Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's Up, Doc?

As early as July, I was dreaming of an unstoppable dynamic duo of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay dominating at the top of the Phillies starting rotation, and reiterated those dreams as recently as Friday.

It made perfect sense. The Phillies, fresh off back-to-back World Series appearances and with one championship already in the bag, had a realistic chance to add a second Cy Young winner in the prime of his career to join the Cy Young winner they traded for last season and the pitcher formerly known as the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP. A third straight trip to the big one would be expected, and with Lee, Halladay and Cole Hamels going in the playoffs, there would be an excellent chance for another parade down Broad Street. Now, that dream is officially dead. While the blockbuster deal to land Roy Halladay in Philadelphia is not officially done, here seem to be the details of the deal(s) that will be done in a short matter of time. Essentially, the Phillies are trading formerly untouchable Kyle Drabek, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and Michael Taylor to Toronto for Roy Halladay, who is reportedly going to sign a three-year extension with possibly a fourth and/or fifth year option as well, and the Phillies are trading Cliff Lee to Seattle for pitching prospects Phillipe Aumont and Juan Ramirez, as well as outfielder Tyson Gillies.

Here's where I have problem, laid out beautifully by Todd Zolecki:

Here are two things that Phillies fans should like: Halladay is a stud, a step above almost everybody in baseball. Lee pitched great in the postseason, but Halladay's  body of work pitching in the American League East is second to none.  Halladay also will be in a Phillies uniform beyond 2010. The Phillies clearly felt Lee would not have been. So you guarantee yourself a stud pitcher atop your rotation for a few more years, rather than losing Lee after the season.

But they also could have kept both. If the Mariners are not sending prospects to Toronto, it means these are two totally separate trades. Essentially, the Phillies did not have to trade Lee to acquire Halladay. Of course, there is the issue of payroll. Lee is making $9 million next season, so this provides  the Phillies salary relief.  But Joe Blanton could make $7 million or more next season. I can't imagine the Phillies are trading Lee over Blanton to save themselves roughly  $2 million. No, it looks to me like the Phillies want Seattle's prospects to restock their farm system. But is it worth it? Having Halladay and Lee in the same rotation is no guarantee of a World Series championship, but it sure puts them in excellent position to try.

This is not a three-team trade. This is two trades. In one, the Phillies are giving up prospects to get a Cy Young winner. In the other, they are giving up a Cy Young winner to get prospects. Yes, in the end the Phillies are coming out ahead. They're essentially trading one year of Cliff Lee for a guaranteed four years of Roy Halladay. In that regard, yes, the Phillies have come out in a better position. They've got a guaranteed ace. But the fact that they were willing to finally give up their top pitching prospect and Lee is what's truly bugging me here. Yes, the Phillies essentially swapped two of their top prospects in Taylor and Drabek, along with d'Arnaud, and in return got three top prospects from Seattle, two pitchers and an outfielder. And they kept Domonic Brown, their top prospect overall, so that very well could be even there. BUT, the Phillies simply could have traded Drabek, Taylor and d'Arnaud for four years of Halladay and kept Cliff Lee, all but assuring themselves another more than awesome shot at getting back to the World Series for a third straight time, and most likely the favorites to win the whole damn thing. But they didn't because of money and their obsession over replenishing the farm system.

The Philadelphia Phillies, a team that has set attendance records each of the past few seasons, a team that sells out damn near every game, a team that the citizens of Philadelphia and fans all over the country spend literally millions upon millions of dollars on its merchandise and games, is worried about an extra $20 million one year and some prospects down the line. This makes me sick to my stomach. We could be looking at the best one-two punch in all of baseball: Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. Instead, the Phillies are shipping off the greatest man who ever lived to give Seattle the best one-two punch in all of baseball: King Felix and Clifford Phifer Lee.

In the end, the Phillies are coming out ahead overall. Lee wasn't going to sign at any sort of discount, where Roy Halladay did. Essentially, they guarantee themselves an ace for the next four years. And by trading Lee, they replenished the farm system with Seattle's prospects to take the place of the ones they shipped off for Halladay. The Phillies are in better position once this trade gets complete as an organization for the next few years than they were had no deals been done. But this didn't make the Phillis much better, if at all, for 2010. And let's face the facts, when you have a team built to win now, a team that will get harder and harder to keep together as time goes on, your goal should be to make the team better any way you can right now. The Phillies had that opportunity. They had the chance to have a team that stacks up every bit as high as the Yankees. Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth. That's a starting roster with World Series champions written all over it, even with a suspect bullpen. Lee and Halladay are workhorses, able to go the distance on any given night. That relieves a great deal of pressure on those bullpen arms and instantly makes the pen better as well.

