A Halladay Extravaganza

Wow, how can baseball–in December, no less–cause someone to experience, at least a little, of just about all emotions under the sun?  In the past 48 hours, because of this trade, I have felt joy, sadness, bitterness, exuberance, fear, arrogance, anger, adoration,, entitlement, jubilation, pride, contentment, and contempt.  Okay, maybe that was all overstated, but this is a crazy trade, is it not?  The ultimate emotion, though for me, is excitement.  I have wanted Halladay since the Larry Bowa days (I even said to Doogan sometime around 2003 or so that we should just “back up the truck to Toronto and offer their our entire farm for that Halladay guy.”), and now we have him.  Awesome!  But, there is so much more to this deal.  And, there is no chance of me encapsulating it in a coherent article here, so I had to break it down into sporadic chapters that attempt to cover the whole multitude of issues with this deal.  Good luck trying to follow this.  I can’t even get my thoughts together, let alone put them into words, so this might be jibberish, and if so, I guess I’m sorry; I don’t know.  I’m just lost in all of this…

Roy Halladay
Roy Halladay.  ROY HALLADAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yes, I have openly coveted Roy Halladay for most of my adult life.  He wasn’t on the market, and the Phillies clearly weren’t a “prime destination,” so it seemed sort of like the Sixers chasing Lebron James, but I wanted him.  And, now we have him.  In all of this, let us not lose sight of that fact.  The guy is, arguably, the best pitcher on the planet (at least in the top 3), and now he’s a Phillie.  People throw around the term “innings eater” in baseball, like they throw around “game manager” in football.  It’s sort of a compliment, but not really.  Well, Halladay is the ultimate “innings eater,” and that is meant with the highest regard because not only does he “eat innings,” but he gets people out, too.  Let’s take a quick look at the stats of Roy Halladay (keep in mind not only did he face the DH every night, but 38 times every year, his team faced the Yankees or Red Sox).  Let us start in 2002, leaving out 2004, where he suffered a non-thowing injury and missed some time (he also suffered a non-throwing injury in 2005, which is why those numbers a little down):

  • Innings pitched:  239, 266, 142, 220, 225, 246, 239
  • Complete Games:  2, 9, 5, 4, 7, 9, 9 (led the league 5 times)
  • Wins:  19, 22, 12, 16, 16, 20, 17
  • ERA:  2.93, 3.25, 2.41, 3.19, 3.71, 2.78, 2.79
  • K:  168, 204, 108, 132, 139, 206, 208
  • WHIP:  1.19, 1.07, 0.96, 1.10, 1.24, 1.05, 1.12
  • Averages over those 7 seasons:  18-7, 3.04 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 166 K, 225 IP, 7 CG
  • Awards:  6 All-Star appearances, 5 times in the Top 5 of Cy Young voting

This is who the Phillies acquired today.  This is who will be pitching in red pinstripes through, at the very least, 2013.  I would like to present all sides of each point here, but I cannot find a downside to adding Roy Halladay, especially because he is so excited to play for the Phillies that he is giving them a pretty substantial discount from what he could command on the open market AND the Blue Jays are paying 40% of his salary this year.  Plus, the Phillies didn’t break their “organizational philosophy” of never giving a pitcher more than 3 years, guaranteed.  I won’t give you my opinion of steadfast “philosophies” right here, but let’s just say that it’s a good thing that it didn’t hold up the deal.  And, yes, I know that I wrote a Tell Me I’m Crazy about the fact that the Phillies should not trade for Halladay, but that was under the impression that they could have gotten an extension done with Lee, which looks like it would have been a long-shot, so, yes, I love the addition of Halladay. 

Cliff Lee
This is a big loss, no doubt.  Cliff Lee is a 31-year old left-handed pitcher who won the AL Cy Young two years ago and just gave the Phillies one of the best postseasons in baseball history.  He is also a very hard-working, but laid-back guy whose makeup is just about perfect for the city of Philadelphia.  If the Phillies kept him AND Halladay, Lee would have to be considered the annual Don Drysdale award winner for the best #2 starter in baseball.  The downside to Cliff Lee, were he to stay, is that he is looking for BIG BUCKS after this season.  He was not going to sign an extension for less than market-value (CC dollars), no matter what the agent may say.  And, the Phillies were not going to give him market value if their alternative was a better pitcher (Halladay) for less than market value.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that Lee was an incredible bargain this year at $9 million.

