BDD: Keeping Up with the Joneses

At BDD, I analyze the Mets’ flurry of free agent signings.

First you have the Phillies, winners of the NL East three years running, representatives of the National League in the World Series two years in a row, and 2008 World Series champions. They live comfortably and don’t consider living up to the standards of others. In other words, they won’t fight to get the last toy in stock for their kids; they just want to get in, get out, and be done with the holiday rush.


Then you have the Mets, who have been wearing concrete shoes in the NL East these last few years. GM Omar Minaya epitomizes the type of shopper who has to buy his kids just as much as you bought yours, and more. You got your kids Rock Band? Well, the store just ran out of those, but Minaya bought Rock Revolution, a cheap knock-off. You got your kids an Arnold figurine from Terminator? Omar got his kids an Arnold figurine from Jingle All the Way. That not being enough, he’ll also do some more shopping after Christmas, with discounts abound.

The Phillies got Halladay; the Mets got Escobar, Bay, and Molina. That’s called “keeping up with the Joneses“.

For Halladay, to Infinity and Beyond

Roy Halladay has made a career out of carving up hitters since he threw his first pitch in the Majors in 1998. He has expertly utilized his four-seam and cut fastballs and a doozy of a curve ball. Since he became a regular starting pitcher in 2002, his FIP has never been higher than 3.79 and only twice has he averaged two or more walks per nine innings in that span.

The numbers alone are very impressive, but also realize that he did all of that while pitching in the American League East division, the toughest division in Major League Baseball since ’02. The AL East has been home to Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, Carlos Pena, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, and many more. Yet, fancy this:

  • Career ERA: 3.43 (.674 OPS)
  • vs. New York Yankees: 2.84 (.655)
  • vs. Baltimore Orioles: 2.89 (.646)
  • vs. Tampa Bay Rays: 3.67 (.717)
  • vs. Boston Red Sox: 4.28 (.714)

Since 2002, the Yankees have had the top-ranked offense in the American league (out of 14 teams) four times, and the Red Sox three times. Both New York and Boston’s offenses have been in the top-three in seven out of those eight seasons.

Compare the AL and NL Eastern divisions over Halladay’s career:


In the NL East, Halladay will be facing much easier competition including the opposing pitcher. The average designated hitter in the AL had an OPS of .780 in 2009; the average pitcher in the NL had an OPS of .355.

None of the Phillies’ rivals have improved offensively, and in fact they may be getting weaker. The Marlins are considering trading Dan Uggla; the Braves’ regular lineup will look a lot different than it did in 2009; the Mets are crossing their fingers and hoping for good health and a power resurgence from David Wright; and the Nationals are relying solely on Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn.

As if he needed yet another advantage, Halladay will have a more efficient defense behind him in Philadelphia. Last year, the Phillies put up a +6.2 UZR/150 compared to the Blue Jays’ -4.5. In ’08, the Phillies outpaced the Jays +14.8 to +3.1. The 2008 World Series champs lay claim to Jimmy Rollins, who has won the Gold Glove at shortstop three years running, and Shane Victorino who won his second consecutive as an outfielder. Not to be forgotten is Chase Utley, to whom Rob Neyer awarded the Gold Glove of the Decade at second base.

The current fan projections at FanGraphs put Halladay at about a 2.80 ERA with a 7.67 K/9 and 1.33 BB/9. Those would significantly outpace his career average 3.43 ERA, 6.57 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9. However, given the softer competition and more efficient defense that will be behind him, Halladay — who turns 33 in May — may be poised to put up the best full season of his career in his inaugural season in Philadelphia.

Just Say No to Fernando Rodney

Remember when you were a kid, you would do stupid stuff and your parents would stop you in your tracks? They’d tell you what you were doing is wrong, and that they’re stopping you for your own good. Maybe, like me, you stuck marbles up your nose. Or maybe you’d touch exposed wires in a plugged-in lamp that you knocked over with a football. Guilty. Spent your allowance on ice cream shaped like the face of Super Mario? Been there.

