Final Nail in Coffin for Lee-to-Seattle Trade Verdict – Phillies Nation

Final Nail in Coffin for Lee-to-Seattle Trade Verdict

Aumont was sent home, Gillies is on the disabled list with a disputed injury, and Ramirez has been horrible in relief just four years after being acquired in the Lee trade with Seattle. Photo by Jay Floyd

On my 24th birthday, I unloaded shoes off of a truck at the Marshall’s department store. I put security devices on the expensive ones, took the tissue paper out of all of them, and put colorful stickers on each pair with size indicators so that they would be easier to re-pair if they became loose or “mis-mated” on the sales floor. Equipped with a couple of pieces of paper that said I was able to retain knowledge and a few dreams, I tagged, tissued, and stickered those shoes dutifully each day.

In sharp contrast, Phillippe Aumont is a 24-year old baseball player. In both 2012 and 2013, he saw time with the Philadelphia Phillies and has one of the most devastating, if not uncontrollable curveballs in all of baseball. By age 24, he has reached the top level of his profession twice, the equivalent of a rocket scientist working for NASA in the 60’s or a pediatrician working at CHOP. Aumont has already climbed the mountain and is now mid-mountain once more after not being among the September call-ups after issuing nearly a walk per inning in his time with the IronPigs.

Tyson Gillies is also 24. After starting the year with the IronPigs hitting just .154, Gillies was sent back to Double-A Reading. Gillies made some adjustments in his swing, returned to Triple-A, and hit .248 with nine steals in nine attempts. Gillies and Aumont were two of the three players that were traded from Seattle to Philadelphia for Cliff Lee in December 2009. The other? The now-25-year old J.C. Ramirez.  In an 8-0 loss to the Mets on June 23, Ramirez took the hill for mop-up duty and struck out the side. Since then? Ramirez has allowed 17 ER, good for a 9.77 ERA with a .348 BAA and a .432 OBPA.

At age 24, all three players entered the 2013 with high hopes. Aumont started the year in the Phillies bullpen while Gillies was promoted to Lehigh Valley. Ramirez had the bumpiest off-season, being designated for assignment but made his way to Triple-A before earning a shot with the Phillies. Now? The three are skeletons of a trade gone wrong, the reminders of what is fast becoming the biggest mistake in Ruben Amaro‘s tenure. 24 was not too long ago for me and others on the PN staff – from 24 through our current ages, we developed invaluable skills that have helped us continue to push toward our dreams. Aumont, Gillies, and Ramirez, at 24, 24, and 25 respectively, still can be contributing Major Leaguers, but they would never be able to match what Cliff Lee could have provided in 2010.

In 2010, there were only three Major Leaguers more valuable than Lee according to FanGraphs and they were all hitters. Josh Hamilton, Evan Longoria, and Carl Crawford were the only players to accumulate more “wins” than Lee. At a $9 million salary, Lee was worth $27.9 million in performance according to FanGraphs. At this rate, it is fair to question whether or not Aumont, Gillies, and Ramirez will ever be able to accumulate seven wins above replacement in their entire careers, yet alone one season.

At the time, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said that Amaro made the trade to “replenish (the Phillies’) farm system“, and that was the line you heard repeated again and again. Yet, the trade itself did nothing more than end up depleting the Phillies system. Because of the hole created by Lee, the Phillies went “all in” and acquired Roy Oswalt on July 30, 2010. Amaro said the move was to have one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball. But why give up a 6.5 win pitcher in 2009 when the best you can replace him with is a 3.0 win pitcher, knowing you’ll have to pay a heavy price tag (J.A. Happ, Jonathan Villar, and Anthony Gose) and you’ve already given up prospects to acquire a pitcher who would win the Cy Young in 2010?

