Thursday, December 10, 2009

Roy Halladay Trade Scenarios

After Day 3 of the Winter Meetings it's been reported that the Angels made an official offer for Roy Halladay.  The purported deal would send LHP Joe Saunders, SS Erick Aybar, and top OF prospect Peter Bourjos to the Blue Jays for the highly sought after RHP.

Looking at the financials behind this deal, Saunders will be under team control until after the 2012 season and is set to make $475K and is eligible for salary arbitration.  Aybar is also under team control until after the 2012 season and is set to receive $460K and is also eligible for salary arbitration.  Peter Bourjos will be 23 years old at the start of next season and has yet to use his MLB service time. Halladay, on the other hand, is set to receive $15.75M and is eligible for free agency after this season.

My initial impression of this trade is that it seems fair but it lacks that multiple upside a team needs to cite this trade as a major turning point in one's franchise.  Don't get me wrong, I like Bourjos a lot and I think he'll be ready to contribute as a quality leadoff hitter in 2011 and could be the missing key in a solid young nucleus of Adam Lind in RF and Travis Snider in LF.  However, Vernon Wells' contract does pose a block to any young OF coming up since all three spots seem to be locked up until 2013 at the earliest. 
LHP Joe Saunders is a quality left-handed starter who should be able to shore up between 180-200 innings for the next few seasons but ceiling is incredibly low since he'll be 29 in June and has pretty solidified himself as a soft-tossing lefty who has seen his overall contact rate steadily increase over the past four seasons.  One negative trend that I see developing is Saunders increasing BB rate.  Of course He has never had that impressive of K/BB since
 joing the Angels but his diminishing K/9 (4.89 last season) doesn't leave much room for error.  In the AL East, Saunders would be no better than a fourth starter at the rate he's going and I don't see his presence on the Blue Jays as being a driving factor in this organization's makeover.

The last piece, Erick Aybar, is a confusing since the Jays recently signed Alex Gonzalez to play SS for $2.75M next season along with a club option in 2011.  Last season when J.P. Ricciardi was the GM in Toronto, it was reported that the Blue Jays would want a young starting pitcher, a top shortstop prospect and a catcher to be included in trade talks involving Halladay.  Aybar is an obvious upgrade over Gonzalez.  Aybar is set to receive $460K but is arbitration eligible and should see a pretty good raise before the start of next season.  

If the Jays chose to go with this trade then Gonzalez would be a player this team would need to move but at his current price (and in comparison to the $2.4M he was worth last season according to FanGraphs Value Chart) I can't imagine the Jays finding a lot of takers for this 33 year old SS.

It's curious that this bit of news would leak since new Blue Jay GM Alex Anthopoulos seemed adament at the start of the Winter Meetings about keeping any details and discussions under wraps.  Angels GM Tony Reagins refused to either confirm or deny yesterday's news report.  My guess is that this proposal was probably an extension of last July's trade talk between these two teams and could be nothing more than a starting point to see where the Angels now stand with the new Blue Jay GM.
Since it was expected that Halladay wouldn't be moved during this week's Winter Meetings, I thought I would chart the requirements and demands both the Blue Jays and Roy Halladay have if any deal is to be reached along with likely proposals and scenarios I could see each interested team making.

1. Trade Requirements

Since Roy Halladay was announced to be on the trade market last summer, then GM J.P. Ricciardi expressed his desire to make a deal similar to the one made in Cleveland in 2002 when the Indians traded Bartolo Colon for a wealth of future MLB stars.  Over the next few weeks, and up until the July trade deadline, it became apparent that the Blue Jays would request a nucleus of young positional prospects along with a young MLB or MLB-ready starting pitcher.

As a veteran with certain contract stipulations, Halladay had a no-trade clause attached to his contract.  The teams he listed he would approve a trade to were the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies (whose spring traing home in Clearwater is only 15 minutes away from where he lives offseason).  Halladay did list the Twins and Rangers as significant teams he would veto if traded there.

