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.
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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.”
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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.
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.