The Bittersweet Blockbusters

Posted by Corey Seidman, Tue, December 15, 2009 07:21 PM | Comments: 191
Acquisitions, Analysis, Posts

It’s all about perception.

You can view the trades made by Ruben Amaro in a positive or negative manner, just don’t combine them when you do so. They are two completely different deals that will, unfortunately, be linked together forever. And it’s all because of prospects, not money. Don’t believe anyone who says this was just about money.

The deal Amaro put together in order to acquire Halladay was nothing short of brilliant. He sent Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D’Arnaud to the Blue Jays in exchange for Halladay and $6 million (40% of his 2010 salary.)

Immediately after acquiring Halladay, Amaro locked him up to a three-year contract worth approximately $60M. The contract, which runs through 2013, also contains a vesting option for 2014 that will automatically trigger if Halladay pitches a certain amount of innings throughout the course of the pact.

If you have the chance to acquire, and subsequently lock up one of the top-three pitchers in baseball for a price below market value, you do it.

Sure, Drabek may turn out to be a stud and D’Arnaud could be the future for the Blue Jays behind the plate. Taylor, a rapidly emerging outfield prospect, may be ready to contribute in April of next year. But it won’t be for Toronto – Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos quickly shipped him off to Oakland for Brett Wallace, the top prospect in the Athletics’ organization. All of these men may turn out to be very good major leaguers, or they might not.

Halladay, on the other hand, is a proven ace. He has been the best pitcher in the superior league for years, despite playing in the toughest division in baseball. This was a brilliant move.

But if Amaro received an A+ on the Halladay trade, he gets an F- on the Cliff Lee deal.Yes, an F-. If a score of 50 nets you an F on an exam, this was a 12.

Lee was sent to Seattle in exchange for Phillippe Aumont (the Mariners top pitching prospect,) Tyson Gillies (an impressive, toolsy outfielder,) and Juan Ramirez (a “high-ceiling” pitcher with mediocre minor-league numbers.)

I spent most of Monday night believing the Lee deal wouldn’t go through, if for no other reason than it was a ridiculous trade from the Phillies standpoint. Dave Cameron of USS Mariner also spent most of Monday in disbelief, claiming that the “package is just so light as to not be realistic.”

It is too light. Even if the Phillies felt that Lee was looking for CC Sabathia-type numbers and that he wouldn’t be back after 2010, this was not enough of a return for a dominant lefty coming off of a Cy Young award in 2008, a brilliant 2009 season, and, arguably, the best postseason any pitcher has ever had in the history of a 130 year-old sport. Yes, Lee will probably leave Seattle next Fall, but this wasn’t enough for a year of his services.

Amaro stole Lee from the Indians in July, and got robbed with his eyes open in December.

Greed is Good

“Experts” are telling you that having Halladay and Lee in the same rotation was never realistic. They are saying that it never could have worked and that anyone who is asking “what if?” is being greedy. They’re wrong. If you’re sitting in your home or your office or your car and imagining a Phillies rotation headed by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, you have every right to feel upset, confused, and incomplete about what transpired.

The idea of Halladay and Lee together was, by no means, unrealistic. Prior to these trades, Amaro spent a week trying to move Joe Blanton and his soon-to-be $7M salary. He couldn’t find a deal that made sense, so he didn’t pull the trigger. No team was offering the prospect(s) that Amaro was looking for.

Why would they? Blanton is, at best, a number three starter, and he’ll be a free agent after the 2010 season. If you were running a team, would you give up one of your top-five prospects for a pitcher who is going to go 13-10 with a 4.15 ERA? How about your seventh best prospect? How about your twelfth best prospect?

This wasn’t unrealistic because this wasn’t about money. If it were about money, Blanton would have (and definitely SHOULD have) been traded for whatever the Phillies could get. If they traded Blanton for a Double-A infielder who hit .213 last year, so be it. The salaries of Blanton and Lee will be so similar in 2010 that it doesn’t matter who the Phillies received for Kentucky Joe. If it meant the difference between having Blanton or Cliff Lee, the prospect who Blanton would be traded for is arbitrary.