Even as adults, we have people in our lives that stop us from making fools of ourselves. You may remember such slogans as “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” and “dude, she’s like 350 pounds.” Point is, none of us is perfect and it’s nice to have back-up in our moments of poor decision-making whether it’s your parents, friends, or complete strangers.

Why do I bring all that up?

We have a situation on our hands, and we need to run interference.

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is eyeing the fat girl across the bar. Her name is Fernando Rodney, a right-handed relief pitcher formerly of the Detroit Tigers. Rube just got his Christmas bonus ($6 million from Toronto in the Roy Halladay trade) and he’s on the verge of blowing it all on her in a presumably drunken stupor. For the past month and a half, he’s been demonstrably pointing at the $140 million violently circled many times over at the bottom of the Phillies’ ledger. Now, Rube is considering spending $12 million over two years on Rodney, according to Buster Olney.

Rube has been a sly cat since he took over for Pat Gillick. We wanted Pat Burrell back; he gave us Raul Ibanez. We wanted to sell the farm for Roy Halladay at the trading deadline last year; he gave us Cliff Lee at the cost of next-to-nothing. Then he did give us Halladay, essentially in exchange for Lee. Clearly, he sees something that we the fans clearly do not — and he should, he’s the GM.

However, Rube may have had a little too much Hot Stove nog to drink. Maybe he’s still high off of the Halladay trade. Whatever the case, he needs to be stopped. Cut him off, take his keys, call him a cab. Imagine him waking up the next morning to the face on the right. Imagine the shame!

Instead, Rube can sleep it off, wake up tomorrow and do the right thing: insert Scott Mathieson and Antonio Bastardo into the bullpen. They’ll cost about $400,000 apiece, or together about one-sixth the cost of Rodney.

Rodney isn’t a particularly bad relief pitcher, but he’s not a good one either; he’s average. FanGraphs has his career FIP at 4.15. He has the ability to strike hitters out (8.6 per 9), but he also walks far too many (4.6 per 9) to be given high-leverage innings. Looking at only his 2005-09 seasons, he set a career low in K/9 last year and his second-highest BB/9. He had flukish batted ball splits (11% line drives, 58% ground balls) that are destined to regress.

Perhaps most telling is that the American League finally caught up to Rodney’s wild ways. For the first time in his career, opposing hitters swung at fewer than 60% of his pitches in the strike zone yet made contact 84.2% of the time when they did swing. It could certainly be true that the National League could take some time to catch on to this, but it’s unlikely given the ubiquity of scouting reports, statistical analysis, and tape review (and word of mouth).

Rodney should be a pitcher teams shouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole at his current asking price of $12 million over two years.

Fans don’t let their team’s GM sign Fernando Rodney.

Behold, my incredible Photoshop skills:

You know what to do, Internet.

How Far We’ve Come

Roy Halladay is a Phillie. One of the best pitchers in all of Major League Baseball is a Phillie. Not only that, he wanted to come specifically to Philadelphia. Halladay’s words, per David Murphy:

This is where I wanted to be. […] This is a dream come true. […] I’ve heard great things about the people and great things about the organization.

It wasn’t that long ago when Phillies fans were feeling pessimistic after missing out on the Braden Looper sweepstakes. When former GM Ed Wade stockpiled aging relief pitchers like canned goods and duct tape during nuclear winter. When ownership had to begrudgingly commit to a much larger payroll ($58M in 2002; $71M in ’03; $93M in ’04) to sign Jim Thome and trade for Kevin Millwood (and Eric Milton!). When Scott Rolen called St. Louis “heaven”, simply happy to be out of Philly. When Wade once called Curt Schilling a “horse’s ass“.

Philadelphia used to be where baseball went to die, like Washington presently. Now, Philly is baseball Mecca. National networks like ESPN and FOX air Phillies games nearly as frequently as Red Sox and Yankees games. Roy Halladay wants to pitch here. Cliff Lee seemed genuinely upset he would no longer be pitching here. Even John Smoltz, a raging homophobe who has trash-talked Philadelphia and Citizens Bank Park in the past, would not be opposed to donning red pinstripes.

