Trading Aces: Who Won the Cliff Lee-Roy Halladay Swap

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Trading Aces: Who Won the Cliff Lee-Roy Halladay Swap
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I was downright shocked to see the Philadelphia Phillies pull off the Roy Halladay trade.

I figured that with Cliff Lee’s performance in the 2009 postseason, they were satisfied with the deal they pulled off to get him, and were content going with him and Cole Hamels atop their rotation.

I’m sure they probably would have been had Lee been open to signing a long-term extension. I think it needs to be pointed out that the reason they went after Halladay was because he was willing to sign long-term.

There is a lot of security knowing you’ve got a one-two of Halladay and Hamels past 2010. Credit to them, as they also picked up a few prospects in an attempt to replace the ones they gave up getting both Lee and Halladay.

There are a few other comments that need to be made about this whole trade circle though.

The first is that they didn’t get an equal package in terms of what the Indians got for Cliff Lee. I think that’s pretty much a given considering it wasn’t a deadline deal, and they had a half-season less to give the Mariners.

Prospects are prospects and we don’t know how good they’ll be until they actually establish their worth in the big leagues, but on the surface it looks as if Cleveland did their due diligence in researching what they originally got for Lee. Some might wonder why they weren’t able to acquire Kyle Drabek from Philadelphia originally, and all you need to do to calm that wonderment is go back to the fact that Halladay signed an extension.

If you are going to give up a pitcher like Drabek, who could soon be in your rotation and for many years following that, you want some insurance that you can replace that. Not only is Halladay established, but he's also one of the best pitchers in the game.

The second comment that needs to be made is a response to the people—including myself—who are wondering why the Phillies wouldn’t just hold onto Lee for this season and go with a trio of pitchers at the top of their rotation that could all win the Cy Young.

In theory, that would be a genius move on the Phillies' part if they could pull it off; it certainly would give them not only the best, but the deepest rotation in the game. But there are a few things that burst that daydreamy bubble I’ve had before.

For one, it may not be possible in terms of salary. I’m not knowledgeable on their situation, but after two consecutive trips to the World Series, they’ve certainly got cash to spend. But perhaps this is a team operating with a certain budget where Lee’s deal for 2010—regardless of how valuable it is based on his production—simply won’t fit.

The other reason is one I alluded to a few paragraphs ago with the simple fact that the Phillies are still very much cognizant that the future still matters, and the Lee and Halladay deals have put a considerable dent in their farm system. Trading Lee wasn’t going to fully replenish it, but it certainly helped.

From the Philadelphia perspective, I can’t quarrel with their move. I love Cliff Lee and I think the Phillies did too, but the long-term and business side of baseball favored them doing these series of deals.

It would have been nice to skip having to acquire Lee in the first place by just getting Halladay at the deadline last year, but they went to a World Series and are the favorites in the NL once again, so it’s hard to argue with the route they took.

Roy Halladay also fits with that team and city’s personality. He’ll mesh right into that clubhouse and his workman-like approach to the game embodies what their fans value the most.

On the Seattle side, they couldn’t have pulled off a more cunning move. For my money, they just acquired the most clutch pitcher in the American League for a package that I’d trade away for him, 10 times out of 10.

Lee is a fly-ball pitcher more than anything. He can certainly rack up the strikeouts, but if he isn’t sending hitters back to the dugout empty-handed, he’s getting them to hit the ball in the air.

Safeco Field is a home-run hitter’s nightmare. According to ESPN’s park-factor statistics, home runs at Safeco are 0.886, which is 24th in the game and below the 1.000 mark. If a number is below the 1.000 mark, it favors the pitcher. Seattle’s team was also 12th among AL teams in home runs.

The stadium last in home run park factor? Cliff Lee’s former home of Progressive Field, where he gave up just three home runs in 11 games in 2009. Compare that to the four he gave up in Citizen’s Bank Park in just five games, and that says a lot.

Not to mention, he’s back in the league he’s most familiar with and facing several divisional foes he’s had moderate success against in Oakland and Los Angeles.

Halladay may get the entire buzz and the Phillies deserve credit for making the very gutsy move they pulled off, but Cliff Lee is perhaps the better acquisition for his team at this current stage.

 

Do you like my Extensions?

Plenty of young players got extensions this offseason. The biggest name was probably Tim Lincecum, yet he probably signed the world’s most expensive, but smallest extension ever.

Given what Linecum’s representation could have been planning on doing in arbitration , perhaps the $23 million extended over two years is way better than the near $20-some million they could have paid him for one year.

Lincecum’s arbitration situation would have been unprecedented. Can you think of another two-time Cy Young winner that was ever up for salary arbitration? Exactly. He may not have gotten anything close to $23 million, but he sure would have set some sort of record.

An American League Cy Young contender last year also re-upped with his squad. Seattle made the cunning move of locking up ace Felix Hernandez for the rest of his arbitration-eligible years, plus three into free agency.

Looking at the year-by-year breakdown however, King Felix is due some serious bumps as he gets older. The final year of his contract would net him $20 million, the magic number for big-time aces around the game.

The chances of them trying to work something out with newly acquired starter Cliff Lee seem minimal with the amount of money due to Hernandez over the next five years. That would be a lot of payroll committed to two pitchers if Lee gets the big deal he expects to receive.

Cliff Lee’s unwillingness, or at least perceived unwillingness, to sign a long-term deal is a big reason the Philadelphia Phillies traded him and acquired Roy Halladay, who inked a new deal upon arriving in the City of Brotherly Love.

Halladay will make that magic number of $20 million every year for the next three years after 2010, and a fourth if the team picks up his option. I don’t think Cliff Lee will command a $20 million dollar salary due to his age and the economy, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see someone give it to him either.

I really think the Minnesota Twins are going to get a deal done with Joe Mauer. This is a special situation with Mauer growing up right down the road. I think the Twins will take care of Mauer, but he’ll also find a way to give them a discount.

Minnesota was busy not just with Mauer, and also were working on a deal with Denard Span. The Twins and Span agreed to a five-year deal that will pay him above the pre-arbitration salary he was scheduled to make, taking up his arbitration years and potentially extending into two of his free agent years.

Another outfielder signed a long-term deal in Arizona that was in the same position as Span. However, Justin Upton figures to have a lot more upside and therefore commanded a larger total salary number.

Upton and the Diamondbacks agreed to a six-year deal that will take B.J.'s younger brother two years into his free agency period. If Upton continues to progress and puts up big-time numbers, the $14 million he’d get paid in the final two years could be below the norm you would pay someone for that production.

And for Upton, the contract will expire just as he is entering the very center of his prime years, so he couldn’t ask for a better situation.

The following players also signed extensions this offseason with their respective teams: Shane Victorino (Phillies), Joe Blanton (Phillies), Josh Johnson (Marlins), Franklin Gutierrez (Mariners), Michael Wuertz (Athletics), Maicer Izturis (Angels), Justin Verlander (Tigers), Mark Teahen (White Sox), Kelly Shoppach (Rays), and Mark Reynolds (Diamondbacks).

 

"2010 MLB Manifesto" is a part of a month-long series of articles that are previewing the 2010 MLB season. For the other parts of "2010 MLB Manifesto," other features, and a schedule, click here .

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