This was about prospects.

Amaro wanted to replenish his farm system by making up for the losses of Drabek, Taylor, and D’Arnaud. Did he do that with Aumont, Gillies, and Ramirez? That won’t be clear for another five years, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say probably not. Minor-leaguers are fickle in that they can underperform one year and overperform the next, but I’m sitting here looking at the numbers compiled by Aumont, Gillies, and Ramirez over the course of their short careers, and I don’t see it.

So, if this all about prospects, my question is, why not trade for BETTER PROSPECTS?! Amaro didn’t have to trade Lee at all, but if he felt that he had to, he certainly could have called every other GM not named Jack Zduriencik. Maybe he did make those calls, maybe he didn’t. But wouldn’t the Angels, desperate after losing John Lackey that same day, and Chone Figgins weeks earlier to their biggest competitor, be willing to make a deal for Lee? Honestly, who wouldn’t be interested in Cliff Lee? I absolutely, positively refuse to believe that Aumont, Gillies, and Ramirez were the best that Amaro could have gotten for Lee. This defies logic.

The real question now becomes, do you care about 2010, or do you care about 2015? It’s a complicated question, because in 2015, Ryan Howard might not be here. Chase Utley will be 37 years old. Jimmy Rollins will be sitting next to Karl Ravech on Baseball Tonight. The Phillies are going to need guys like Aumont, Gillies, Ramirez, and others to live up to their potential in order for this organization to remain competitive.

But don’t you worry about 2015 in 2012 or 2013, when it’s closer than five years away? Don’t you “go-for-broke” in 2010, when this nucleus is still intact, in its prime, and somewhat affordable?

This is why it’s all about perception. And this is why we are justified in feeling like the team we love just squandered an opportunity it might never again see.

Avatar of Corey Seidman

About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

  • Posts: 0 Jason

    Greatest entry i’ve seen on here


  • Posts: 0 Andrew

    You cant have your cake and eat it too. I do not understand why the trade had to be made the same day. Just wait. But he didnt want you guys to be pulling your pants down to thoughts of doc and Lee together.

  • Posts: 0 Nick

    Nice job. This article really explains how it all worked.

    I didn’t know it was two separate trades until after I read this.

    Triple H plus Lee would almost guarantee a playoff spot, and would make us EASY favorites for the World Series. I just don’t know how to feel since Halladay was always one of my favorite pitchers…

  • Posts: 0 Kieran

    Corey, you were spot on with Joe Blanton. Why not move him for whatever you could get and keep Lee in the rotation. At least until trade deadline comes around in July. This way, Lee has been cutting up the NL and therefore increasing his market value. Then trade him to a team looking to rent an ace for the final push of the season like the Brewers did with CC.

    It seemed Rube was rushed in his talks about Lee. I think he felt some urgency in moving. Maybe Seattle was the only club out there offering anything. We will never know.

    In the end, Halladay-Hamels-Happ at the front of the rotation I can deal with.

  • Posts: 0 mikemike

    Dumb move. moving lee now for that junk, why not hold onto him a little longer, like toronto did with halladay, and got who they wanted, y dont pay lee now why the hurry,cheap bastard owners were afraid they would go over budject, after the last two season of raking in money,THEY still dont get it .hate these owners.lucky i am not going to give them my money watch on tv, wish comcast would buy them out.

  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    Exactly. If Amaro thought he had to move Lee to replenish the farm system, he could have waited several weeks, let the rest of the league know Lee’s availabe, and sit back and watch the market go crazy.

