Trade Proposal Fail

Read this article by Ken Rosenthal at FOX Sports. Let it sink in. Experience his ideas. When you’ve done that, move down to the next paragraph.

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Rosenthal proposes a multi-team trade involving the Toronto Blue Jays, the Philadelphia Phillies, and a third team:

So, here’s the deal: Lee goes somewhere for prospects. The Phillies include the prospects in their package for Halladay, maybe keep one or two for themselves. Halladay gets his extension, the Jays get a bounty of young players and some lucky team gets Lee for one year at his bargain salary of $9 million.

That’s right: Ken proposes that the budget-constrained Phillies send away a 6-7.5 WAR pitcher (Lee) making $8 million in 2010 in an effort to acquire a a 6-7.5 WAR pitcher (Halladay) making nearly $16 million. He suggests that the Blue Jays — desperate to recoup value on the sure-to-depart pitcher — would pay for part of his salary. Unless the Jays cover at least $10 million, there’s absolutely no reason why this trade proposal even begins to make sense.

That is the biggest offense in Rosenthal’s article, but he leads off with the following:

I have no proof that the Phillies are trying to move left-hander Cliff Lee as part of a three- or four-team trade for Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay.

But I’ve got a hunch.

“I have no proof; I’ve got a hunch.” The mark of true professional journalism, folks.

Trading Lee, on the other hand, would help the Phillies save an additional $2 million or so in salary. 

This doesn’t make sense. Lee is earning half as much as Halladay in 2010. In order for the Phillies to “save an additional $2 million or so,” the Blue Jays would have to send $10 million to the Phillies along with Halladay, which would be an outrageous gesture on the part of the Jays.

Trading Lee also would bring the Phillies better prospects, enabling them to send fewer of their own top young players to the Jays.

The Phillies would not get as strong a package for Lee as they would give for Halladay.

There was no editing in the above quote — that’s how it is printed in the article. So not only would the Phillies add on more salary (unless the Jays inexplicably include what represents 12% of their 2009 payroll), they would also be losing prospect value for a break-even exchange or, at the most generous, a very slim upgrade of 0.3 WAR or so in the starting rotation.

Of course, this entire proposal assumes that the Blue Jays have leverage, which they don’t. Halladay has said that he wants to be traded by spring training or he will not waive his no-trade clause. So the Jays have about two months to make a move. If they don’t trade him, they risk only recouping two draft picks (a first-rounder and a sandwich pick) and that’s only if they offer him arbitration. There’s a realistic possibility that they don’t depending on how their payroll shapes out over the next 11 months.

The Jays could still trade Halladay by July 31, but that would require A) convincing Halladay between the start of spring training and July 31 to waive his no-trade clause and B) getting back even less for Halladay than in a trade prior to spring training.

Toronto has absolutely no leverage. The Phillies can offer them a modest package that includes J.A. Happ and Michael Taylor and a lower-tier prospect like Anthony Gose. That should be enough to entice the Jays to relinquish Halladay (if new GM Alex Anthopoulos is interested in not repeating the errors of his predecessor J.P. Ricciardi).

Instead of having only one premier pitcher, the Phillies will have two — so long as they are willing to surpass the $140 million budget limit they seem to have set for themselves. The Jays actually get some return on Halladay instead of settling for two compensatory draft picks — silhouettes of players at this point — in the draft.

Neither the Jays nor the Phillies should have any interest in involving a third team directly in a Roy Halladay trade. The Phillies can subsequently attempt to unload Joe Blanton, who will likely make $6 million in arbitration, to clear some salary. Involving a third (or even fourth, as Rosenthal suggests) only cuts into the return value for both the Phillies and the Jays.

UPDATE: Rosenthal was right. See apology here.