When the 2009 season ended, J.P. Ricciardi was fired as the Blue Jays GM while assistant Alex Anthopoulos was promoted as the new General Manager.  Before this offseason's winter meetings, Anthopoloulos announced that the team would still follow its previous course; however, no limitations would be made in terms of what positions the Blue Jays would seek to fill.  Around the same time, Halladay made a statement warning the Blue Jays that he would veto any trade made once the 2010 spring training season began. 

Since the offseason began we know three major requirements necessary to make a Roy Halladay trade work:
1.)  The Blue Jays will require at least two or more high-ceiling prospects that are near MLB ready and have not used up too much (if any) MLB service time.
2.)  The team willing to trade for Halladay's service must be seen as a viable playoff contender and a team positioned to be competitive from now into the near future.
3.)  The team willing to trade for Halladay's service must present a serious contract extension offer ensuring that Halladay will be one of the top paid starting pitchers from 2011 on (exact number of years Halladay would require have not been mentioned).
4.)  The teams that Halladay has approved (albeit unofficially) have been narrowed down to the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers and, possibly, the Chicago Cubs.  Of course, it's been mentioned by friends and family that Halladay would prefer to go to a team that trains in Florida but no official word regarding that has been made.

2. Trade Scenarios

New York Yankees: since they qualify as a competitive team and have the financial resources to make a serious contract extension offer it's only given they would be involved in these trade talks.  Below I've listed the players I'm sure would be mentioned.

My initial impression is that the Yankees are only in these talks in order to drive the price up for Boston.  I know the Yankees would like to add another arm in the rotation (Andy Pettite was signed yesterday and they do seem content on adding Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain to next year's rotation but an injury to one of these front end starters could put them into panic-mode). 

C Jesus Montero, RHP Phil Hughes, C Austin Romine, RHP Arodys Vizcaino, RHP Zach McAllister, RHP Andrew Brackman, LHP Manuel Banuelos, OF Kevin De Leon.

The Blue Jays have made it known about their attraction to Jesus Montero.  Of course no believes the 20 year old Montero will remain as a catcher but his bat will play anywhere and I'm sure the Jays will be happy plugging him in at 1B.  The other key to this scenario would be the Yankees including either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, both pitchers have a little over a year of MLB service time and are under team control until after the 2013 season.  The team could inquire about Austin Romine since he has been steadily improving with each minor league level.  Last season, Romine batted .276/.322/.441 at high A and he does have the skills to stay at catcher; however, the Blue Jays do have a pretty solid catching prospect in J.P. Arencibia who did struggle a bit last season at AAA with a low BABIP but his power and defense is legit.

Other secondary options could involve young RHP Arodys Vizcaino who last season at the age of 18 dominated lower A ball with 52 K's and 15 BB's in 42 IP.  Vizcaino did, however, go down with a back injury in August and was promptly shut down.  LHP Manuel Banuelos is an intriguing arm showing excellent control to go with his modest fastball that is expected to increase in velocity as he matures.  Last season at the age of 18 he posted excellent numbers in low A.  His curveball and changeup still needs a little work but the fundamentals are there.  The only true knock against Banuelos is his size (5'10").

Zach McAllister has a great pitcher's frame (6'5" 215 lbs) is considered to have the makings of a solid #3 starter.  His fastball can touch 94 mph and at 21 years old last season he more than held his own in AA by posting a K/BB of 2.91.

Likely outcome: If the Yankees and Blue Jays were to reach a deal I could see the Yanks sending Montero, Chamberlain, Banuelos, and RHP Brett Marshall, who will be 20 years old at the start of next season and is a fringey prospect with some upside, for Halladay.  Without Montero this deal has a very slim chance of being made.

Boston Red Sox: this team also qualifies in all the above criteria and with Josh Beckett set to become a free agent after next season they'll definitely have enough room for payroll flexibility.

RHP Clay Buchholz, RHP Casey Kelly, 1B Lars Anderson, OF Ryan Westmoreland, RHP Michael Bowden, RHP Daniel Bard.

