With the glory years clearly in the rear-view mirror, I will take the next couple of weeks to review the major transactions that lead up to the best period in Philadelphia Phillies history and how it impacts the team today and going forward. The previous three installments can be found here, here and here.
Today’s focus: Dec. 15, 2009 the Toronto Blue Jays trade Roy Halladay to the Phillies for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor.
Background: The Phillies’ desire for Halladay to lead their pitching staff reached a fever pitch in December of 2009. When the opportunity arose to trade for Halladay without giving up top prospect Dominic Brown in the process, he who was previously demanded as part of any Halladay deal, GM Ruben Amaro seized it and made a pair of trades that rocked the baseball world. What they did give up, however, was a significant haul for Toronto including top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, power outfield prospect Michael Taylor and one of the top catching prospects in the all the minor leagues at the time Travis d’Arnaud.
Evaluation for Blue Jays: Drabek was still among the game’s top pitching prospects when the Blue Jays debuted him in 2011, but he scuffled in his first season before being shut down with Tommy John surgery (a recurring trend for prospects the Phillies trade it appears). He is not expected to be a part of the Blue Jays’ rotation, although he looks to be the first option for a replacement as he tries to find his stuff post-surgery. d’Arnaud became one of Toronto’s top prospects and was a key piece of a package sent to the Mets before last season in return for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. He is projected to be the Mets’ starting catcher for the present and future but has battled continued health issues. He has the potential to be a 20-25 HR guy.
In a fun little cycle of events, Taylor was immediately shipped to the Oakland Athletics for Brett Wallace, who himself was shipped down to the Houston Astros later that July as part of a combo trade including the Phillies where the Blue Jays received Anthony Gose (former Phillies prospect). Gose worked his way up to be the 39th prospect in all of baseball before being called up to the Blue Jays. He made his debut last year, but his future still awaits him in Toronto; he is still only 23 years of age.
Evaluation for Phillies: Halladay continued to be arguably the best pitcher in baseball, winning the NL Cy Young in his first season with the Phillies that included a perfect game and only the second no-hitter in playoff history in the 2010 NLDS. He became the first Phillies pitcher since Steve Carlton to win 20 games. He finished second in Cy Young voting in 2011 and continued to be everything the Phillies hoped he would be. The bottom fell out during the 2013 season due to injury. His statistics were atrocious and he retired following the season. The Phillies hope for him to be a part of the organization going forward.
Who Won?: Among the three teams involved in this epic waltz, it appears as though the Phillies turned out to get the most out of it. It’s hard to say whether they improved in the one season they had Halladay instead of Lee, but the production of the prospects thus far gives the Phillies an edge. Seattle didn’t get anything good back for Lee when they shipped him to the Texas Rangers, and it remains to be seen what happens to the three prospects sent to Toronto. Halladay won the Cy Young in Philadelphia and Lee ultimately returned in grand fashion. The production of Gose and Drabek could ultimately make this a win for Toronto, but for now this is a Phillies victory.
What If They Didn’t Trade For Halladay?: They would have kept Lee and the prospects they gave up for Halladay. d’Arnaud likely would be their starting catcher today and Drabek would be in their rotation, giving the team a much younger feel. None of the prospects received for Lee would be around, but that is inconsequential really. The question is whether the next trade would have occurred.
What’s Next? Roy Oswalt