Halladay vs. Lee
So, if the trade were straight-up Halladay for Lee, which side wins?  Well, I have already given my opinion that Halladay is the better pitcher, with a better contract, so it’s easy to say Halladay.  But, I will go even further.  Yes, Lee’s 2008 was absolutely remarkable.  Yes, Lee’s 2009 postseason was historic.  Yes, Cliff Lee is probably among the 10-15 best pitchers in baseball.  But, let us not forget that we are only two seasons removed from the Indians sending him to AAA because he couldn’t get anyone out.  No, I am not a Cliff Lee-hater–far from it, as you will see in the rest of this post–but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Lee is on the same level (or even all that close) as Roy Halladay.  Halladay has proven he is a top 3 pitcher for almost a decade now.  And, he’s only 32, built like a horse, and has never had any major arm problems.  There is no reason not to expect Cy Young contention from him for the length of his contract.  There are doubts about that from Lee.  But, let’s go even further from the numbers and look at the fit for the Phillies.  With the Phils decision to keep Happ and move Drabek, you can pretty much pencil in a Halladay-Hamels-Happ top three for the foreseeable future.  With Hamels and Happ both being left-handed, it is very important to have a right-hander to balance that (another point for Halladay).  Also, Halladay is one of the best ground-ball pitchers in the game, with a very heavy sinkerball.  Cliff Lee is a flyball pitcher.  Now, Lee has been exceptional in the past couple of years at not allowing the long ball, but he ages, the home runs may really start to creep in on him.  And, though The Bank is not NEARLY the bandbox that the media would have you believe (the numbers are skewed because the Phillies offense plays 81 games there), it is still a hitter’s park that lends itself much better to groundball pitchers, like Halladay, than it does to flyball pitchers, like Lee.  Again, this is not an argument against keeping Lee, this is just saying that if you gave me the choice between the two guys, there is NO DOUBT that Roy Halladay is a MUCH BETTER fit for the Phillies than Cliff Lee.  Ps…I think it’s a bit ironic that Halladay took #34–the number most recently worn by one, Cliff Lee.

Not a Three- (or Four-) Way Deal
When it first came out about this deal, it made a ton of sense to me that it would be a three-team deal with Seattle and Toronto.  I had imagined that Amaro was standing firm on not giving the premier package that the Jays required and that the Jays were standing firm on their demands.  So, to get it done, the Phils would have to find another organization that was willing to give up a premier package of prospects.  And, it would have to be a team that wouldn’t just say “since we’re giving up the prospects, why don’t we just take Halladay?”  Seattle was the PERFECT team for this kind of scenario, so when I heard about it, I was pumped.  I thought Seattle (with a good amount of nice prospects) was going to give Toronto a package of prospects in exchange for the Phillies Cliff Lee and Toronto would then ship Halladay to the Phils.  This made sense because Seattle couldn’t ask for Halladay because Halladay would use his no-trade in a deal with Seattle–he doesn’t want to play there.  And, Seattle (having missed out on John Lackey) really wanted a front-line starter, regardless of cost, so they would want Lee (a pretty nice compensation prize).  The Phils would get Halladay, extend him, and keep Drabek, Brown, and maybe even Taylor and Happ.  It made sense.  THEN…I find out that Toronto is not receiving anything from Seattle and all the Mariners prospects are coming here.  So, it’s two COMPLETELY SEPARATE deals.  The Phillies could make the decision (at least from a baseball standpoint) to or not to make either deal.  Obviously, they had decided that Halladay was worth Drabek, Taylor, and D’Arnaud, so they did that.  Then, they made an INDEPENDENT decision that they wanted to restock their farm system by moving Lee.  Though the deals are obviously linked, they do not have to be.

Halladay:  Why Now?
This is an interesting question because the guy has made it blatantly obvious that he really, REALLY wants to play in Philly and he is presumably going to be a free agent in 11 months, where any team can sign him at no cost (prospect-wise).  And, it’s an interesting thought that the Phils could have just rode Cliff Lee this year, let him walk for CC money (too much, if you ask me) then used the money that they have allocated to go sign Halladay, or any other top-line starter that is a free agent next winter.  They would still have Drabek and Taylor, and they might have Halladay anyway.  Worst-case scenario, they have the best free agent starter next year plus Drabek and Taylor.  However, I think they made the absolute right move.  When you can get a guy like Halladay, and you know that he’s going to sign an extension–pretty much at YOUR terms, not his–you absolutely MUST do that.  And, you must do quickly because those opportunities do not come along very often.  Suppose the Phils went the route I described above.  Halladay would probably be traded anyway–probably to the Yankees or Red Sox–and chances are that he would sign long-term with one of them (who both train with a couple miles of his offseason home, which was one of the big reasons he wanted to come to the Phils).  So, Halladay is now off the market.  So, now the Phils are stuck with either trying to negotiate with Cliff Lee (with him having all the leverage) or rolling the dice on whomever is out there on the market–and probably having to overpay for whoever it is.  I think they made the right move, and they did it at the right time.