Now they're riding in again with just one horse, and it wasn't the one who pitched so brilliantly all postseason long.

Now I understand Ruben Amaro and company not wanting to leave the cupboard bare in the minors. I really do. But sometimes you have to sacrifice down the road to do what it takes now. There are no guarantees that Domonic Brown, Phillipe Aumont, Juan Ramirez and Tyson Gillies will ever amount to anything worthwhile, let alone be players of the caliber of Cliff Lee, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, etc. By the time those players come up and call this team their own, the core of this current squad could be long gone or severely altered. Hell, the Phillies could be back at the bottom of the standings. When it comes to the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of sports, the future is now, especially for a team like the Philadelphia Phillies. They knew what they had in Cliff Lee, and they know what Roy Halladay brings. Together, the Phillies brass had to know that this team would have a very, very good shot at winning another World Series. As good a shot as anyone. Hell, a better shot than anyone in the NL, and probably a better shot than anyone — on an equal plain as the Yankees at worst.

Yes, the Phillies still have a great shot and will be the favorites in the NL, but those odds would be a lot more favorable with Lee and Halladay on the roster together. It's a tough pill to swallow watching them send Lee packing, and I'm not exactly thrilled about it.

When push comes to shove, yes, the Phillies benefit from these deals. But they could have made themselves even better had they simply been willing to eat a little more money and take their chances on the future. I wanted to see Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay side by side. Philadelphia wanted to see Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. The Phillies didn't. Call it being spoiled, not looking to the future, not realizing how lucky we are to even be in a position to pull these kind of deals off, but I think I speak for most of Philadelphia Phillies fans when I say I feel a bit cheated. Not by the end result. Again, I think the Phillies come out ahead in these deals. But for the immediate future, the Phillies aren't much better off in 2010 now than they were before all this took place. And with the bullpen questions, they may not even be better than they were last season. I know this much, they better go out and sure up that bullpen now. Sign Chan Ho. Get Scott Eyre. Strengthen that pen. Because instead of getting relief 2 out of every 5 days, the Phils can only count on a starter virtually guaranteed to go deep 1 out of every 5 days.

The fact that they weren't willing to keep Cliff Lee and go get Halladay is a letdown no matter how things shake out. The fact that we will never get to see what Lee could have accomplished in a full season in Phillies pinstripes is depressing. Our loss is Seattle's gain. Wouldn't it be something if the newly talented Mariners found themselves face to face with the Phillies in October. That would be a hell of a thing. And it would be hard to watch. Especially if one Cliff Lee did to us what he did to everyone else while he was here.

I know this much, Roy Halladay better continue to be Roy Halladay, or even better, because something tells me Phillies fans will be tracking what Lee is doing in Seattle's pitcher-friendly park. Truth be told, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if your 2010 Cy Young winners look something like this: Cliff Lee in the AL and Roy Halladay in the NL. That would be something, wouldn't it?

When it all boils down, this is a bittersweet moment, for sure. I am pumped to see Roy Halladay, who has spent his career dominating in the gauntlet that is the AL East, come in and annihilate the National League. But I'm sad to see the man who pitched better in the 2009 postseason than anyone leave.

Welcome aboard, Doc. Your arrival is a few months overdo. And good luck, Clifford. You will be missed. Hopefully, we see you in October.

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. You're handling this better than I thought you would. I was prepared to come in here, and see you lose your shit.

  2. I'm not happy, I'll say that much. I understand it to a degree, but I'm not thrilled. They should have grown a pair and eaten the salary for a season to keep Lee until his free agency. He's going to be a type A free agent, meaning the Phils would get draft picks if he signed elsewhere, and they'd have an almost guaranteed WS with Lee, Halladay and Cole.

