The Halladay Aftermath

With apologies to Ken Rosenthal, it seems a pseudo-three-way deal involving both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee makes some sense after all.

It’s not easy to deal with, given how we were teased with delicious dreams of a one-year fling with a rotation involving all three of Lee, Halladay and Cole Hamels, but the reality is that there was no other way this could have happened.

For a while, I let myself think that going totally for broke was the best plan of attack. If the Jays wanted Drabek and Brown, then they’d get Drabek and Brown, and so on. What Ruben Amaro has done, though, is something that some may consider a lateral move for one year, and in the short-term, given what seemed promised a couple weeks ago, that’s understandable. For the long-term, however, this move makes a pretty good deal of sense.

In summary, this is the deal:

PHI get: Roy Halladay and $6M (TOR) and P Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies and P Juan Ramirez (SEA)
TOR get: OF Michael Taylor, P Kyle Drabek and C Travis d’Arnaud (PHI)
SEA get: P Cliff Lee (PHI)

Losing Cliff Lee stings, sure. It was pretty easy to get attached to the guy after only 17 starts, including the playoffs. What he did this year mirrors Cole Hamels’s efforts in 2008. He had some great starts and some shaky ones. He was far from perfect.

Lee wasn't about to give a discount

Lee had made it known that he wanted what the free agent market would bear in terms of an extension. That meant a deal in the five-year, $22-25M per year range. Really, Lee has been an excellent pitcher for two straight years. Before that, he was erratic, he was hurt and he was a pitcher who wasn’t worth that kind of money. Two great years will earn you a raise in free agency, as nearly every deal is a gross overpayment, but it just wasn’t in the cards for the Phils to pay Lee that kind of scratch for that long.

So Amaro knew Halladay was available. He knew Toronto had interest in prospects in the Phils’ system. He also knew that affording both Halladay and Lee would have been impossible, even for one year, unless Toronto ate all of Halladay’s 2010 salary.

There was no chance of that. Toronto not only knew they could get good value for Halladay to set themselves up for 2011, they had to offload some money. They already got the White Sox to take Alex Rios’s deal, but Vernon Wells’s Contract of Perpetual Pain is bogging down the payroll for the next few years with no hope of being moved for a long time. Frankly, it’s a bonus to the Phillies that Toronto is paying the difference between the salaries of Lee and Halladay.

Amaro rolled the dice. He knew that Lee wouldn’t be cheap, but Halladay had made Philadelphia his preferred destination and had said he would sign for less than the market would bear. He’d still be expensive, but for fewer guaranteed years and less annual money than Lee. Would it be worth trading such highly-regarded players for this risk?

Halladay's durability isn't an issue

Well, truth be told, it’s not a risk at all. Halladay has proven himself to be on of the most durable pitchers in baseball, falling victim only to a couple unfortunate, freak injuries that had nothing to do with his mechanics or an overworked arm. He’s logged innings, sure, but with such an easy delivery and a repertoire of pitches well-suited to aging gracefully, he’s far less of a risk to pay big for over three years, and if he pitches well and keeps up his durability, he has a vesting option or two waiting at the end of the tunnel.

The vesting option will likely be based on games started over the life of the guaranteed years, and if it’s anywhere in the neighborhood of 70 starts over those three years, I’ll say right now that it’s all but guaranteed.

We’ve all heard that Drabek was “untouchable” in July, so that makes him a big prospect. We’ve heard how Taylor was the system’s minors player of the year. These guys are good prospects, but Drabek is not and likely never will be Roy Halladay. He may have been ready to debut in 2010, but that doesn’t mean he’d be as good as Halladay for that one- or two-month stretch. Nothing is certain with any player, much less prospects, but I’ll trust Roy Halladay to be a better player over the next three or four years than Kyle Drabek.

For many reports, Juan Ramirez seems to have the same ceiling as Drabek. His numbers aren’t quite comparable, but he’s yet to fully develop. Gillies comes over to replace Taylor, but he’s a step back. Gillies has no power, though his speed and defense have been highly-regarded. Plus, the dude hit .342 in High-A last season. That has to count for something. Aumont remains a question. His days of starting are likely over, but he has a big, power arm that comes with some control issues. He needs some work, but he could turn into a lockdown, end-of-the-pen arm within a year.

So, we lose Lee. We lose a couple of big prospects. We also gain Roy Halladay – more years of him, at that – and prospects to replenish what we sacrificed for Roy.

I like the deal. I like the deal as it fits into the window this core of players has. I like that we’re getting Halladay and prospects out of the deal. I don’t like losing Lee and Drabek, but we keep Domonic Brown, when all is said and done. Don’t forget that Brown is considered a better prospect than even Taylor, who had no place on this team next year despite being more advanced.

The trade works. The trade makes the Phillies better in 2010, 2011 and 2012, knowing that Halladay will be with Hamels for all three of those years, instead of one like Lee. He adds only a piece of extra WAR in 2010, but that his services are guaranteed for two or more years after that makes him more valuable both immediately and down the line. It’s far from a perfect deal, and we didn’t steal this one like we stole Lee from Cleveland, but it’s a trade that, in the end, works well for all three teams, and improves the Phillies for a while to come.

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Filed under Offseason 2009-10

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