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 Chuck


    IF Aumont has the tools to be a good closer in the future…as some are suggesting….and may be possible…..THEN…..I really don’t care how good Cliff Lee is for Seattle (or another team) in the coming years…

    These guys we got from the Mariners may or may not be good…just like Michael Taylor, Kyle Drabek, and the others we gave up in July may or may not be good….WE JUST WON’T KNOW FOR SOME TIME!!

    BUT…for now the Phillies are a BETTER team than they were the day they lost the World Series to the Yankees..


    Bottom line for me….I don’t love or hate the deal…..BUT I LOVE WHERE WE SIT RIGHT NOW!!

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Thought so Manny, just wanted to ask people than know baseball better.

  • Posts: 0 Georgie

    manny, I know. I feel like I’m being the bratty little kid who didn’t get what she wanted for Christmas, I should be jumping for joy that we’ve landed Doc, but instead I’m whining about losing Lee. Yes, I’ve read everyone’s opinion, reasons why we can’t have both, reasons why we CAN and SHOULD have both. It just would have been so sweet to have a rotation with Halladay and Lee, SWEEEEET, I tell ya!


    The bottom line is the team didn’t want to pay the 9 mil for Lee and push the payroll over the final number they have in mind. They are and always have been very conservative in with their payroll. The yankees, mets, red sox and now the angels will always pay more for their team payroll every year. Until we get our own Phillies tv network like the the new york teams and sox have we will not compete on their level every decade. That is another reason they needed to pay Lee this year. When we get a tv network the other teams will already have another way to generate revenue just like they were ahead of everyone else with their networks. It sucks, but thats our ownership. It kills me that they are still in bed with that evil company comcast.

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    georgie – we can and should have both. It is not Amaro’s fault or the FO. This 5 stinkin rich owners that are too dumb to realize that they have a nice precious metals mine on top of a huge untapped oil reserve.

  • Posts: 0 George

    Bob in Bucks makes a lot of great arguments. It’s quite likely the Phils could have gotten less if they’d waited too long.

    My problem with this whole thing is not so much the prospects involved. I mostly wonder this: If the Phils have a payroll limit of $140 million, and They’re really only paying Halladay what they would have paid Lee (nearly all the rest will be covered by Toronto) what happens next year, when they may have to meet that same $140 million (I’ll say $150 because of inflation) payroll but have to pay Halladay $20 million or more? Someone else will have to go, and other teams will know it. The Phils will get a really lousy return for Blanton, Werth, or whoever they deem replaceable. Moyer will be off the books, of course, but that’s not going to get them to their salary cap. This team will look like Swiss cheese before we know it–an ace without the other cards.

  • Posts: 0 Cutter

    I completely agree.

  • Posts: 0 bob


    Apparently someone in this trade failed their physical…….what does this mean going forward??

  • Posts: 0 mikemike

    FOR Y DON COMCAST HAS NO SAY WITH THE FLYERS OR SIXERS,ed snider runs them comcast does it for the rights to those two teams, keeps them on there system, thats why owening the phillies would be great without ed invovled. Amaro and the scouts and gillick still would be there. snider spends money just has made stupid choices in gm. Do y think if there was a nine million dollar over budject deal that could get y a championship the brian roberts wouldn say no or even stupid ed would. how much have they made in the last two years. The phillies owners really showed there true colors on these one a chance to go back to the series with three aces, and worst case is we get two first round choice for lee a win win for the origaztion. And another thing if y follow the minors we have no infield prospects beside galvis, why not get a future third basemen or shortstop in the deal. why another fast dont know if he will hit outfielder .

  • Posts: 0 Jeff of Nova

    Drabek has the ability of being a great starter end of this year!

  • Posts: 0 mikemike

    failed physical bet its aumont and amaro is trying to weasel out of deal.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    2012 is more problematic than 2011. Moyer, Blanton, Victorino is enough to more than compensate for Halladay. Unless Romero bounces back strong he won’t get renewed for 4.5 either. We will need to replace Blanton though and no more Drabek. Brown and one of the CFs better be ready by 2012 because we’re going to need some cheap OFs to retain Hamels and or Howard.

  • Posts: 0 Adam G

    Maybe Cliff Lee is staying….. most likely Aumont who failed.

    Then dump Blanton and keep Lee. Blanton is a FA after this year. Why not get a draft pick for him now.

  • Posts: 0 NJ


    If we can work it out you can be damned sure at least ‘someone’ if not everyone in the front office has worked out there is no way they can keep Lee without massively depleting the farm…

    This is more obvious than tits on a stripper!

  • Posts: 0 bfo_33

    Whoops, is this Red Sox Nation? The fans who, even though they won 2 world series in the past 5 years after an 86 year draught, think the GM and owners are a bunch of idiots? I think Ruben deserves the benefit of the doubt here. In his tenure, he made one questionable deal – Moyer. The rest have been at least solid, if not spectacular.

    The Halladay deal was a masterpiece (with a lot of help from Roy, who really put the Jays in a bad position) . It would have been nice to keep Lee and go for it for one year, but you can’t spend what you don’t have. The Phils don’t have the revenue from a network like the Sox and Yanks, they have to be a little cost conscious. As Don M said, they had one movable salary – Lee, and got some decent prospects. Did we get market value? Come back in three years. All I know if for the first time in my life, we’re going into a new season as back to back NL champs, and we got better.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Do we know for sure Drabek, D’Araud and Taylor passed their physical. If yes, then it was a Mariners prospect. if so that deal is off, but the Jays deal is still done?