    I know this much, I'm not buying shit from the Phils if they're willing to go over budget to have the greatest starting rotation in baseball. Again, I understand it, but it's bullshit that they're feeding us this $140 million budget crap. They're printing money over there right now. Suck it up for one season, for fuck's sake.

    I'm just trying to keep a level head though. For once, I'd like to have a Mark Cuban type of owner, one who doesn't give a damn about his pockets.

    Halladay is a beast though.

  3. I met Cliff Lee last monday and he didn't seem like he was in a good mood. He must have known something was up. Plus he probably knew the phillies wouldn't give him Sabathia type money.

  4. $140 million is $30 more than last years payroll already and is likely to be #2-3 in the league. Our core thats "built to win now" has already hit arbitration and many of them have been signed throughout their entire arbitration years. We can likely keep almost everyone if we want throughout the Halladay years. Look at the salaries: Howards already making close to $20 mil a year, Utley at $15, Lidge and Ibanez around $12, Rollins at $9, Werth, Cole, and likely Blanton around $7 mil, Polanco and maybe Vic at $6 and Madson and Romero around 4-5.

    Many of those guys will be due some raises, but we have Moyers $8 mil coming off after this year and can let the less effective players go and replace them with cheaper options. Hopefully Brown can replace Ibanez in a couple years, Aumont maybe could overtake Lidge, etc.

    With the guys we have running the show, and the money we continue to bring in, I can see a Braves-like run led by Roy that should really result in more WS appearances/wins

  5. That's the price of victory. What bugs me is they were willing to hand Adam Eaton a huge contract a few years ago, then hand Jamie Moyer a two-year extension at $8 mill a year last year, yet they won't eat an additional $9 mill for one year of Cliff freakin Lee? Think about that for a second. Really.

    I'm sorry, but if you're willing to spend out of your comfort zone for the likes of Eaton and Moyer, even if the payroll wasn't as large then, then you have to be willing to take a $9 million hit for one season to keep a freakin Cy Young winner to pair with another Cy Young Winner and a NLCS/WS MVP and go win the whole damn thing again. That's my opinion on the matter.

  6. Couldn't have written it better myself. I absolutely love getting Halladay but man does it hurt to see Lee go. The guy was dominant and fit in here so well. He made it look effortless in the postseason and I felt that WE were the ones who fleeced Cleveland. Then we turn around and get fleeced to see him go?

    Somebody wrote today that all of this will still end up being about Cole Hamels, and they're right. W/out him getting his shit together we will have issues, even with Halladay at the top.

  7. Your insane. Halladay + Lee was a pipe dream. It always was. The Phillies are a business... they want to win, yes, but if they try to go out and match the Yankees spending, they'd go under. Your being ridiculous criticizing a team for being stingy when they're just below both New York teams and Boston in spending.
    I hate seeing Cliff Lee go. He was really special. But think about it... and this deal makes sense.

  8. Never said the deal didn't make sense there Section 118. In fact, I repeatedly stated how the Phils came out ahead, you know, if you actually comprehended what I wrote.

    But yes, I'm disappointed that they couldn't keep Lee. Yes, they're a business, but the business of sports is to win. I'm not saying $9 million is something to shrug off, but it doesn't seem like an exorbitant amount of money to ask them to eat for one season in order to keep a Cy Young winner.

  9. the way i see it, if they had lee still, they'd be pretty much gauranteed an appearance in the WS again, hence creating another ticket price increase in 2011. hey, there you go. that increase would make up for the 9mil taken on for lee in 2010.

  10. I posted this article on twitter, just a heads up.

    I wish we are all as savvy as Ruben Amaro is in making this deal for Halladay. Hell, he might look like a genius if Halladay gotes 23-2 and leads them to 2 more WS rings. (I hope not, go Braves) However the fact that it is 2 seperate trades makes it a little harder to deal with.

    Here's hoping the Braves give the Phillies a run this year. Yeah right.


  11. next myth: there's no such thing as a guaranteed world series. i know that a team with halladay and lee seems unbeatable but you can't account for the toll that a 162 game season will have. i know we'd be the most dangerous team in the league and i couldn't see us not winning the division but what happens if, god forbid, utley and/or halladay got hurt down the stretch. things happen in sports. its good to lock up a team for a number of years because 4 years with halladay has a better chance to net a trophy than 1 year with halladay and lee