Toronto’s Big Draw

It’s been no secret that both former GM J.P. Ricciardi and new GM Alex Anthopoulos of the Toronto Blue Jays were trying to unload Roy Halladay to recoup some value before he left for free agency after the 2010. After months of speculation, the rumors came to fruition when Halladay was sent to Philadelphia in what amounted to a three-team trade that also involved the Seattle Mariners.

Losing one of baseball’s best starting pitchers is tough, no question, but hopefully the Jays acquire a prospect who may become the next Roy Halladay. They may have done that in acquiring Kyle Drabek from the Phillies, but Roy Halladays don’t just show up at the doorstep (or in a basket in the river, like Moses).

Nowhere is that statement more evident, one would think, than at the turnstiles. The Jays have certainly had some stars like Carlos Delgado, but recently, Halladay has been part of a rather lackluster squad that has seen the status of Vernon Wells and Alex Rios implode. The question becomes: how much of an effect, if any, did Halladay have on the Jays’ attendance figures?

To investigate, I went to old reliable, Baseball Reference and threw attendance figures into an Excel spreadsheet. The following chart will show the Jays’ attendance on days in which Halladay starts compared to when others start.

Halladay has been the bigger draw in six out of the eight seasons since he started pitching regularly in Toronto. The difference on average is about 1,850 fans per game. Halladay has made 116 starts at home in this time span, which amounts to about 215,000 more fans. If we assume the Jays make $50 profit on every fan that walks through the turnstile, then the Jays have made about an extra $11 million in eight years, or about $1,350,000 per year.

This analysis, of course, does not factor in merchandise as Halladay’s number 32 is likely the Jays’ most popular jersey purchase. Nor does this analysis factor in TV and radio ratings, which may or may not be correlated with attendance; and nor do we know the effect of Halladay on advertiser dollars. We can state confidently, though, that Halladay has meant a lot to the Jays aside from his on-the-field performance.

Anthopoulos, in acquiring Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D’Arnaud — a much, much better assortment of players than was offered to him last July — certainly came out a winner, but he and his compadres in the front office should be prepared to see fewer and fewer fans buying tickets and jerseys, and tuning into games on television and radio, as well as fewer advertisers looking to peddle products alongside the Jays’ logo.

On the other side of this is the Phillies, Roy’s new team. Should the Phillies expect an increase in attendance? The answer, quite simply, is no.

In 2009, the Phillies sold out 73 of 81 home games after winning the 2008 World Series. Overall, they saw nearly 315,000 more fans in ’09 than in ’08. It might seem natural to expect even more fans, but there are a finite number of seats at Citizens Bank Park — 43,650 to be exact. Therefore, there are diminishing returns for a team like the Phillies acquiring the services of a star player, especially at the cost of another star player in Cliff Lee.

With the waning excitement of 2007’s team reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1993 and 2008’s squad winning the World Series for the first time since 1980, it is reasonable to not only expect Halladay to have no noticeable effect on attendance, but to expect a regression in that area as well. In the balance book, Roy Halladay meant much more to the Toronto Blue Jays than he will to the Philadelphia Phillies.

BDD: Zduriencik is the New Beane

At Baseball Daily Digest, I laud Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik for the job he’s done in his short time at the helm.

The newbie general manager has taken a team that couldn’t hit a lick, couldn’t field a lick, and could barely pitch a lick (and I’m talking about the 2008 team, mind you) into a squad that can pitch and field with the best in the game, certainly well enough to overcome a lackluster offense. Very few general managers in the history of baseball can lay claim to such a fundamental transformation of a franchise in such a short amount of time.

Estimating the Impact

Last night was unbelievably confusing if you are able to maintain a pulse while on the Internet. Disparate information was flying in from all angles, and there was enough overreaction to fuel an entire season of Dr. Phil programs. In the few hours during which most of us slept, some dust has settled.

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Phillies are close to extending Halladay with a three-year, $60 million offer that may include vesting options for a fourth and maybe even a fifth year. So the Phillies may have Halladay, one of the best pitchers in baseball, until 2014. Of course, he’ll be 33 in May, so the Phillies aren’t paying for his prime years. However, he has shown no signs of slowing down with four consecutive seasons in which he’s thrown at least 220 innings and made 31 starts, and he’s finished in the top-five in AL Cy Young voting as well.

Aside from gaining Halladay and $6 million and relinquishing Cliff Lee, the Phillies have essentially swapped prospects. Destined for Toronto’s Minor League system are C Travis D’Arnaud, P Kyle Drabek, and OF Michael Taylor. In are P Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies, and P Juan Ramirez from Seattle.

At about this time last year, John Manuel of Baseball America ranked Drabek, Taylor, and D’Arnaud as the Phillies’ #5, 6, and 7 prospects respectively. About five weeks ago, those rankings changed to #2, 3, and 4.

For the Mariners, Aumont and Ramirez ranked #3 and 5 in the Mariners’ system (with Gillies out of the top-ten) a year ago. I’m not finding a more recent top-ten ranking, so that will have to suffice.

Now, let’s dig in and learn what we can about the prospects.

