D’Arnaud. If these guys become stars, then they are worth a lot more. The same goes for the prospects coming to the Phillies from Seattle. If Ramirez turns into a star and has 6 productive big league seasons in the majors, he’s going to be worth $50M, at least, to the Phillies. Its impossible to call a winner and a loser in this deal right now, because the prospects represent the great unknown. So don’t get too caught up in that. You recognize the risk of trading elite prospects and those guys becoming stars. But you also acknowledge that it is, in fact, a risk.
If we’ve learned one thing, its that Ruben Amaro locks into a guy and does whatever he needs to do to get him. In this case, we are fortunate that he locked onto one of the best pitchers in baseball. He paid a hefty price, but he got the guy he wanted. Its going to be interesting to see how it plays out.