Clay Buchholz has got the makeup to be a #1 starter even though he has struggled with consistency during his brief MLB career.  Buchholz will be 25 at the start of next season and although he hasn't taken off quite like Sox fans have hoped, scouts do point to increasing velocity and GB% over the past three seasons.  He will become a free agent after the 2013 season.  Casey Kelly seems to be a real sticking point with both sides, the Boston front office loves him and admired his ability to quickly adapt in his first full pro season through the low minors.

Lars Anderson did experience a major drop in power and contact in his second season at AA.  This could be a concern for both sides.  Ryan Westmoreland at the age of 19 showed excellent athletic skills and plate discipline last season.  He should begin next season in high A and is a bit of a risk but the ceiling is incredibly high.

Young pitchers Michael Bowden and Daniel Bard both saw a little action with the Red Sox last season.  Bard pitched in 49 relief innings with the Sox in '09 and is seen as the team's future closer.  Bard posts incredible strikeout numbers but he does struggle with his command.  Bowden, on the other hand, was used as a starter in the minors and was called up last season and pitched 16 disasterous innings out of the bullpen. Bowden's fastball is nothing special and rates about average but its his above average curveball and change that makes him intriguing.  Bowden profiles as a solid #3 pitcher.

Likely outcome:  For the Red Sox to reach a deal a Halladay it will be very hard for them to do it without including Kelly and/or Buchholz.  Their positional prospects besides Lars Anderson are very raw and the Red Sox have made recent statements about wanting to scale back payroll.

Philadelphia Phillies: one year after overhauling most of their minor league talent in a mid season trade to acquire Cliff Lee from the Indians, the Phillies find themselves with more valuable pieces and an urgent desire to grab another high profile pitcher as they make a run for their third straight world series appearance next season.

OF Dominic Brown, RHP Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor, RHP Trevor May, LHP Cole Hamels

Both 22 year old Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor are considered high ceiling offensive talents and both may be MLB ready.  Brown saw an increase in power last season and scouts believe he has the ability to be a 20-30 steals and 30 HR player in the future.  Taylor shredded AA pitching in 2008 with a batting line of 333/.408/.569 in 363 PA's.  Last season he showed excellent power in AAA and kept his strikeouts below 20% (17.3%) which is exceptional for a power hitter.  Taylor will be 24 years old at the start of the season and seems to be ready to contribute.  He faces a crowded OF in 2010 and his trade power is at maximum value.

Trevor May and Kyle Drabek are two young pitchers expected to get the attention of the Blue Jays.  May is a little raw and at the age of 20 needs to see higher levels to get a true sense of his value.  Last season in '08, May pitched in high A and struck out 95 in 77 innings.  However, he did struggle a bit with his command.

Kyle Drabek was a pitching prospect highly sought after by the Indians in the Cliff Lee trade last season.  The Phillies were able to keep Drabek in their organization but in order to acquire Halladay this offseason it's expected that he may be the centerpiece.  Drabek underwent TJ surgery in 2007 but since returning he has been very dominant posting excellent K and BB rates, yet in AA last season, Drabek's K rate was brought down to earth a bit (7.10) in 96 IP.

Los Angeles Angels: this organization is bubbling over with pitching prospects but they are focused on shoring up their current rotation.  However, based on the lack of commitment to re-signing John Lackey and their desire to keep their payroll under control for the next season few seasons I do see extension talks possibly being contentious.

OF Peter Bourjos, RHP Jordan Walden, LHP Trevor Reckling, RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Ryan Chaffee

As I previously stated in my offseason anlysis of the Angels, Peter Bourjos is just a year away from being an everyday CF with exceptional speed and last season's increase in BB's to 10.1% is a major step in the right direction for this player becoming a superstar.

The other major prospects I have listed are pitchers and Jordan Walden and Trevor Reckling. Walden began the '09 season with elbow irration but he did bounce back despite a high BABIP (.377) while Reckling improved his curve and changeup at the age of 20 and has the stuff to be a solid #2 or #3 starter in the majors.  Both pitched in AA in 2009 yet they do have to lower their walk rates before being considered as full-time MLB starters.

Garrett Richards was very dominant in his first year of pro ball last season.  He was a successful college pitcher so he should move up the ranks rather fast next season.  However, Ryan Chaffee struggled with his command (BB/9 5.03) in his first season but his high strikeout rate (9.36) and GB% projects him to be very promising next season.