  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    The article says that Aumont PASSED…right??…

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Aumont pass his physical according to reports on mlbtraderumors..

    Its gotta be one of the Mariners guys that failed right?? If they are saying that regardless of that deal, the phillies are still on track with Halladay

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Anybody having fun yet?? Jeez!!!!

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Can you imagine if its Drabek that failed…?

  • Posts: 0 Mazinman

    I’m thinking it might be Drabek. If its a Mariners guy it would not stop the Phils-Jays trade. However if its a Phillies guy it would stop both trades. I doubt its Taylor cause he has been traded already. I doubt the catcher would hold things u/p. Has to be Drabek.

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    taylor suffered the sportsman hernia towards the end of the year. Don’t know if he had it surgically repaired or not. If the latter then it’s a bitch to recover from easily since just everyday movement like walking can irrate it, not necessarily re-injure it but impede the healing process

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    whoops didn’t see Mazinman’s post…well there goes my theory on taylor. good. one down and two more to clear.

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    or does brown go in his place….if drabek fails.

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    man if its drabek someone on our end better be held accountable….I mean i hope they would have doubled checked that out to avoid this crap.

  • Posts: 0 Mazinman

    I’m guessing Brown would change the entire trade. Phils won’t send Brown and Taylor. I hope that drabek has some minor thing and the Jays take Aumont instead. That would make me very happy.

    Never thought I would root for drabek to be hurt…

  • [...] Philliesnation says that this was about prospects, not about money. 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…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.” [...]

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    or we send Happ which was discussed…

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    can’t send Happ….subtract 2 pitchers off the major-league roster….and add one….not gonna happen..

  • Posts: 0 joedad

    You can’t look at this as 2 seperate deals. If anyone thinks this team is “cheap”, consider that the Yankees were the only team to spend more than $140M last year. $9 million is 7% over budget. If it isn’t much, go ahead and try to spend 7% over your personal or business budget and see how that works out for you

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    That’s right, joedad…being in business for myself…especially in these economic times….I totally get that…it’s hard…

  • Posts: 0 NEPA

    I hate the Lee part of the deal because…….
    We will never know if he would have given us a discounted deal either now or at the end of 2010.He made the free agent and CC quotes when he was playing for the Indians.

    Dont tell me that with filling up CB Park every night we cant afford it.

    It sucks because we may have had a chance at the greatest Phils rotation ever this year and beyond.
    All for 3 lousy minor leaguers.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    we don’t really know anything about these Seattle prospects, none of us have been following them for more than 3 days.

    The Phils were only ever going to be able to sign Halladay OR Lee to a multi-year deal and irrelevant of what the numbers actually are would you rather have Halladay or Lee… Roy Halladay wins on that one.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    ITS DONE! GO PHILS! GO DOC! Hopefully we’ll have reason to start loving our new prospects…

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I don’t know about all of you…but….I’m getting pretty sick and tired of reading stuff about these prospects being “lousy”….when we really don’t know how they’re actually going to turn out….

    Do any of you actually think that Ruben would make a trade….KNOWING he was going to get sh!t in return….

    Seriously…think about that…..Have a little faith…

  • Posts: 0 David

    Aumont is not the Mariners best pitching prospect, Morrow is. The sad thing is that these prospects from SEA will not be given the benefit of the doubt if they struggle bc of who they were traded for. Philly is a tough town when you an MVP ss, how is it going to be if your a struggling relief pitcher who was acquired for Lee?

  • Posts: 0 j reed

    Rueben did a stellar job considering the ownership is what determined our options. In a no cap sport like baseball, given players are the only commodity and you have the a high demand low supply proven commodity that most teams want and /or need you don’t impose a strict cap on yourself and let it be know to every one in play. That just like standing on the tree branch your trimming. Furthermore, why not have gotten at least one reliever out of this. It’s not Amaro’s fault it’s just the same mentality from the ownership. Yes they spent more money, but only relative to what they made. No brainer. And keep in mind when your already rich any loss split five ways doesn’t hurt to much and any profit is icing on the cake. It’s a win win for them. Owning a sports team is more often than not a side job for rich people…not always but our owners were seriously rich from the get go.
    Also isn’t that the point….we haven’t heard anything about these prospects (except Morrow) and yet ours were household names (to baseball peeps) for a short while. I’m not all prospect ga ga in so far as talent is concerned by they are a commodity valued by teams. These are not good owners and are too dumb to realize that economists consider Philadelphia a big market town for sports.

  • Posts: 0 Brian

    I would love to have Lee and Halladay, but I did a little research and the whole dual-ace thing doesn’t always work out so hot. Check it out. http://thepeoplesphilliesblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/are-two-aces-really-better-than-one.html

  • [...] Corey Seidman of Phillies Nation gives Phillies GM Ruben Amaro an A+ on the Halladay trade and an F- on the Lee trade [...]

  • Posts: 0 Tory Schippers

    I have had difficulties accessing this blogpost using my Iphone, whats the cause?

  • Posts: 0 Videochat

    I just opted into for your RSS feed. Really cool website keep up the good writing.

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