It’s so good right now that some of us were legitimately upset that the Phils would not have two Cy Young winners in the starting rotation instead of one.

To echo the sentiments of Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas, “how far we’ve come.”

Meanwhile, two hours north on Interstate-95, you have the bumbling, fumbling New York Mets. In 2007 and ’08, they gift-wrapped the NL East division crown for the Phillies with incredibly depressing late-September climaxes. Daniel Murphy led last year’s 72-90 team with 12 home runs. To put that in perspective, if he were on the Phillies, Murphy would have been tied in sixth place with Pedro Feliz in home runs. Ryan Howard himself out-homered the Mets’ top-four home run hitters combined.

Last year was so depressing that it spawned a Sporcle quiz, “Can you name the 2009 injured Mets players?” Pundits are using the Mets’ futility to complain about seating charts and prices. SNY’s Howard Megdal wants the Mets to simply do nothing, in response to the suggestions by others that the Mets consider trading Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana (that’s right, the Mets could trade a Cy Young winner without actually getting one in return!). With the Mets heavily pursuing Jason Bay, Dajafi of The Good Phight suggests that Bay should “call the other 29 teams first and unleash a barrage of ‘C’monnnnn… pleeeease?’ before saying yes to Omar [Minaya] through your tears.”

The Mets went from one game away from the World Series in 2006 to laughingstocks of baseball in just a few short, depressing years. They are as pathetic and unlovable, if not more, as the late-1990’s and early-2000’s Phillies teams. While the Phillies are at the top of the food chain, the Mets have quickly sunk near the bottom. The current iteration of the Phillies is led by a GM with an apparent Midas touch (see: Burrell, Pat; Ibanez, Raul); the Mets by a GM with little job security and a reputation for racial favoritism.

It’s a great time to be a Phillies fan right now. The starting rotation may not be Halladay-Lee-Hamels but at least it’s not Daal-Person-Chen as it was in 2001. It’s important to regain that perspective from time to time. That doesn’t mean we should always accept the status quo, but simply to see the forest for the trees.

Was I too hard on the Mets, do you think? Hey, at least they’re not the Flyers.

Phillies Smart to Extend Rollins

The Phillies decided yesterday to pick up the 2011 club option on shortstop Jimmy Rollins’ contract. Rollins will earn $7.5 million in ’10 and $8.5 million in ’11. It’s a no-brainer for the Phillies as there are no options to replace Rollins from within the Minor League system. John Sickels posted the team’s top-20 prospects, riddled with pitchers and outfielders. You have to squint to find the Phillies’ shortstop prospects Freddy Galvis and Jonathan Villar.

Galvis, a 20-year-old switch-hitter with defensive prowess, did not appear ready for AA last year, posting a .465 OPS in 63 plate appearances. His Minor League high in OPS is .610, posted in the Gulf Coast League last year. He strikes out very rarely and has some speed, but needs to make strides at the plate before the Phillies can begin to think about him as a potential successor to Rollins.

Villar is even further away. Only 19 years of age, he spent about two-thirds of 2009 in the Gulf Coast League and the other one-third in the New York-Penn League. He posted slightly better offensive numbers than Galvis with higher strikeout and walk rates, but hasn’t shown much power. Unlike Galvis, he appears to be a smarter base runner, stealing 17 bases in 19 attempts (89.5%), compared to 30 in 46 attempts (65%) for Galvis.

The Phillies won’t be able to promote a shortstop from within, which meant that if they didn’t pick up Rollins’ option, they would have to either trade for a shortstop or sign one via free agency. That list is lackluster: Alex Gonzalez, Cristian Guzman, J.J. Hardy, Cesar Izturis, Derek Jeter (who is almost guaranteed to be extended by the New York Yankees), Julio Lugo, Edgar Renteria, Ramon Santiago, Ramon Vazquez, Jack Wilson. Shortstops with 2011 options that may not be used: Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, and Jose Reyes.

