9 players, 1 clear winner in Halladay-Lee trade

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OK, so it’s not officially a four-team deal, but I’ll treat it like one, since it’s that much more fun.
First, a recap of who is landing where (ages as of Opening Day, 2010):
Phillies
RHP Roy Halladay (32, from Blue Jays)
RHP Phillippe Aumont (21, from Mariners)
$6 million (from Blue Jays)
RHP J.C. Ramirez (21, from Mariners)
OF Tyson Gillies (21, from Mariners)
Mariners
LHP Cliff Lee (31, from Phillies)
Blue Jays
RHP Kyle Drabek (22, from Phillies)
INF Brett Wallace (23, from Athletics)
C Travis d’Arnaud (22, from Phillies)
Athletics
OF Michael Taylor (24, from Phillies via Blue Jays)
In truth, it’s three two-team deals.
The Phillies give up one top-five pitcher a year away from free agency in exchange for another and downgrade their minor league system in the process. They think it’s worth it since Halladay is the better of the two and will sign the cheaper extension. I think they see the second factor as being more important than the first, and I’m not going to be convinced that they were better off doing this than they would have been keeping Lee and trading Joe Blanton to make room for Halladay.
Again, the Halladay trade is simply a two-team transaction. The Phillies didn’t need anyone from the Mariners to make it work. The Blue Jays even willing to kick in enough cash to bring Halladay’s 2010 salary down to $9.75 million. Instead of trading Lee, who is due $9 million, the Phillies could have dealt Joe Blanton, who will make $7.5 million in arbitration. Such a move probably could have produced the eighth-inning setup man that team still needs now. And when Lee proved impossible to sign next winter, the Phillies would have received two draft picks for him.
It’s not necessarily a bad trade, mostly because Halladay was willing to sign the below market extension. But the Phillies had a chance to put an even better product on the field in 2010 and passed. Plus, they’ve lost a top talent in Drabek, who was shaping up as the ideal replacement for Lee in 2011.
Phillies grade: C-
I called the deal a steal for Seattle last night and the addition of Ramirez to the package doesn’t change much.
Concerns about Aumont’s durability and a desire to see him in the majors as soon as possible caused the Mariners to move the big right-hander to the pen last season. He posted a 3.88 ERA and a 59/23 K/BB ratio in 51 innings between Single-A and Double-A. The 2007 first-round pick also pitched in the AFL and, despite averaging 95 mph with his fastball, he gave up 16 earned runs in 12 innings.
If the Blue Jays had acquired Aumont, I imagine they would have put him back into the rotation. The Phillies, though, may well keep him in the pen and hope that he develops into a long-term closer. It’s certainly a possibility, and I’d rank him among the game’s top-five relief prospects. However, he comes with plenty of risk.
Ramirez went 8-10 with a 5.12 ERA for high-A High Desert last season, but that was as a 20-year-old pitching in an extreme offensive environment. He had a 3.09 ERA in road games, even though the California League is filled with nice parks for hitters. That his slider hasn’t developed into a big strikeout pitch is a concern, but he has a nice arm and plenty of time left to improve.
Gillies was a teammate of Ramirez last season, and he took advantage of the very favorable conditions to hit .341/.430/.486. Eight of his nine homers came at home. Gillies is never going to hit for real power, but he does have a knack for getting on base and plenty of speed, though he’s a mediocre basestealer (he was 44-for-63 last season). The package should make him a fourth outfielder in the majors, but he’s an overachiever and it’s possible he’ll continue to surprise.
And that’s it. Three minor leaguers, only one of whom will make any of this winter’s top 100 prospects lists. That the Mariners could get Lee and keep Brandon Morrow, Michael Saunders, Shawn Kelley, Carlos Triunfel and Adam Moore makes this a huge win for the Mariners. They’re only spending $9 million on Lee, so there still in position to add one more key player this winter. There’s every reason to think that the team will contend next year, and on the off chance that things blow up, Lee should bring a superior package in return at the trade deadline. Just the draft picks the Mariners would get for losing Lee next winter would recoup a great deal of what they lose with the trade.
Mariners grade: A
The Blue Jays had to settle for two top prospects as the return for Halladay, and neither is the up-the-middle acquisition that should have been a priority.
Still, I’m not sure they could have done better.
In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Drabek went 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA and a 150/50 K/BB ratio in 158 innings between Single-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. His fastball-curveball combination gives him top-of-the-rotation ability, though he still needs to come up with a better changeup to counter left-handed hitters. Lefties hit .322 off him in Double-A last season. A half-season in Triple-A will surely do him some good, and it figures that the Jays will give it to him.
Getting Wallace from the A’s for Taylor is interesting. Third base is a big hole in the Oakland organization, so the A’s wouldn’t have made the move if they thought Wallace could stay there. But it’s been assumed since the day he was drafted 13th overall by the Cardinals in 2008 that Wallace would end up at first or at DH. Wallace delivered a .293/.367/.455 line in his first full pro season, most of which was spent in the PCL. He’s been a disappointment in the plate-discipline department since being drafted, as he’s amassed a 155/66 K/BB ratio in 734 at-bats. Wallace doesn’t project as a 30-homer guy, so he’ll need a .380-.400 OBP to become a star and he’s not showing that ability yet. I still like him as a long-term regular, but I’d put Taylor slightly above him at this point.
D’Arnaud, a 2007 supplemental first-round pick, hit .255/.319/.419 for Single-A Clearwater in the pitcher friendly Florida State League last year. He’s still raw as a catcher, though scouts like his tools. At this point, there’s not enough to his game offensively or defensively to project him as a regular. However, he’s still awfully young and catchers tend to develop slowly.
It’s well worth noting that the Blue Jays also gave away $6 million here. Now, that doesn’t take away from their non-existent chances of contending in 2010, but it’s $6 million that can’t be spent on draft picks or international signings. It’s a big loss, and it drops the grade here.
Blue Jays grade: D
The A’s apparently injected themselves into the deal at the last moment, taking the prize from last summer’s Matt Holliday deal with the Cardinals and turning him into Taylor, a chiseled 6-foot-6 outfielder who has put up some of the best numbers in the minors over the last two years. Taylor hit .346/.412/.557 for two A-ball teams in 2008 and .320/.395/.549 between Double- and Triple-A last season. He doesn’t hit for quite as much power as one would expect given his frame, but he also doesn’t strike out very much and he has an above average walk rate and plus speed. It’s just too bad he’s not quite a legitimate center fielder. He’ll probably settle into right, and he could be ready to compete for a job in spring training, though the A’s have several options at the position. I doubt he’ll be quite the player his minor league numbers suggest, but he should have a nice run as an above average regular.
Athletics grade: B