    Every contending team would be tripping over itself to offer a better package for Lee.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Corey -

    Bingo. You nailed it. But I have a question. Lets say these three G.M.s agree on this deal, perhaps at the winter meetings, and then Halladay gets done today, would Rube be “morally obligated”, for lack of a better phrase, under the “gentleman’s rules of baseball” to tell Seattle that he wasn’t sure that he wanted to go through with the Lee to Seattle part of the deal and that he wanted to pull it back? I wonder. You are right about the Angels. How could they NOT give more? Its crazy. Just crazy. Ruben wore the jackass costume today and he was both the front and the back. I have a serious case of buyer’s remorse. To think that for about five minutes, Halladay and Lee actually WERE on the same team. What kind of management, five guys sitting in a dark room smoking cigars I would suspect, would answer a telephone with Ruben on the other end asking if he could have just a little bit (in their world) money so he can keep a Phillies folk hero and underpaid Cy Young award winner on his team, and actually say “sorry son, just can’t do it. Money doesn’t grow on trees ya know”. Give me an effin break. Actually, money is made OUT OF trees.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 SAMSOAP

    WILL SOMEONE STOP THE LEE DEAL….THIS IS ABSOLUTE NONSENSE!!!!In Rube’s defense ( and I am calling him Rube from now on) I can see management saying no Halliday deal unless you clear salary…However I guarantee Blanton could be moved before spring training…we should have never offered Durbin arbitration…he wasnt that good this year. we can fill pen in with young guys…Hows that Moyer deal looking now??????Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

  • Posts: 0 JeffR

    Nailed it with this article. Worst case scenario could have just non-tendered Blanton, and Durbin for that matter. Something never explained is why if Seattle was brought into this to begin with, with the intent of a true 3-team deal, flipping their prospectrs to Toronto, that got totally lost. It appeared we would only have to give up Lee and possibly one of our own prospects, instead of 3 of ours. Especially since 2 of the prospects from Seattle are Canadians, it was thought that was the plan. What happened to that?

  • Posts: 0 chiarellasa

    Great job of breaking it down.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Quiz: Name the three teams Pat Gillick has served as GM for.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Is this Seattle deal done? Jane, stop this crazy thing!

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 vendor71

    Wait a minute. I just did a quick search and cannot find one article saying this trade has been consumated. Are you guys sure this thing is official?

  • Posts: 0 vendor71

    Nearest thing I can find is a Jack Z. “no comment” during Chone Figgins presser about 2 hours ago.

  • Posts: 0 Griffin

    Another well-written article by Corey Seidman.

    Cliff Lee has been traded for 50 cents on the dollar twice within the last 6 months. We won the first trade, but we definitely lost the second.

  • Posts: 0 jrollpatrol08

    corey & gang– i do definitely agree that ruben should have waited a bit to see what the market had available. i thought seattle was in this deal because it was gonna be 3 way deal–them sending toronto some prospects so we wouldnt have to get rid of drabek AND taylor…either way, ruben could have at least kicked the tires around a bit on some other packages…

    BUT…with that being said…i still see it slightly different, in terms of what we could/would have gotten for cliff lee. with his open statement about testing the FA market, any team getting lee knows it is for a one-year rental shot for a world series run. we paid 4 guys for what we thought was 1.5 years of cliff lee, and arguably none of those guys were our ‘top’ prospects. so, in my opinion, it stands to reason that no team would now give up a ‘top’ prospect for less service time…why would they???

  • Posts: 0 Just Crushed

    I am devasted by this. This is a major market team that has raked in millions and millions over dollars over the last three years and the fans were sold out. Amaro will go down in history with the 64′s and Ed Wade as the top three disaster’s in Phillie baseball. He can’t be this dumb. Of course, this smells of Gillick….since it is rumoured he is consulting for Seattle, Toronto and Amaro. A joke….you can have my seats.

  • Posts: 0 BS

    That 2 year contract for Moyer that we all thought was a bad deal really came back to bite us in the ass eh?

    I’m also perplexed that Rube didn’t call around and try to create some kind of bidding war for Cliff Lee if he really wanted to restock the farm system, but the net-net result for us seems like it’ll end up:

    Carrasco, Marson, Donald, Knapp for Gillies, Aumont, Ramirez (discounting the 2 months of Lee)

    Is that a deal you would have made?

