The Prospect of Trading Halladay

No matter how you slice the Roy Halladay trade, it had to be done and Toronto fans were going to be let down. The trade could have brought three A-level prospects into the system and it still would have hurt… a lot. The rest of the fans around Major League Baseball are finally going to have the opportunity to appreciate Halladay after he’s spent the past 12 years in northern obscurity. The former Cy Young award winner has pitched 200+ innings for four straight seasons and is an undisputed No. 1 pitcher, and those are a lot rarer than most people realize.

Reportedly, there are six prospects changing hands once the trade is finalized. Toronto ends up receiving one A-level prospect and two B-level prospects, or a smidgen more than it would have if the organization had held onto Halladay for the entire 2010 season and then let him walk for two high draft picks. Overall, the talent changing hands in the three-team deal, which also sees Cliff Lee head to Seattle, ranks like this:

1. Kyle Drabek, RHP (from Philadelphia to Toronto)
2. Phillippe Aumont, RHP (from Seattle to Philadelphia)
3. Michael Taylor, OF (from Philadelphia to Toronto)
4. Travis D’Arnaud, C (from Philadelphia to Toronto)
5. Tyson Gillies, OF (from Seattle to Philadelphia)
6. J.C. Ramirez, RHP (from Seattle to Philadelphia)

To be honest, I’m not sure why this was a three-team deal. Toronto received nothing from Seattle. The Phillies organization could have done the deal and taken its the time to deal Lee for a better haul than what it got from Seattle. Perhaps the club wanted to soften the blow of trading off its post-season hero with the acquisition of Halladay? Or why not keep both Halladay and Lee and make a serious run at the World Series in 2010? That two-headed monster at the top of the rotation would have struck fear in any lineup.

But it’s not my job to analyze the overall deal. I’m the prospects guy, so let’s get on to the fun stuff.

The Toronto Blue Jays’ Haul:
Kyle Drabek is the key to the deal and helps to ease the pain from not receiving the Phillies’ top prospect in outfielder Domonic Brown (who definitely is the best player in all three organizations). The Toronto organization has pretty good pitching depth (at least related to its lack of hitting prospects) but Drabek has a higher ceiling (No. 1 or 2 starter) than anyone in the Jays system. The right-hander had a nice year in ’09 while coming back from Tommy John surgery.

He began the year in high-A and allowed just 49 hits in 61.2 innings. The son of Doug Drabek showed solid control with a walk rate of just 2.77 BB/9 and overpowered hitters, as witnessed by his 10.80 strikeout rate. He also did not allow a home run despite a modest ground-ball rate of 45.2%. Moved up to double-A, the 22-year-old hurler allowed 92 hits in 96.1 innings and saw his strikeout rate drop to 7.10 K/9. His walk rate, though, held steady at 2.90 BB/9. Home runs became a bit of an issue, as Drabek allowed nine homers (0.84 HR/9). His FIP rose from 1.82 to 3.83. He’s going to need to work on his change-up to combat left-handed hitters, who performed well against him in ’09: .284 compared to right-handers at .185.

On the negative side of Drabek: He’s a little undersized at 6’0”, he’s already had a major surgery, and there have been makeup/maturity concerns.

Michael Taylor had a solid but unspectacular college career at Stanford and signed with the Phillies as a fifth-rounder in ’07. The outfielder is a good athlete for his size (6’6”, 250 lbs) and stole 21 bases in 26 tries in ’09. The right-handed hitter, who hits right-handed and left-handed pitchers equally well, began the year in double-A. There, he hit .333/.408/.569 with an ISO of .236 in 318 at-bats. He’s not a big average hitter, despite what the basic numbers suggest and he was aided by a BABIP of .361. In 110 at-bats in triple-A, Taylor hit .282/.359/.491 with an ISO of .209. He projects to be a .270-.290 hitter in the Majors with 25 homers could even produce a couple of 20-20 seasons. He consistently walks about 10% of the time and keeps the strikeouts in check for a power hitter (around 17-18%). Defensively, Taylor has a solid arm and has spent much of his time in the minors flipping between left and right field.

Travis D’Arnaud is a former highly-regarded prep draft pick. The ’07 supplemental first rounder has actually been surpassed as a prospect by his older brother Chase D’Arnaud, a shortstop who was a fourth-round pick of the Pirates out of Pepperdine University in ’08. Nonetheless, the 20-year-old catcher had a solid ’09 season in low-A ball and hit .255/.319/.419 in 482 at-bats. The right-handed hitter has some developing pop (.164 ISO) and modest strikeout rates (15.6% in ’09). His triple-slash line was hurt by a low .279 BABIP, which was down significantly from his ’08 mark of .345. D’Arnaud is a good athlete and he stole eight bases in 12 tries, but he’ll certainly slow down as the rigors of the position take its toll on his knees. Despite a strong arm, the young catcher has struggled to throw out base runners in pro ball and was successful 23% of the time in ’09.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Haul:
You certainly cannot question Phillippe Aumont’s fastball. He has a high-90s fastball and good sink but his secondary stuff is raw and he prefers to just reach back and toss heat, which is the main reason why he was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen at such a young age. An inexperienced Canadian prep pick, Aumont was pushed aggressively by Seattle after he dominated high-A ball in a very good hitter’s league. He allowed just 24 hits in 33.1 innings and posted a strikeout rate of 9.45 K/9. Moved up to double-A, Aumont’s control suffered as his walk rate jumped from 3.24 to 5.60 BB/9. Batters also managed 21 hits in 17.2 innings, and his BABIP jumped to .436 BABIP. His strikeout rate was an impressive 12.23 K/9. Like many Canadian hurlers, there have also been injury concerns with Aumont, and he missed significant time in ’08 with elbow soreness.

You’d think it was the Phillies club that played in Canada, not the Jays. Outfielder Tyson Gillies joins Aumont as the two Canadians on the move in the Halladay deal. The 21-year-old outfielder had a breakout season in ’09 but some caution needs to be used with him. The left-handed hitter was playing in a very good hitter’s park and his overall line was .341/.430/.486. He hit .313 in ’08 but that was aided by a BABIP of .403 (His BABIP was high in ’09, as well, at .395). Gillies has a lot of speed and he stole 44 bases but was caught 19 times this past season, so he has some work to do on the base paths. On the positive side, he has solid plate rates for a speedster and he posted a walk rate of 10.8%, as well as a strikeout rate of 16.3%. Defensively, he’s considered a gifted fielder with an above-average arm.

J.C. Ramirez has posted solid pro numbers but has yet to truly breakout. The right-hander spent ’09 in high-A, while pitching in a good hitter’s park, and allowed 153 hits in 142.1 innings. His walk rate was respectable at 3.35 BB/9 and his strikeout rate was OK at 7.02, although it was down more than one strikeout per nine over his career mark. He was touched up for 18 homers (1.14 HR/9) but he held batters to a line-drive rate of just 12%. Ramirez has consistently struggled against left-handed batters in his career (.290 average, 4.32 BB/9 in ’09), so he’s going to have to develop a weapon to combat them. His repertoire includes a fastball that sits in the low-90s but can hit the mid-to-upper 90s at times. Ramirez also has a solid slider and a developing change-up.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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14 years ago

I don’t understand this trade from the Phillies perspective at all. If they kept Lee (which it seems they easily could have) they would have a rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Blanton, and Happ. The Phillies only have at most two more years to win a World Series with this core. Even if Lee walks at the end of the year they would get draft picks.