Lee:  Why Now?
This one is probably less frequently asked, but maybe more of an important question to think about.  Why did they do this for Lee now.  And, I’m not even talking about before next year, I’m just talking NOW.  So, let us work under the premise that the Phils management (whoever that may be) has decided that they cannot justify–from a budgetary standpoint, a farm system standpoint, or both–keeping both Halladay and Lee.  Okay, fine.  But, you don’t have to pay any salaries until Spring Training.  And, prospects don’t reap rewards for years down the line.  Why did the Phils have to act so quickly on Cliff Lee?  Why didn’t they do the blockbuster for Halladay, scare the crap out of the National League for a month, thinking that they were going to have this RIDICULOUS starting rotation, all the while quietly making it known that Cliff Lee was available.  You don’t think that the Seattle offer that they got would have still been on the table?  And, you don’t think that you couldn’t drum up some interest in a guy who has probably never been more valuable, after his postseason last year?  So, even if it ended up being the Mariners, maybe Lee “on the market” could have had them throw in their stud SS prospect (Carlos Triunifel, who would have been nice with an aging Rollins and NO ONE in the minors).  Either way, I don’t think there is really a very good answer to why now on the Lee end of it.  And, I’m not saying that they could have done better had they waited, but isn’t it almost always better to put a guy like that “out there” (to the GMs, not the media, mind you)?

What Could Have Been
Now, for the question that seemingly everyone is asking these days, from respected national baseball analysts to Joe Caller on WIP.  How could the Phillies turn their backs on a rotation featuring Halladay AND Lee?  Personally, I couldn’t have turned my back on that, if I were the GM.  Maybe that’s one of the litany of reasons why I am not a GM, but honestly, how can that not be so enticing?  Yes, GMs are paid to make moves for the future of the organization, not to make the fans happy.  And, no, neither I nor probably anyone reading this really knows (a) how good any of these prospects are (be it Drabek, Brown, Aumont, or whomever) or (b) just what went also into this decision (e.g. money, personal relationships, other influences, etc.), but you gotta think that a true baseball man like Ruben Amaro had to be drooling as much (or more) than we are right now at the thought of throwing Halladay, Lee, or Hamels in 60% of the games in 2010.  Like I said, knowing what I know now (which is not NEARLY enough to make a decision of that magnitude), I would have kept them both.

I think the fact that these deals are basically budget-neutral had a lot of impact on these decisions.  Somehow, Amaro got the Jays to throw in $6 million for Halladay this year, which means that the Phillies are only paying $750,000 in additional Major League salaries with the addition of Halladay and the subtraction of Lee.  BUT…and there is a big but here that makes me actually believe that money did NOT play the biggest role in this whole process (at least in the short-term).  There are claims that the Phils are concerned about the 2010 payroll exceeding the allotted $140 million (not to digress, but who are we to complain about our team “capping” their payroll at ONE-HUNDRED AND FORTY MILLION?).  And, they were worried about Cliff Lee walking away at the end of the season.  But, you know who else is probably going to walk away at the end of the season?  Joe Blanton.  And, do you know how much Heavy B is probably going to make this year?  Somewhere in the neighborhood of $7-8 million.  Yes, only $1-2 million more than CLIFF LEE.  And, they are both leaving at the end of the year.  So…if it was really about this year’s payroll, they could have unloaded Blanton, kept Cliff Lee and had a MONSTROUS rotation.  Yes, I am a big Joe Blanton defender, and probably always will be, but I don’t even think Joe Blanton’s mom would defend the fact that Cliff Lee isn’t more than $2 million better than her darling Joey.  So, I don’t think it was about money.  And, if you still do, then…

Blame Moyer
The $8.5 million that the Phillies are going to pay the 47-year old Jamie Moyer is just about what it would cost to keep Cliff Lee.  So, if you still think it’s about money, don’t blame David Montgomery & Co., who are spending $140 million, or Ruben Amaro, who is working under this more-than-generous budget, but blame post-World Series sentiment and signing the local kid (who wanted “market value”), who isn’t really much of a kid anymore.

This was wanted Ruben wanted.  This is what Ruben determined he “must” do to be a responsible GM.  He said as much in his press conference today when he said that if they hadn’t done the Cliff Lee deal, they would have given up 7 of their top 10 prospects without adding any and “that is just not how you build a winning team in this game.”  So, Ruben decided that it was important to “replenish” his stocked farm system and decided that the only way to do that was to trade Mr. Lee.