Fans may look at Rollins’ 2009 season and wonder why it’s worth keeping him around for two more years. Like Cole Hamels, Rollins’ ’09 season was tarnished by BABIP misfortune. Despite his speed, Rollins only has a .295 career BABIP, yet it was a low .253 last season. Perhaps influenced by his futility at the plate, Rollins’ walk rate dropped as well, by over 33% from 9.4% to 6.1%.

According to FanGraphs, both Bill James and the fans expect a significant bounce-back from his ’09 wRC+ of 89 to 106 and 109 respectively (100 is average).

Defensively, Rollins still provides value. He posted his lowest UZR/150 since 2005 last season, but there’s reason to believe he’ll be much closer to his 2006-07 6.3-7.0 than ’08’s +15.0 and last year’s +2.9.

The question with Rollins isn’t so much about his bat or his ability to field ground balls; it’s whether or not he’s slowing down with age. He’s 31 years old and got caught stealing eight times last season, which is almost as many as ’07 and ’08 combined (6 and 3 respectively). His range factor, after improving every season since 2004, dropped down to a career low. He has performed increasingly worse against the fastball and hit 10.5% more fly balls last season with corresponding drops in ground balls and line drives.

Should we label ’09 an aberration and expect Rollins to age gracefully? Or should we expect Rollins to fall off of that proverbial cliff? The answer, most likely, is somewhere in between: he’s probably not as bad as he showed last year, but we shouldn’t expect him to hit, field, and run much better than the average. However, don’t be fooled by the label — an average player absolutely provides value.

Even with last year’s nightmare season, Rollins provided 2.4 wins above replacement. That alone was worth nearly $11 million in free agent dollars. If we expect slight upticks in offensive and defensive fortune, Rollins should provide close to 3.0-3.5 WAR (which is a conservative estimate, considering he’s been worth 4.0-6.7 WAR from 2004-08). And the Phillies are only paying him $16 million in the next two years (Ed Wade’s “greatest gift to the Phillies franchise” notes Dajafi at The Good Phight).

Considering all of the possibilities, the Phillies picking up the 2011 option is by far the best move for the team — even if Rollins is declining rapidly, which he likely is not. If, in the next two seasons, Rollins produces anywhere close to his previous landing points, he’ll be providing the Phillies anywhere from two to four times their investment on him annually.

A Tiny Violin Plays for Cliff Lee

The Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee trades have been officially completed. The Phillies have a new former Cy Young winner, this time one that throws with the right arm. The Mariners have a new pitcher to complement phenom Felix Hernandez. The Blue Jays got what they consider to be fair value for their superstar pitcher. Oh, and the Athletics got a decent prospect out of it too: former Phillies farmhand Michael Taylor, who was shipped immediately from Toronto for Brett Wallace.

We know everyone’s new address now. We’re back to speculating and projecting, counting the days until pitchers and catchers report. The news from the mega-deals has not ended, though. Cliff Lee expressed his feelings during a conference call with media types yesterday. Andy Martino has the choice quotes:

“My initial reaction was shock and disbelief…Initially, I was disappointed because making it to the World Series was a lot of fun, and I was looking forward to making a third run at it.”

“At first I didn’t believe it, because I thought that we were working out an extension with the Phillies and I thought that I was going to spend the rest of my career there…This goes to show this is a business, and you never know what’s going to happen until you have a full no-trade clause.”

Cliff Lee's great catchWith that, Lee plucked at the heartstrings of Phillies fans everywhere. Not only was he utterly dominant in the post-season, and not only did he make one of the best catches in baseball history, he really, truly wanted to be here in Philadelphia pitching for our Fightins!

Not so fast. Jon Heyman reported not so long ago, December 14th, that Clifton Phifer Lee:

[…] will be taking “no discount.”

[…] is expected to seek about $23 million a year, which is the annual pay of Johan Santana and CC Sabathia.

The baseball media isn’t exactly in the business of making up players’ contract demands out of thin air, so either or both of Cliff Lee and his agent Darek Brauneker let it be known that those were the parameters. During negotiations to reach a contract extension, surely Lee and his agent were made aware of the Phillies’ budget concerns and how the $23 million per year expectation did not mesh with the team’s plans.

