Dec 16, 2009

All Aboard the Trade Route

The deals have been finalized by MLB, the contracts have been attended to, and the dust has cleared. What hath the machinations of the wayward GM society wrought?
Received: Roy Halladay (32), Phillippe Aumont(21), Tyson Gillies (20), JC Ramirez (21), $6 million
Relinquished: Cliff Lee (31), Kyle Drabek (22), Travis D'Arnaud (20), Michael Taylor (23)

Blue Jays
Received: Kyle Drabek (22), Travis D'Arnaud (20), Brett Wallace (23)
Relinquished: Roy Halladay (32), $6 million

Received: Cliff Lee
relinquished: Phillippe Aumont(21), Tyson Gillies (20), JC Ramirez (21)

Received: Michael Taylor (23)
Relinquished: Brett Wallace (23)


There were three driving factors to this parallel series of deals: Roy Halladay's wish for playing on a contender, Ruben Amaro's obsession with getting him dating from last summer, and cold, hard cash.

Let's start with the Blue Jays since the intent of the deal broke down simply for them. They needed to move Roy Halladay for something. He's approaching the last year of his contract in 2010 at $15.75 million. This is too much payroll for a team presumably in a "rebuilding/not expected to contend in 2010" phase. Halladay only would waive his no-trade clause (10/5 MLBer) for a contender. They were searching for a couple top tier prospects outside their division, and the Phillies were a suitable match.

Drabek fits because they lacked any elite RHP prospects, D'Arnaud fits because their only catching prospect is in AAA and they only have stopgaps on the major league roster, and Wallace (received from Oakland for Taylor) fits because he becomes the heir apparent to Lyle Overbay at 1B if his glove does not improve at 3B. Though it will be interesting to see if Toronto made the right decision by choosing Wallace over Taylor. In other words, which is more valuable: pure hitting ability or all-around skills? The Athletics made the move because they were already heavy in 1B/DH types of players on their roster and needed a potential-laden corner outfielder.

Essentially, Toronto decided to recieve prospects rather than receive draft picks in compensation when Halladay left as a free agent, a calculated move they really had no choice in making at this juncture.

Now, we reach the linchpin of these proceedings, the Phillies. They wanted to improve their pitching rotation badly and jumped at the chance to not only get an ace, but also to secure him through the 2013 season with a 3 year- $60 million extension with a vesting option for a 4th year. Toronto also threw in $6 million of his $15.75 million salary for 2010, meaning the Phillies are paying $9.75 million for Halladay's services in 2010. They also traded three highly regarded prospects to Toronto to receive him. Sounds normal so far.

Then, financial reality struck for 2010. Amaro seemed to have received a directive from ownership not to exceed a (substantial) $140 M payroll for the 2010 season. Halladay put them over the mark. The most expensive players (Howard, Utley, Rollins, Ibanez, Lidge) are all not going anywhere, and all have more than one year remaining on their contract. The most expensive players on the last years of their contract were Cliff Lee, Jaime Moyer, and (I believe) Joe Blanton. Of course, all are starters and moving one would definitely cut into the rotational depth at the least.

Moyer has no trade value, a coming off of injury 47 year old making $6.5 million in 2010. Blanton has some but is expensive in today's market compared to what he should make in 2010 (the estimate is approximately $7 M). Lee is a bargain at $9 M for 2010, but he will probably want to test the open market after the season.

The Phillies decide to trade Lee....somehow. They would rather gain back something now then draft picks later. I'm not sure myself of the complete rationalization. Seattle jumps on the train and offers three prospects for Lee (contingent upon Halladay signing the aforementioned extension). The Phillies accept, lose Lee's skills and place in the rotation along with ancillary loss of his salary and gain a supposed replenishment of their farm system.

For Seattle, they decided to force open their contender window as the Angels seem to be transitioning. They enhance their fielding and leadoff position with Chone Figgins and now add a legitimate ace to the fold to pair with Felix Hernandez. They then hope that they can sign Lee in the offseason.

Unanswered Questions
Did the Phillies give up too much for Halladay alone? These were 3 of the top 5 prospects in the system.
Why trade Lee now? This is the most baffling decision. Spring training hasn't happened yet. Things happen between now and July.
Was this the best offer for Lee out there? You would think the Phillies would pursue some more major-ready prospects than the 3 they received who have never played past class A.
If the major objective was to shed salary, why not trade Blanton for nothing (similar to that Abreu trade in 2006)?
Did Toronto do right by trading Taylor?
How ecstatic are Seattle fans today?

There are always questions about deals like this. I wish I could predict the future.

For analysis of the prospects, check out Phuture Phillies.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Baffled as well. I like the idea of using the Abreu Gambit to dump Blanton's salary and keep Lee.

And did Ruben actually call the other 28 teams and determine the Mariners were offering him the best package? Couldn't the Yankees have offered more? Perhaps even a Major League ready reliever?

I'm going with the glass is half full here . . .