CC Sabathia won’t visit the White House if the Yankees win the World Series

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Over the past couple of days the subject of athlete activism, always present to some degree in American sports, but recently revived by Colin Kaepernick and a few other football players in the form of silent protests during the National Anthem, exploded into a headline dominating news story. Lighting the fuse: President Trump directly inserting himself into the controversy.

He did so during a speech on Friday night and during a series of tweets Saturday and continuing into this morning in which he urged NFL owners to “fire” or suspend players who do not stand for the national anthem. He also attempted to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from their traditional White House visit because of their star player Stephen Curry’s public opposition to him, though Curry had already said he wouldn’t go.

As Ashley wrote last night, the silent anthem protests have now come to baseball, with A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell becoming the fist player to kneel during the National Anthem. Before that, at least one baseball executive, Orioles Vice President John P. Angelos, came out strongly on the side of players and against Trump. Joe Maddon said some less-than-enlightened words on the matter. Major League Baseball issued a statement on the matter. It was, not surprisingly, somewhat empty, taking something of a both-sides-have-good-points tack. It’s understandable, I suppose. I suspect Major League Baseball and its owners would prefer to not have to comment on this at all. The league does not do this sort of controversy well.

Ballplayers, however, will likely continue to speak up. The latest: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was asked yesterday whether he would visit the White House if the playoff-bound Yankees won the World Series. From the Daily News:

“Never. I just don’t believe in anything that is Trump. So there wouldn’t be any reason for me to go at all. I just think it’s stupid. I just think it’s dumb that he’s addressing players and stuff that he shouldn’t be. But it is what it is, and that’s the country we live in these days . . . I’m proud of the way that everybody has Steph’s back and just athletes in general these days, the way everybody has been stepping up has been great.”

Baseball players, as we’ve noted many times over the years, tend to be a more conservative bunch than football or basketball players. There are a lot more white players and a lot more players from southern, suburban and exurban areas. A significant number of racial-ethnic minority players were not born in the United States, so U.S. politics may not necessarily preoccupy them the way it may players from the United States. As such, political protest like we’ve seen in the NFL and NBA was never going to start in baseball in 2017.

But that does not mean that it was not going to come to baseball. Contrary to what so many fans seem to think, sports do not exist inside some bubble into which the real world does not intrude. Athletes are citizens just like you and me with social, political and personal concerns just like you and me. And, at the moment, a government official is demanding that they lose their jobs because he does not agree with their political views and the manner in which they are expressed. I suspect most of us would get upset by that if it happened to us. Certainly a lot of people I know on the conservative side of the political expression worried about government overreach and freedom of speech. At least before January of this year.

So I am not at all surprised that baseball players like Sabathia are beginning to speak out. He will not be the last. Others will join him. Others, as is their right, will push back and say they disagree with him. If and when people feel inspired to tell them to “stick to sports,” or “stay in their lane,” perhaps they should ask why the President of the United States decided not to do so himself. And ask why he thinks it’s appropriate for athletes to lose their jobs for their political views and why private entities like the NFL should be patriotic institutions rather than businesses which put on sporting events.

 

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.