    On the flip side, I can’t imagine that Reagins, or hell even Cashman or Colletti wouldn’t have called Rube to squeeze in on the deal. Are we to believe that Ruben didn’t take their calls? Or he felt that Gillies, Ramirez or Aumont were really the best prospects he could have gotten? I don’t know what’s more frightening.

  • Posts: 0 Dan S

    I could not disagree with you more. Amaro got back from the Mariners what he gave away for Halladay. A top pitching prospect, a very good outfield prospect, and a high ceiling but very young prospect. The prospects from the Mariners are not as bad as you make them out to be. Aumont has a career 3.31 ERA, Gillies is a career .321 hitter, and Ramirez has only had ONE year in the minors! HOW CAN YOU WRITE A GUY OFF AFTER ONE YEAR?!?!?!

  • Posts: 0 Jason

    lulz, there’s a reason why it wasn’t a 3 team trade with Cliff lee going to seattle, seattle prospects going to Toronto, and Halladay going to phillies, it’s because Phillies prospects that were given up >>>>> Seattle prospects.

  • Posts: 0 Just Crushed

    You can right a right a guy off because he gave away proven Cy Young pitcher who lead us through the playoffs for a bunch on minor league player…all because of 9 million. The world series was a potential this year with lee and Halladay. Now you have to pray on Hamels, Lidge and no sophmore jinx for Happ (a real possibility). And a very weak bullpen that he failed to again improve.

    This is a real mess…i agree…please have Comcast buy this team quick!

  • Posts: 0 BS

    ALSO… were we really so strapped for cash that we needed the $6 mil payment from Toronto? They have a lot of bullpen arms I wouldn’t have minded getting instead of the $6 mil. Downs, Accardo, Frasor, League. Why not kill 2 birds with one stone? If any of that money goes to Francisco Rodney, I’m taking back everything I ever said about trusting Rube. I wasn’t exactly thrilled hearing that we had Brandon Lyon “stolen” from us.

  • Posts: 0 Griffin

    Dan S., the prospects that the Phils got from Seattle are not even close to the prospects they gave to Toronto. Drabek and Taylor are top 25 prospects in all of baseball. D’Arnaud will be ranked close to Aumount and way above the other 2 guys from Seattle.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff


    For all of you Phillies fans out there that are still regarding this a “slight upgrade,” just wait until you watch the Good Doctor for a full Major League season. He makes the rest of the rotation better (AJ Burnett still won’t shutup about how much of an impact watching Roy prepare and perform has made on Burnett’s own career). He makes the bullpen better; every 5 days, everybody else gets the night off. And, perhaps the biggest thing that he brings to a ballclub: every 5 days you KNOW that you are sending out the best pitcher that day. Not that he wins every game (though starting infront of that offense, and switching from the NL East to the AL East, he just might) but that he gives you the best chance to win that day. In Toronto, we’ve watched him square off against a ton of great starting pitching over the last decade, and never once has there been any question about whether or not Halladay was the better bet.

    I say this as a heartbroken Jays fan: Phillie fans are not going to be disappointed when all of this is said and done. You’ve got one of the truly special ones. Be sure to treat him right

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    The Phillies are not strapped for cash. The “Phillies” are making cash hand over fist. The “ownership group” has apparently settled on the amount of $140m to give Ruben to spend in any way he sees fit. This in order to keep profits for each owner, before taxes, at $750,000,000,000 per year. Don’t you people know how business works????

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 NateB

    Why is everyone calling the prospects from the Mariners junk? Some experts believe they are just as good as what the Phils gave up for Halladay.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    What experts? Ken Rosenthal? Chris Wheeler? Howard Eskin?

