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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Halladay Deal

Although the major media outlets have been treating it in much the same way they dealt with the three-team Granderson/Jackson /Scherzer trade last week, the Halladay/Lee/"Bonus Babies" deal is actually three completely independent trades:

#1 - RHSP Roy Halladay (33) goes from Toronto to Philadelphia for RHSP Kyle Drabek (22), OF Michael Taylor (24), & C Travis d'Arnaud (21)

#2 - LHSP Cliff Lee (31) goes from Philadelphia to Seattle for RHRP Phillippe Aumont (21), OF Tyson Gillies (21), & RHSP Juan Ramirez (21)

#3 - OF Michael Taylor (24) goes from Toronto to Oakland for 3B Brett Wallace (23)

The Aces:

On the surface it may be unclear why Philadelphia would want to part ways with Cliff Lee after he was so invaluable to their 2009 World Series run. The difference between Lee and Halladay isn't that huge, especially in the couple seasons. Both are still in their early 30s. Both have Cy Youngs. And both should probably be regarded as among the top half dozen starting pitchers in all of baseball.

Here are their basic lines from 2004-2009:

Lee: 87-48 (.644), 4.01 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 2.80 K/BB, 1134 IP, 13 CG, 21.9 WAR

Halladay: 89-45 (.664), 3.14 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 4.17 K/BB, 1205 IP, 35 CG, 33.8 WAR

Clearly Halladay has been better, but the difference is not extraordinary, especially when you take out the one awful year Lee had (5-8, 6.29) in 2007. The major difference between them at this point in their careers is not their current production or how much they are going to be worth for the next two or three seasons, but rather what they've made thusfar in their careers.

Halladay's first full big-league season was 1999, when he was just 22-years-old, and his first big contract was signed prior to the 2004 season, the year after he won the Cy Young. All told, not including the contract extension Philadelphia is negotiating presently, Doc Halladay has already made over $90,000,000 as a professional baseball player.

Cliff Lee, on the other hand, didn't pitch he first full season in the bigs until he was 25 (in 2004). In 2006 he signed an extension which covered his arbitration years plus a club option for 2010. In total, by the time he hits the free agent market next November, Cliff Lee, despite being only two years younger than Halladay, will have made only $20,000,000, less than a quarter of the good doctor's rake. Lee has, in fact, been one of the best deals in all of baseball over the last five years, so he's going to be looking to make up some of the difference next winter, probably by signing a contract for at least five years and $100,000,000.

Having already made his fortune, Halladay seems most concerned with getting himself hooked to a franchise that has a high likelihood of playing playoff baseball consistently through what remains of his prime. The Phillies are, most certainly, that kind of franchise. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Raul Ibanez, and Placido Polanco are all under Philadelphia's control through at least the 2011 season, so the core of the reigning two-time NL Champs will have at least two more shots at the championship. According to the reports so far, Halladay is preparing to sign a deal for three years and around $60,000,000, with potential options or incentives for more. Although it is still, clearly, a ton of money, it gives the Phillies slightly more flexibility down the road than they would've had if they resigned Lee, especially since next winter they will also be negotiating with Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton, and after 2011 there will be pressure to resign Howard and Hamels.

As I discussed in last week's offseason prospectus, the Mariners have as much financial flexibility as any team at the present moment. While the Phillies have over $120,000,000 in payroll obligations for 2010, the Mariners have only about $60,000,000, despite the fact that Mariners have generally spent $10-15 Million more per season than the Phillies in the recent past. So, if they choose, the Mariners can probably afford to make a very competitive offer for Lee either during the course of 2010 or even after he becomes a free agent next winter, and still have money left over to resign Felix Hernandez and go after a middle-of-the-order hitter.

The Young Arms:

Philadelphia will sending its best pitching prospect to Toronto, but will receive two of Seattle's best, although neither is really on the level with Kyle Drabek. At 21 years of age, Drabek pitched 158 minor league innings in '09 and compiled a 12-3 record, a 3.19 ERA, and 150 strikeouts. Although he may not start 2010 in the Blue Jays rotation, he will almost certainly be there by the end of the year. Phillippe Aumont is a year younger than Drabek and has yet to advance past high A. He's pitched well (3.29 ERA, 9.2 K/9 in 107 IP), but clearly not as well as Drabek. More importantly, he's a reliever. And although he is quite possibly good enough to be groomed as Brad Lidge's successor, relievers, even good ones, aren't nearly as valuable as starters. Juan Ramirez, also just 21-years-old, is currently a starter, but probably not for long. Thusfar he hasn't been very good. At high A in '09 he managed just a 5.12 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. There is still, clearly, time for him to mature, but at the moment, he seems destined to be coverted to a bullpen role.

The Outfielders:

From the Phillies perspective, they are essentially exchanging Michael Taylor for Tyson Gillies. But besides being outfielders and patient hitters, these are not very similar players. For starters, Taylor is older and has already proved his ability to hit in the high minors. In '09, between AA and AAA, he hit .320 with 20 HR, 84 RBI, and a 944 OPS. He's got power, clearly, and some speed as well, swiping 21 bases in 26 attempts, but is corner outfielder. In Oakland, especially now that the Athletics have parted ways with Jack Cust, Taylor could be competing for a starting spot this spring.

Gillies, on the other hand, is probably a year or two away, which is fine for the Phillies, who have Victorino, Werth, and Ibanez for at least next season. Gillies looks like a prototypical centerfielder/leadoff hitter. He stole 44 bags at high A in 2009 and got on base at an exceptional .430 clip. He also had 18 outfield assists and 14 triples. However, so far he doesn't look to have Taylor's power stroke. Gillies hit 9 HR in '09 and had a respectable .486 SLG%, but at the same level, Taylor slugged .560 and hit 9 HR in half as many games. Whereas Taylor probably would've been a potential replacement for Werth or Ibanez, the acquisition of Gillies means that it's Victorino who is more likely to walk next winter.

The Rest:

Brett Wallace hasn't had a big-league at-bat yet, but this is the second time this year he's been involved in a high-profile trade. In July he was the key component of the deal that brought Matt Holliday to St. Louis. Wallace is a power-hitting third baseman (20 HR in '09) with decent plate discipline (.384 OBP in minors), but a pretty long left-handed stroke (116 K in '09). The Jays have clearly been coveting him for awhile. They drafted him in 2005, when he was coming out of high school, but he chose instead to go to Arizona State, where he was twice the Pac-10 Player of the Year. As a star player in college who has now had a full season of minor-league experience, Wallace is probably ready to make the jump to the show, which makes the deal a little odd for Toronto, since they just added Edwin Encarnacion this summer. This may mean that Encarnacion will be dealt or that Adam Lind is going to be testing himself in the outfield next year so that Wallace or Encarnacion can get at-bats at DH.

The Jays have accumulated quite a collection of catchers in recent weeks. A few days ago they signed John Buck after he was non-tendered by the Royals. Just prior to that they signed free agent journeymen backstops Ramon Castro (most famous for catching Mark Buerhle's perfect game in his first start with the White Sox) and Raul Chavez. The Jays already had a top catching prospect at AAA in J. P. Arencibia and now they've also added Travis d'Arnaud, who's not likely to break into the bigs before 2012. He's got a little pop (13 HR @ A), but there's not a whole lot else to say about him at this point.

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