These Prospects Better Be Good
That leads us to this…THESE PROSPECTS BETTER BE GOOD.  Yes, the Phillies are probably still the favorites to win a third consecutive NL pennant, but there is absolutely no doubt that they would have been the prohibitive favorite, not only to win the pennant but probably the World Series, if they hadn’t done the Lee deal.  So…these prospects better be good.

The New Kids vs. the Old Kids
So, let’s look at whether this was “prospect-neutral.”  Yes, they gave up three and got three.  Yes, all six are considered future Major Leaguers (or at least have that potential).  There is no arguing that the guys the Phils gave up are closer to the bigs, which means they are a little “safer.”  But, I don’t think it’s totally clear that the guys the Phils gave up are demonstrably better than the ones they received.  Drabek is a stud “prospect,” and I really did NOT want to give him up.  But, let’s remember that this is a kid who has already gone through one Tommy John surgery.  And, at only 5’10”, he may be a health risk because of the strain on his arm.  Also, he has had some legitimate concerns about his character in the past.  Now, it appears as if he has solved those issues, but you never know when they might flare up again.  Again, don’t get me wrong, I did NOT want to lose him, but from what I’ve heard most scouts put him as a future #3, not a #1, so it’s not like the Phils gave up a future Halladay for a 32-year old Halladay.  Michael Taylor is a tremendous talent, but he was expendable.  The Phils won’t need an outfielder this year, and Taylor is just about ready.  And, when the Phils will need an outfielder (probably 2011), Dominic Brown (a better prospect than Taylor) should be ready by then.  Plus, they added Tyson Gillies, who is, by some accounts, the fastest player in the minor leagues.  There are doubts that he’ll ever hit enough to be more than a 4th outfielder, but the guy did hit over .340 last year in A-ball.  You can’t teach speed.  Taylor’s better, but Gillies is a nice addition.  And, Travis D’Arnaud is supposedly a decent catching prospect, but the Phils have a better one in Rookie ball.  And, who wants Chooch to leave any time soon?  Not me.  And, the Phils added two electric arms in Phillippe Armont and J.C. Ramirez.  Ramirez has a huge upside, but there are doubts that he’ll ever put it together (basically a substitute for the departed Jason Knapp), and many think that Armont might be the reason people look back on this deal favorably for the Phils.  Personally, I wouldn’t have centered the deal on a guy who will probably end up in the bullpen, but if he becomes a lights-out closer (which is certainly possible, some say), then by all means bring him in.  I would have like to see the Phils get the Mariners big-time shortstop prospect, Carlos Triunifel, in this deal (even if it meant no Armont), but what do I know?

The Total Package
I know that this isn’t the best way to look at it, but let’s look at the “total package” of this deal, starting last July.  If I told you last July that the Phils would get three GREAT months from Cliff Lee (including a historic postseason) and the only thing you’d have to do to get those three months was to make the following swap of prospects:  Lou Marson (a backup catcher), Jason Donald (a utility infielder), Carlos Carrasco (a busted pitching prospect), and Jason Knapp (an injury-riddled project with big “upside”) FOR Phillippe Armont (a busted starter who may be a flame-throwing closer), Tyson Gillies (a Michael Bourne type), and J.C. Ramirez (a project starting pitcher who may be real good), wouldn’t you do that?  Three months of Lee, Armont, Gillies, and Ramirez FOR Marson, Donald, Carrasco, and Knapp?  That’s a COMPLETE steal.  Again, I know that it doesn’t work that way because it’s not like just because they ripped off the Indians, they should get less than value back from the M’s, but still think about that.  Personally, it sounds like the package they got back for Lee is BETTER than the one they gave up.  So, the three months and postseason heroics of Lee were completely free of charge to the organization. 

This Deal (of the Phils) May Hinge on Two Guys NOT Involved
It’s interesting that this combination of deals, when we look back on it, may come down to being smart or insane because of two guys–neither of whom were actually involved in either deal.  The first is Cole Hamels.  If Hamels can be the 2008 Hamels, then the Phils (and I can’t believe I would be so arrogant to even think this) may not even need Cliff Lee to win the 2010 World Series.  A year ago, after Hamels 2008 postseason, if I told you that the Phils would add Halladay to a rotation with Hamels, you would call for 110 wins.  But, now, everyone is crying over losing a stud left-hander.  Well, folks, there is a chance that we still have a stud left-hander to couple with our stud right-hander.  The other guy is JA Happ.  The Phils have now, indirectly, put a lot of eggs in the JA Happ basket right now.  Drabek is gone.  Armont and Ramirez have come in, but they are several years from a big-league starting rotation, if they ever make it at all.  So, it’s time to embrace JA Happ as a mainstay (and VERY important piece) in this Phillies rotation for pretty much the entire first half of this decade.  If he doesn’t pan out to be what he showed last year, the Phils could find some real trouble in the back-end of their rotation in the coming years.  Honestly, I kind of have a little concern about this, actually.  Happ’s season was terrific, but I’m not sold on him long-term…at least not yet, though one more year of close to that will have me singing an opposite tune, I’m sure.