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Jason

    Everyone loves that we got Halladay, at least i really hope so. Think that pisses me off (and if you read article it explains why we are a little upset) Is that we gave up lee in a completely seperate trade that was unnecessary. I have high hopes for halladay, but could you imagine Halladay/Lee/Hamels? If hamels pitches like he did in 2008 it would be regarded as top 1,2,3 punch in recent memory (i don’t know about baseball history, but could that be the best 1,2,3 in history? 2 cy young pitchers and a World series MVP :\.

    That’s what i struggle to accept considering we are paying blanton close to 7 million for 1 year and Cliff Lee was 9 million.

  • Posts: 0 Dhall

    I’m mad because I so wanted to be happy when Roy Halladay came to Philly. He deserves better than a bittersweet welcome, however, Amaro has stolen our joy with his salary dump of Lee. Just when you think the Phillies organization is finished with it’s thrifty ways, they hit you with one of the biggest blunders in history. They raised tickets prices again this year, parking prices, and advertising fees. They also sold out almost all their games last year. They couldn’t fork over the 9 million for one stinkin’ year of Lee to send us back to the World Series as the favorites? Give me a break.

  • Posts: 0 kaushal

    is there even conformation that this deal went through? i havent seen or heard anything for a while now about lee

  • Posts: 0 Andrew

    Chris Wheeler LOL expert. Hadnt thought about him in awhile. Thanks for the laugh out loud.

  • Posts: 0 karen

    I am very mad. If Amaro wanted to be the “NL Yankees” a deal like this will not do it. Myers made 12.5 million and was released, moyer is on for 8million or so, and lee had to go to seattle? merry christmas seattle.

  • Posts: 0 NateB

    Not sure which “experts” said it, I’ve been reading articles all day. This is the first post that claims they are all JUNK.

  • Posts: 0 william

    Funny how everyone is an expert after the fact. Guess thats why thier are proffesionals and then thier are ungrateful fans

  • Posts: 0 Ryan Hoffman

    Might be the most misguided piece of writing I’ve ever seen on here.

  • Posts: 0 Andrew

    I refuse to totally call the lee trade a r- and let it taint the year. But if somehow that deal just didnt happen we would all be very happy. Maybe one of them fails thier physical? I thnk the mainstream media is portraying this as a 3 team trade. maybe once it is known that it isnt it can be stopped.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff of Nova

    Great Piece!!

    This is exactly what I was thinking!

  • Posts: 0 jr

    Maybe the best, most informative article I’ve ever read on here. A+ Corey!!!

  • Posts: 0 John

    I wonder how everyone can hate this much.

    1. We gave a couple of unproven prospects, and 1 year of an ace for a couple of unproven prospects, and 3 or 4 the BEST pitcher in ALL of baseball.

    2. Anyone saying that the Phillies are cheap is completely wrong. They have the 6th or 7th biggest payroll in the MLB. In fact, in this economy, we should be thankful that they even raised their payroll

    3. Also, the Phillies front office has earned our trust. If anything, we owe it to them to wait and see how this deal goes. They have moade tons of great deals over the past few years, that we have to give them our trust

  • Posts: 0 Monktavian the Mediocre

    You make some darned good points, Corey, that I did not realize. I was blinded by the Halladay acquisition. I cannot help but believe there is a master plan that this may be part of and not yet obvious. Maybe Lee was insulting to Amaro and Ruben just got rid of him quickly.

  • Posts: 0 John

    *3 or 4 of the best pitcher in baseball

  • Posts: 0 NateB

    Ok I need to backup what I stated. Jayson Stark wrote:

    “Scouts we surveyed were split on whether the prospects exiting (Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis d’Arnaud) have a higher ceiling than the prospects arriving (Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez). But the whole group is “a bunch of legit prospects,” said one NL scout. “They’re not just throwing in a bunch of names to make this look good.”

  • Posts: 0 Phil

    I don’t 100% agree with this. I think the prospects we gave for Lee was a package than we received honestly. I think Knapp has a ton of potential, but Marson will amount to nothing because of his 0 power and bad defense. Donald will be a utility infieder, and Carrasco will be a 5th starter at best. Knapp is young and already has injury written all over him.