If Lee truly wanted to be in Philadelphia — as Roy Halladay did — then he would have given the organization a discount, as Halladay did. Everything Halladay has done and said is exactly what Lee could, should, and would have done if he truly wanted to be with the Phillies. But as Jason Rosenberg will tell you, “It’s About the Money, Stupid!

Since the Lee quotes have hit the Internet, there has been a good amount of sympathy sent in the direction of the new Mariner based on these new quotes. Don’t feel bad for him, folks — he’ll be fine. What else do you expect him to say about a team with which he reached Game 6 of the World Series?

It was totally not enjoyable. No fun. Teammates sucked. Chase won’t share his hair gel. That Jared dude from Subway keeps following Ryan Howard around. Cole Hamels kept talking about going to Bed, Bath & Beyond with his wife. And — oh, my God — Jayson Werth kept mentioning something about something being ‘hydroponic’, whatever that means.

Cliff will go to Seattle, and he’ll like it. He won’t like the rain, but overall he’ll enjoy his time there as Jamie Moyer did. In fact, Jamie will probably give him some advice about the city: good restaurants, nice neighborhoods. He’ll pitch his home games in Safeco Field, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball. With baseball’s best defense behind him. In a weakened AL West division.

If Lee doesn’t work out a contract extension with Seattle, he’ll test free agency, and he’ll probably get that $23 million per year he and his agent mentioned. He can go to any contender he wants, maybe even the Phillies if they can fit him back in the budget. But as of right now, there is no reason to feel sympathy for Cliff Lee.

The ball was in his court and he double-dribbled. He fumbled. Faulted. Rolled a gutter-ball. Hope to meet you in the World Series, Phifer.

Credit to The Fightins for the clip of Cliff Lee above.

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.

Phillies Trade Lee for Halladay

Jon Heyman of is reporting that the Phillies have indeed traded left-hander Cliff Lee in a three-team trade that nets them right-hander Roy Halladay.

The following will be updated as more information comes in. The incomplete roster:

PHI gets: Roy Halladay and $6 million from TOR; P Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies, and P Juan Ramirez from SEA

SEA gets: Cliff Lee

TOR gets: C Travis D’Arnaud, P Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor from PHI

UPDATE#1 (4:25 PM EST): Typer Kepner Tweets that Lee’s agent has not heard of the deal.

UPDATE #2 (4:35 PM EST): Jon Heyman Tweets:

im being told #halladay will agree on deal with #phillies, which would finalize trade. but not likely to happen today

UPDATE #3 (5:00 PM EST): Jon Morosi Tweets:

Source says Aumont (from SEA) and M. Taylor (from PHI) among players heading to TOR.

UPDATE #4 (6:15 PM EST): Jayson Stark was just on ESPN reporting that the Phillies are sending catcher Travis D’Arnaud and the Mariners P Phillippe Aumont to the Jays. The Phillies will get two prospects from the M’s. More to come.

UPDATE #5 (7:15 PM EST): The Associated Press reports that Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, and Domonic Brown all took physicals today. Thus, it becomes more likely that all three are involved in the deal, though certainly possible that it was all preemptive.

UPDATE #6 (12/15 12:30 AM EST): Ken Rosenthal Tweets:

#Phils getting $6M from #Jays in Halladay deal. Drabek, Taylor, likely D’Arnaud to TOR, Aumont, Gillies and 3rd player to PHI…

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If you’ve stopped by recently, you know how I feel about the whole deal. GM Ruben Amaro is clearly trying to position the Phillies for future success beyond 2010, for which you certainly cannot fault him. However, trading Lee and prospect(s) for Halladay and cash is essentially a lateral move for 2010, the team’s best shot at winning another World Series.

That being said, I’d like to publicly apologize for chastising Ken Rosenthal for reporting on “I’ve got a hunch” on Saturday. While any professional journalist should play it safe on hunches (especially one who six months ago roasted blogger Jerod Morris for conjecture), clearly Rosenthal felt strongly about his source and he turned out to be correct. Kudos to Ken who has once again proven that he is the best in the business.