The Roy Halladay trade, expected to be finalized today - and the departures of Cliff Lee and Kyle Drabek - brought a flood of e-mails to the Phillies' beat writer.
Here are the answers to a few questions:
Why did it have to be Cliff Lee?
The Phillies at first tried to move Joe Blanton's salary of approximately $7 million, but that apparently did not go anywhere. It would have been very difficult to find a team to take on that money and trade decent prospects for Blanton.
That left the Phils with the option of trading Lee. The lefty will make $9 million in 2010, and the team expected he would become a free agent after the season. Lee's agent told us Monday that wasn't necessarily true. But even if he did sign an extension, it would have likely been for significantly more money than the Phils are reportedly giving Halladay.
Halladay will make $15.75 million next season, and $60 million for the next three years. In addition, the Jays will send $6 million to the Phils to offset Halladay's 2010 salary. That's an unbelievable bargain, and the best part about it is the length: You're not locking this guy up until he's over the hill (he's 32 now). Lee's buddy CC Sabathia got seven years, $161 million last winter, by comparison. More money, more years. And Lee might look for something like that in 11 months.
The idea that Lee and Halladay could be part of the same rotation next year was never realistic. The Phils maintained they did not have the room in their payroll.
And while Lee was spectacular in the World Series, Halladay is a better pitcher. Look it up.
But we thought Drabek was untouchable . . .
Baseball America projects Drabek as a potential No. 2 or No. 3 starter. He has already undergone Tommy John surgery, and the team shut him down this summer for precautionary reasons. Keep in mind that most highly touted pitchers do not become stars. It is difficult to imagine that he will be comparable in any way to Halladay over the next four years.
Also, this is much easier for the Phils to absorb, because they are receiving a highly touted pitcher of their own. Phillippe Aumont is a former No. 1 draft pick, and he struck out Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson while pitching for Team Canada in last March's World Baseball Classic.
Another prospect the Phils receive, Juan Ramirez, is raw. He was 8-10 with a 5.12 ERA last season, but his perceived potential led Baseball America to rank him as the No. 5 prospect in the Mariners' system.
Will either Aumont or Ramirez become major-league stars?
Not likely. It is never likely that pitching prospects will become solid major-leaguers. But they do help ease the hit to the farm system caused by this trade.
Someone told us that Michael Taylor (bound for Toronto with Drabek) was going to be an all-star . . .
Michael Taylor seems like a very smart, very grounded person, and we wish him the best. And he may well enjoy a productive career. But baseball people like Domonic Brown much more. The Phils kept Brown out of this deal, a negotiating victory. The Blue Jays' lack of enthusiasm about Taylor was further confirmed yesterday when ESPN reported that Toronto would flip the outfielder to Oakland as soon as the trade with the Phillies was complete.
It's not just that the Phils gave up Lee, Drabek, Taylor and Travis d'Arnaud. They gave up Lou Marson and Carlos Carrasco in the Lee deal.
Don't let Ruben Amaro Jr. fool you when he says he gave up a lot for Lee last summer. I will be surprised if any one of Marson, Carrasco, Jason Donald, and Jason Knapp ever makes an all-star team. The Indians needed to shed payroll last summer, and took a package of lesser prospects for their ace.
Two things that fans love are postseason performers and top prospects. Players like Lee and Drabek inspire strong emotional connections. But this move makes it more likely that the Phils will enjoy several more World Series appearances. It makes them a bit better next year, and much, much better in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Why? Because they will have the best pitcher in baseball leading them during that time.