Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Look At The Big Deal

The winter meetings were somewhat quiet last week in that the off-season's biggest potential prize, Roy Halladay, remained in Toronto. One week later, the baseball world was rocked by deals involving not only Halladay but Cliff Lee as well.

The Blue Jays sent Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Joe Blanton and three minor leaguers: pitcher Kyle Drabek, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and outfielder Michael Taylor. The Jays will send Taylor to the Oakland Athletics for third baseman Brett Wallace. The Phillies also signed Halladay to a three-year extension worth $20M annually with a $20M vesting option for 2014, which eliminates his testing the free agent market after the 2010 season.

Drabek and d'Arnaud were first round draft picks for the Phils in the 2006 and 2007 drafts, respectively. Taylor is a power-hitting outfielder who reached AAA for the first time last season. Wallace was a first-rounder in 2008 for St. Louis who was acquired by Oakland last summer in the Matt Holliday trade.

In a companion deal, the Phils sent left-handed starter Lee to the Seattle Mariners for minor league pitchers Phillippe Aumont and Juan Ramirez and outfielder Tyson Gillies. Lee had said he wanted to stay in Philly but wished to test the free agent market after this season regardless.

Aumont is a highly-touted prospect who first received wide attention pitching for Canada in last season's World Baseball Classic. Ramirez is a 20-year-old strikeout machine who reached high-Class A ball last season. Gillies is a career .321/.419/.447 with no power, but stole 40 bases in Class A ball last season.  

ESPN's Keith Law breaks the deal down in this effort and gives the edge to the Mariners and Jays and the disadvantage to the Phillies. Jayson Stark calls the deal historic in this piece, and it's hard to argue. With Cy Young winners effectively being dealt in the same swoop, it is a big deal.

Time will tell whether the prospect acquired by Toronto and Philadelphia will pan out. The Blue Jays will have a very difficult time selling tickets next summer with Halladay as a drawing card, but fans saw this day coming for a very long time, and the Jays managed to snag Kyle Drabek in the process. The Phillies were glad they held Drabek and J.A. Happ in last year's trade for Lee. Blanton will help next year's rotation. The acquisition of Wallace should also be noted, as the Jays may have found their third baseman of the future and turned a more risky prospect (Taylor) into a more polished one (Wallace).

The Phillies get Halladay, along with a three-year extension. The lose Lee, who is only one year younger, but get a potential late-inning guy in Aumont. I agree with Law that the package for Lee is worse than the package they surrendered for Lee one year ago, and definitely not as good as the prospects sent to Toronto for Halladay. The Phillies will be good again in 2010 and adding Halladay to a rotation with Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ will be a plus.

The Mariners get a legitimate ace in Lee to go along with Felix Hernandez to form a formidable top-two. Seattle did surrender Aumont in the deal, but all will be forgotten if they are able to sign Lee to a deal when he hits the market. The Mariners are re-tooling this off-season with the trade for Lee and the signing of free agent Chone Figgins, and should be a factor in the AL West next season.

All and all, it was a blockbuster deal and one which will pay some immediate dividends. A good old-fashioned four-team deal certainly stokes the hot stove fires in the cold winter months. At first glance, the Mariners and Blue Jays come away looking better than the Phillies, but if Philadelphia returns to the World Series again in 2010, that may be revised.

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