    Comparing those prospects to what we got back is this. Ramirez has a ridiculously high ceiling, and if he can pitch to his potential I could honestly see him being a decent #3. Gillies could be a good CFer with a ton of OB skills and stolen bag skills with little power. I could see him being Shane Victorino if he reaches his ceiling. Aumont could be nothing, but his stuff is even better than Drabek. Both are injury risks, but I think Amaro sold high on Drabek. I think Aumont will either be an elite closer or a top of the rotation pitcher. As far as the 4th prospect, whoever it may be in this deal then you can say he was for Francisco. Regardless of the situation I don’t think it is terrible, but I agree we could have gotten a better package.

  • Posts: 0 william

    Every team saw what the phillies gave to get Lee did any one think the phillies would be given top prospect when they gave up second tier prospects to get him especially when the team Lee goes to will only have him for one year (outside the Yankees Red Soxs or Angels the only teams who could afford to extend him) any GM who would give top tier prospects for a one year rental would not be GM for long. Having your cake and eating too is great but not always going to happen

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Yes, there is a master plan. Well, its not actually a master plan. They still need some money for a quality back of the pen arm that could close if asked i.e. Rodney, Smoltz, etc. Thats where they feel they need to spend the money they “have left”. Disgusting.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Phil


  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Hey Phil, I didn’t know you were such an expert on fringe Seattle Mariners minor league prospects. So what else do you know? You, as we, have little idea what these cats are gonna do. I do agree they’re not scrubs. Put it this way, if one of the three has an average major league career, then that would be par for the course.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    Some good discussion going on here.

    Montkavian – I doubt Lee was insulting to Amaro or anything like that, but he IS known for being somewhat of a “cold” individual. Hard to imagine based on what we saw from him last year performance-wise and personality-wise, but if you talk to most people who watched him in Cleveland, that opinion reigns supreme.

    But that may mean nothing. That may have just been how he was in Cleveland based on unhappiness or bad relationships he had with certain guys. Do whatever you want with that information, I’m not saying it was a factor or not I’m just stating the facts.

  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    Secondly, a problem I’m having deals with the fact that the Cliff Lee deal is not 100% official. If it isn’t, there is NO possible way that Ruben Amaro is oblivious to the media-panning he’s receiving, not only from blogs and fans, but from prestigious baseball writers across the country.

    I’m not saying a General Manager truly cares enough about the media’s opinions that he’s going to be swayed enough to make or not make a trade, but SOME part of him and whoever is feeding him advice has to know that this trade is unnecessary at this exact second.

    If Amaro waits three weeks to a month and trades Lee, fine. Hell, even if he waits a month and makes the same exact trade, fine. I just HATE the idea that this decision is being made so hastily. Lee doesn’t HAVE to go anywhere right this minute. Sleep on it a bit. Keep shopping Blanton. (If they just non-tendered Blanton none of this would matter. He’s not worth $7-7.5M anyway.)

    If you have Halladay-Lee-Hamels, you can make do with a bullpen of Lidge, Madson, Romero, Durbin, Bastardo, and a few other low-cost signings or minor-leaguers. Scott Mathieson will be JUST as good, if he stays healthy, as Fernando Rodney could be at CBP next year. Period.

  • Posts: 0 Buster Heyman

    I’m far from a Phillies boot licker, but this was the dumbest post I’ve read concerning the trade. This was the most incredible trade this franchise has ever made. When Lee turned down the extension offer and Halladay was back on the market the team was faced with a choice. Keep our prospects and Lee’s final year as a Phillie. Trade Lee for other prospects and trade ours for Halladay. Sure, everyone’s dream including mine was that we have both. Not the case. And it was both money and an empty cupboard that lead to the Lee trade. The obvious choice and the right choice was made here. I back this one 100%.

Leave a Comment

>> Create a new Phillies Nation account.
>> Already registered with Phillies Nation? Log in here.
>> Comment without logging in:

Please ensure your comments comply with our Comment Policy.