Another Pitcher Next Year?
That leads us to another intriguing proposition.  Yes, the Phils have now dedicated $20 million to Halladay moving forward.  But, Blanton and Moyer and their $16 million are off the books next year.  Halladay will be here, along with Hamels and Happ, but who else?  I know all these position players are going to get expensive, but don’t you think that that $16 million for the expected 300+ innings of Blanton and Moyer can be spent for 200 innings of a stud?  Maybe even…

What About a Halladay-Lee-Hamels Combination in 2011?
Is this possible?  Now, Lee probably wasn’t going to give a “hometown discount” even when this was his hometown, so there is no way he does so coming from Seattle, but he did love it here, and he did thrive in this park and in front of these fans.  He did seem to relish playing for a perennial winner.  Would it be crazy to think that the Phils might be able to bring him back as a free agent, since it’s highly unlikely he’ll sign an extension with Seattle?  Now, that would require sacrifices.  It would clearly pave the way out of town for Jayson Werth and probably Victorino as well.  But, if you can either promote some kids or find a stopgap veteran, would it make sense to spend that money on another big pitcher next offseason, be it Lee or whomever?  Maybe.

Desired Destination?
Just a quick note here, while we’re talking about the Phils signing a big-named free agent.  How awesome is it that the Phillies have become many players’ “desired destination?”  Remember when no-trade clauses in contracts were pretty much “no-trade to Philly” clauses?  No one EVER wanted to come here.  I heard a funny story that when Scott Eyre signed him contract, he had a no-trade clause to like 4 teams.  He didn’t remember that until the Phillies traded for him and his agent called and said, “you know you have a no-trade clause in your contract.”  Eyre said, “I didn’t think I did.”  The agent said, “Ya, to the Phillies and three other teams, do you want to waive it and go to Philly because you don’t have to.”  Apparently, Eyre just laughed and said that he definitely wanted to go and couldn’t believe he put that in there.

Not Standing Pat
Say what you will about Ruben Amaro’s deflective style of question-answering or his love of prospects that cost us Cliff Lee, but there has to be something said for the fact that the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and were committed to fielding a BETTER team in 2009.  They upgraded leftfield from Pat Burrell to Raul Ibanez, and they added the best pitcher on the market at the trading deadline.  Then, they won the NL Pennant and took the mighty Yankees to Game 6 of the World Series in 2009, and Ruben was still aggressively determined to GET BETTER.  And, they have.  They upgraded thirdbase from Pedro Feliz to Placido Polanco.  They upgraded backup catcher from Paul Bako to Brian Schneider.  They upgraded left-handed bench player from Matt Stairs to Ross Gload.  They upgraded utility infielder from Eric Bruntlett to Juan Castro.  And, now they have upgraded #1 STARTER from Cliff Lee to Roy Halladay.  The 2010 Phillies will be better, talent-wise, than the 2009 Phillies who were better, talent-wise, than the 2008 Phillies.  And, there just happens to be a 2008 World Series Champions banner flying in Citizens’ Bank Park.

What About the Other Issues?
So, they are better than last year.  And, that’s good.  But, there are still issues to be addressed.  Namely, the bullpen and the back-end of the rotation.  Let’s hope that there are a couple bucks left in the hopper to address the still-pressing issues.

Ruben’s Great White Whale
I just thought this was appropriate, as I heard Todd Zolecki refer to Roy Halladay as Ruben Amaro’s Great White Whale.  Now, I am not well-read and have never read “The Great American Novel,” Moby Dick, but I think that is a reference to Captain Ahab’s eternal chase of a White Whale.  Apparently, Ruben has wanted Halladay for a very long time.  Now, he has his man.  Nice work, Rube, nice work.  Of course, I think the white whale kills Ahab in the end, doesn’t he?  Let’s hope that the metaphor stops at today’s press conference.

Guys, you got your wish.  Glad my glorious City of Brotherly Love could oblige.  He deserves to play for a World Series, and hopefully he will get what he deserves over the course of the next 5 years.  Welcome, Roy, WELCOME!  We are so glad you could have made it.

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