Likely scenario: the Angels do seem intent on offering Bourjos, however, including Walden and/or Reckling may be a sticking point for this team.  Toronto obviously requires a better package of Peter Bourjos, Joe Saunders and Erick Aybar for this trade to be a go.  In order for these two sides to meet I would imagine the package would have to consist of Peter Bourjos, LHP Tyler Skaggs, Garrett Richards and 2B Jean Segura in order to be interested.

Skaggs is still considered raw so he does come with a bit of risk but this 19 year old lefty could develop into a future star.  Segura is another risky option since he has battled significant leg injuries the past two seasons.  The Angels love Segura's potential but the history and risk associated with this 19 year old middle infielder could sway this team to include him.  This is a very high-risk/high-reward package but if a few of these players hit the deal would be worth it and if the Angels can settle out the financials this would seem as beneficial to both sides.

Tampa Bay Rays: I have trouble believing the Rays would be serious players in the Doc Halladay sweepstakes.  Obviously, this team has no shortage of positional and pitching prospects to get this deal done but it would be very strange seeing them move away from their philosophy of drafting and developing future superstars (who are nearly MLB-ready) to reverse now for a 33 year old pitcher with one year left of contractual service and expensive to retain.

LHP David Price, OF Desmond Jennings, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, SS Reid Brignac, LHP Matthew Moore

David Price still has the skills to be a bonafide #1 starter even though his '09 campaign failed to live up to ROY expectations.  Some have blamed his troubles on his failure to use his slider more, but he will be 24 at the start of next season and many scouts feel he should easily rebound next season.

Desmond Jennings is a 5 tool star in the making and could see himself as a valuable contributor next season.  Reid Brignac shows excellent skills with his bat and glove and projects to be an above average starting SS in the future.  Jason Bartlett does pose as a block to Brignac and the former is under team control until after 2011 season which makes the young Brignac slightly expendable.

Jeremy Hellickson has quietly shot up the depth charts and now ranks as one of the top pitching prospects in the game.  Last season's stats in AA and AAA show that Hellickson is ready to start now as a front rotation pitcher.  Matthew Moore has been impressive as a young strikeout machine since his debut in 2007 but his inability to harness his command does categorize him as a very raw yet his potential is very exciting.

Likely scenario: The Rays do nothing.  It would make no sense to offload any of this young talent to another division rival even if Halladay won 30 games with an ERA of 0.91.  The long-term cost would be too large.  The only way I see the Rays taking Halladay is if the Blue Jays agree to a package of RHP Jamie Shields and OF B.J. Upton with a lower tier prospect included.  However, that wouldn't make sense from the Blue Jays point of view since they would be receiving a slew of young players with lots of MLB service time. 

The only top prospect I see the Rays willing to part with would be Reid Brignac and a few lower tier youngsters (maybe a sleeper candidate like RHP Nick Barmese could be thrown in), but if that happens you still have the question of money and whether the Rays really want to invest in an extension for Halladay thereby making him virtually untradeable for the next four or five seasons.

Like I said, it doesn't make sense.

Los Angeles Dodgers: their current financial situation pretty much takes them out of the running since this team plans to spend no outside money (except for the usual arb. cases) and last season's inability to come to any kind of trade agreement for Halladay keeps them out of the running.

RHP Chad Billingsly, LHP Clayton Kershaw, OF Matt Kemp, SS Dee Gordon, OF Andrew Lambo, LHP Aaron Miller

Likely scenario: It's obvious the Blue Jays would demand Clayton Kershaw as being the center piece along with intriguing SS prospect Dee Gordon (who will be 22 next season and has shown improvement in his overall hitting approach).  The Jays could also inquire about Aaron Miller, a talented young lefty who will probably start in high A next season and has shown elite stuff. 

Dodger GM Ned Colletti is a win-now tactician and probably wouldn't shy away from a package like this if it involved bringing in a bonafide #1 starter but the ultimate snag I see involves finding the money to retain Halladay.

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