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.