* * *

BP’s Kevin Goldstein on Kyle Drabek (July 2, 2009):

Drabek’s smallish frame and injury history contribute to the trouble many have figuring out exactly which direction his path will take him, but the scout saw him succeeding in a variety of roles. “He really could be anything,” the scout surmised, “I could see him starting, I could see him relieving… he could have a lot of different careers, but they’re all good ones.”

Goldstein on Michael Taylor (May 1, 2009):

After three disappointing years at Stanford, Taylor got away from the single-plane “Stanford swing” in 2008 and suddenly delivered a .346/.412/.557 season while suddenly looking like the player who in high school was one of the best tools guys in the country. A monster athlete at six-foot-six and 250 pounds, Taylor is batting .424 during a current seven game hitting streak and .338/.389/.569 overall. The scary part? Some think he’s just starting to tap into his potential.

Goldstein on Travis D’Arnaud (June 22, 2009):

The Good: D’Arnaud is a big, athletic catcher with plenty of upside. He takes a powerful swing and projects for above-average power down the road. He’s a very good athlete for a catcher with excellent receiving skills, a plus arm, and the attitude of a field general.

The Bad: D’Arnaud needs to tighten his approach at the plate. His swing has a bit of a loop in it, and while he’ll likely always have high strikeout totals, he complicates matters by lunging at breaking balls and chasing nearly any pitch on the outer half. His throws are strong, but could use improved accuracy.

Goldstein on Phillippe Aumont (February 27, 2009):

The Good: Aumont’s best pitch is a low-90s sinker that touches 95 and has explosive late life, with one scout calling it a major league-ready offering right now. He’ll flash a decent slider at times, is aggressive in the strike zone, and he brings a lot of intensity to the mound.

The Bad: Aumount’s elbow problems are a concern, as he does tend to throw across his body. While the slider is effective, it also flattens out far too often, and with a below-average changeup, some think that he’d be put to better use in the bullpen. He needs to get in more innings; he pitched less than 60 last year. He also needs to harness his emotions, as his tendency to stare down umpires and slam his glove whenever he was being pulled from a game did him no favors at Low-A.

Goldstein (from the same link above) on Juan Ramirez:

The Good: Ramirez has a nearly perfect power-pitching frame and mechanics, and he effortlessly throws 92-94 mph fastballs that can touch 96. His heater features good late life, and he locates the pitch extremely well for being so inexperienced. He flashes a good slider, and he was at his best toward the end of the season.

The Bad: Ramirez’ secondary pitches lag well behind his power stuff; he gets around on his slider and flattens it out often, and his changeup is rather rudimentary. The latter is of most concern, as he could use another weapon against left-handers.

Goldstein on Tyson Gillies (June 15, 2009):

A Canadian import who is legally deaf, Gillies is an absolute burner who the Mariners hoped would be able to take off with an assignment to the hitters’ paradise of High Desert. He’s beginning to work the count much better, and that’s helping every aspect of his game.

In a BP chat in late August, when asked if Gillies is “for real,” Goldstein responded, “He’s pretty real. I don’t think he’s a monster prospect, but he’ll certainly [be] on the M’s offseason [top prospect] list.”

* * *

So, we have the Phillies turning their #2, 3, and 4 prospects into the Mariners’ #3, 5, and unranked prospects, according to Baseball America. Baseball Prospectus ranked the Mariners’ system 17th out of 30 teams back in March, while the Phillies came in at 14th.

It appears that the Phillies lost value in swapping prospects, especially since Drabek projects as a starter and Aumont projects as a reliever (though likely a closer). Drabek, of course, has had injury problems and already has undergone Tommy John surgery — he is no sure thing. However, relievers tend to throw about one-third the amount of innings as starters, so essentially the Phillies just lost 2/3 of Kyle Drabek if we assume the two pitching prospects to be of similar value.

The following animated GIFs come from Lookout Landing. They depict Aumont’s fastball and curve ball from his appearance in the World Baseball Classic.

Phillippe Aumont's fastball

Phillippe Aumont's curveball

Overall, I tend to agree with Jeff Sullivan’s summary from Lookout Landing:

But, at least as a Mariner, Aumont’s in the bullpen. Relievers simply aren’t very valuable unless they develop into the best of the best, and the odds are against that happening. While Aumont has great stuff and should make the Majors, it’s questionable whether he ever gains the command to reach the upper level. Then you’ve got guys like Juan Ramirez, a solid but by no means can’t-miss starter in high-A, and Tyson Gillies, a slap-hitting speedy outfielder with low upside…these are nice prospects to have, but they’re not the sort of prospects you freak out over when you have the opportunity to land a Cliff Lee.

The Phillies would have been better off simply trading with the Blue Jays one-on-one, and I’m sure all of us would prefer Drabek, Taylor, and D’Arnaud to Aumont, Ramirez, and Gillies. However, the three-way trade isn’t terrible and the Phillies did come out victorious in that they still have rotation depth with Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ, and the team is in better shape beyond 2010. For that, GM Ruben Amaro deserves some credit. He did not get ransacked in this deal.

For another perspective on the trade, head to Phuture Phillies for a 4,600-word essay.