Halladay to the Phillies? Cliff Lee to the Mariners? Kyle Drabek to the Blue Jays? Confused?
As I left my two hour meeting yesterday afternoon, I noticed I had a vast array of text messages and about 5 new voicemails on my cell phone. I NEVER get this much attention, and the second I heard the screaming rant on the other end I got the feeling that something major was happening in the Philadelphia Phillies camp.
I had hoped that the rumors recently circulating about the team possibly having to trade Cliff Lee in order to acquire the LONG coveted Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays were just that, a rumor. Now, it's looking more and more like a reality.It seems that the Phillies DO have to give up Lee and two of their best prospects. The same prospects Toronto wanted when the Phillies inquired about Halladay in July. Halladay's value is still high, but the Phillies wouldn't have to give up that much for him now. Right?
Wrong. In one of the strangest cases of irony I have ever seen in a baseball transaction, the pitcher who Phillies fans wanted last summer (Halladay) could be traded (albeit indirectly) for the pitcher who (at first) Phillies fans didn't want last summer, but with his post season performance, forever etched his name in Phillies folklore. Not only that, it looks like top Phillies prospects Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor will be moved for Halladay. Yes, the "Untouchables" are suddenly touchable. Shortly afterwards, the Sixers stopped their 12-game losing streak, and I was clicking through channels and saw Fred Dryer (you know, Hunter!) on an episode of some CBS comedy. It was then when I knew my day of the surreal and unexpected had come full circle.
Lee, the man who single-handedly beat the Yankees twice in the World Series just a few weeks ago, will probably be shipped off to the Mariners- because (according to baseball sources) his salary is too high for the Phillies to handle. Apparently, this all started last week, when Lee reportedly declined to start discussing a contract extension with the Phillies.
Apparently, Scott Boras puts the screws to the Phillies even when he's not negotiating with them. Would this have happened it Boras didn't talk about the "endless possibilities" for Lee in the free agent market in 2010? Isn't that a form of tampering? Probably not, but it's fun to hate on Boras. In fact, many say that Lee intended on testing free agency all along after he saw his good friend C.C. Sabathia hit the mother lode last off-season with the Yankees.
You could look at this proposed deal in a few ways (And no, I don't understand either why Toronto isn't getting anything from Seattle.) NO! Don't click out of here! We are going to make this as easy as possible. Because frankly, this plot has more twists and turns than an episode of Lost. Keep in mind that none of the players (with the exception of Halladay and Lee) are 100 percent definitely included in these deals. J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, and Dominic Brown are also rumored to possibly be involved, but that is uncertain.
Are the Phillies are looking towards the future? Should the Phillies keep Lee and let him walk in 2010? Or are they just being cheap? Signing Halladay to an extension (reportedly a deal breaker for the Phillies, and understandably so) is huge. Who knows how effective he will be in his mid-thirties, but losing Halladay and Lee after 2010 would be a total disaster. One thing is for certain: if the Phillies traded Lee just because he is making $9 million dollars, the team should hang their head in shame.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that Lee probably wouldn't return to the Phillies after 2010. However, the thought of having Halladay, Lee, and a hopefully rejuvenated Cole Hamels in your rotation for just one year is absolutely sickening.
If Lee somehow ends up staying, the Phillies would have officially been placed in the same league as the Yankees and Red Sox as far as payroll and talent is concerned. It looks like that is not to be. Get used to this Phillies fans. The team got very lucky with having its core players who are arbitration eligible for a few years.
When that ends, you may see many more deals just like this. Well...not as complicated. The Phillies are going to have to break the bank for Ryan Howard in a few years. If Lee is in fact dealt, at least the Phillies could receive two of Seattle's best prospects (Tyson Gillies, Carlos Triunfel, and Phillippe Aumont are names being discussed) to compensate for the loss of the "untouchables," who would go to Toronto for Halladay. The balance of power in the American League West could officially shift from the Angels to the Mariners if Lee joins the team. It's been a rough off-season for the Angels, who lost Chone Figgins last week to Seattle and John Lackey to the Red Sox yesterday.
Does this benefit the Phillies more now? Or in the future?- It depends. If Halladay goes 4-0 with an ERA around or under 2.00 in the post season in 2010 like Lee did in 2009, it was worth it. Like Halladay, Lee was unproven in the post season until 2009. So if the Phillies return to the post season, it should be interesting. It also depends on whether Cole Hamels can rebound from a disastrous 2009 and get his head back in the game. As far as the future goes, it's too early to tell. The team might be better or worse four years from now depending on how the prospects from the respective teams succeed at the major league level. If these prospects are the real deal for the Phillies, you could be potentially looking at a successful franchise for years to come and all this talk is nonsense!
At the end of the day, are the Phillies better now than they were last year? And are they on par with the Yankees and Red Sox as contenders to WIN the World Series?- Unless Ruben Amaro has some other deals up his sleeve, probably not. Halladay's almost certain contract extension handicaps the Phillies as far as signing anyone above the caliber of a Joe Blanton or possibly a competent reliever. The Phils will probably lose two highly valued prospects and Lee. To make this as simple as we can, here is the bottom line: Halladay must throw better than Lee in the 2009 post season to cement his true value to this team to help bring the World Series Trophy back to Philadelphia. Anything less is a failure. It's obvious that the Phillies (when healthy and consistent) can blow through the National League. That is obviously not the problem. Talent wise, Halladay is considered one of the top to best pitchers in the game. As good as Lee is considered, Halladay may be a notch above him. If I were Amaro, every transaction I would make this off-season would be geared at beating the New York Yankees. We know what that team's lefthanded starters can do to the Phillies. Don't look now, but the Red Sox (despite the probable loss of Jason Bay) now have a rotation of Josh Beckett, Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Clay Buchholz. You decide.
The next few days will hopefully shed some light on this land of confusion permeating the Phillies universe. I'm not so sure yet that this deal, in the words of Hunter "Works For Me."