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

Clayton Kershaw’s initial prognosis: 4-6 weeks on the disabled list

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Some seriously bad news for the Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal reports that the initial prognosis on Clayton Kershaw is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with his bad back. A final determination will be made after he gets a second medical consultation.

Kershaw exited Sunday’s start against the Braves with back tightness after just two innings of work. He was seen talking with trainers in the dugout after completing the top of the second inning and did not return to the mound for the third. Kershaw has a history of back problems. Last year he missed over two months with a herniated disc in his back.

Assuming the preliminary schedule holds, Kershaw would be on the shelf until late August at the earliest, but more likely early-to-mid September. The Dodgers currently hold a 10.5 game lead in the NL West so they can withstand his absence. But if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs, they’ll need a fully armed and operational Clayton Kershaw to do it.

David Price was a complete jackass to Dennis Eckersley

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In late June, Red Sox pitcher David Price confronted Hall of Famer and NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley during a team flight to Toronto. The circumstances of the argument were not clear at the time and at least one report said that it was a “back and forth,” presumably about some critical comments Eckersley made on the air about Price. We learned a few days after that it was less of a “back and forth” than it was Price merely berating Eckersley.

Now, via this story from Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe, we get the true flavor of the exchange. It does not reflect well on Price or his teammates:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Assuming this account is accurate, Price’s behavior was nothing short of disgraceful. Disgraceful in that Price was too much of a coward to take his issues up with Ecklersley one-on-one. Beyond that, it’s classic bully behavior, with Price waiting until he was surrounded by lackeys to hurl insults in a situation where Eckersley had no opportunity to effectively respond.

But it’s mostly just sad. Sad that David Price is so painfully sensitive that he cannot handle criticism from a man who is, without question, one of the best who has ever played the game. One of the few men who has been in his shoes and stood on that same mound and faced the same sorts of challenges Price has attempted to face. And, it should be noted, faced them with more success in his career than Price has so far.

No one likes criticism, but David Price is at a place in his life where he is, inevitably, going to receive it. And unlike virtually every other person who may offer it to him, Dennis Eckersley knows, quite personally, of what he speaks.

Shame on David Price for acting like a child. Shame on his teammates for backing him up. Shame on John Farrell and the rest of the Red Sox organization for not sitting Price down, explaining that he messed up and encouraging him to apologize. And, of course, if he apologizes now, it’s not because he means it. He’s had a month to reflect. It’s simply because his disgraceful behavior is now all over the pages of the Boston Globe.

What a pathetic display.