We have the benefit of hindsight for all of these comments. In a best case scenario, Gillies would have been an electrifying center fielder that could have negated the need to trade for Ben Revere. Aumont could have been the bullpen arm that got to Philly in 2011 instead of 2012 and made the need to sign Mike Adams irrelevant. And J.C. Ramirez could have been the fifth starter for a rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Kendrick. If any one of those scenarios would have panned out, the trade wouldn’t have been so bad. Yesterday, Aumont was sent home while Gillies is on the disabled list with an injury he says he doesn’t have. Ramirez is with the Phillies but is in the midst of a streak of nine appearances where he has allowed at least one run, good for a 12.75 ERA in that span.

Instead of any of the rosy best case scenarios, the ones that have the Phillies keeping the prospects they traded for Oswalt, Revere, or even the ones they used to acquire Hunter Pence, yesterday was a crash-into-the-wall reminder that the decision to deal Lee was a horrible failure, the final nail in the coffin if anyone had any doubt that, of the two decisions made on December 18, 2009, one was right, the other wrong.




  1. Pamikedc

    September 3, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Well said! Agree!!

  2. Lefty

    September 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    It seems anyway, like intent for the Lee trade to Seattle was to replenish the system for what was paid -not only for him originally, but I guess some for Halladay as well. It’s a shame that it worked out this way. But it’s also the warning I always convey to people about wanting to get younger, wanting to trade for prospects. You have to be careful what you wish for, because so many of these guys with apparent major league talent, just don’t make it.

    When I look at a guy like Aumont, he’s a guy that I would draft, or trade for. He’s got incredible talent, size and tools. But you just never know how they will turn out, he’s either lost his command, or never had it. Like the Billy Beane story, there is something else, something more than talent that a player has to have. Is it desire? Mental toughness? I don’t know, but I know you usually can’t see it when you scout them. I think our scouts have been either mostly lousy or just plain unlucky- I don’t know which.

    • Ryne Duren

      September 4, 2013 at 8:08 am

      Great article Ian! That was a major league piece pal.

      I agree Lefty you’re so right about what you said. I personally think our scouting and medical staff should be DFA’d. Their track record is right up there with the performance of the guys they scouted who ended up here. And the medical staff should be sued for malpractice.

      Charlie wasn’t the greatest manager, but he fit the need for the abundance of talent the team had at the time he was hired. He helped us win a WS and that made him special to us even thought we (I) complained a lot about how he managed. Now with that said what does that actually say?

      Ian pointed out what got the ball rolling on the Phils slide to a sub .500 team. If he had kept Lee all those other moves might not been needed. However this goes back to the scouting dept. The guys we ended up trading so far haven’t lived up to the hype themselves. If for some reason we didn’t trade lee who knows how these guys would have faired in a
      phils uniform. The jury is still out on some of them, but it still goes back to scouting. I don’t have to tell you about the medical staff. Their actions speak for themselves.

      Which now brings us to Amaro! He should have let Charlie go at the end of last year, He should have never signed some of those aging FA’s . There are so many bad things he’s done. Lousy choices. The team did get better every year after the WS but that was only in win totals. We saw flashes of what we’ve become now back in 2010 three years ago. Why? cause he locked these core players up instead of replentishing from them

      • Ryne Duren

        September 4, 2013 at 8:19 am

        I don’t know what happened there but I’ll finis

        It’s nice to have these guys still on the team cause they’re fan favorites. Right? I don’t think so.
        I understand the FO not wanting to rid themselves of these players to keep the fans coming in. But are the fans still selling out the stands? No! We love these guys but the FO should have never locked these guys in so they tied themselves up to NOT replenish the team. And I don’t mean with minor leaguers. They should have replenished with some major league talent along with quality prospects. Look at the marlins. Yea they stink a little worse than we do right now but rebuild by trading their stars for quality prospects.

        Ok I’m done ranting lefty. I should have just said FIRE AMARO! lol

      • Lefty

        September 4, 2013 at 10:09 am

        It’s okay Ryne, I read every word. We don’t see eye to eye on everything pal, but we do on some.

        We’ve seen and read this before, but it still goes back to the old Branch Rickey line “I’d rather trade them a year too early, than a year too late.” We’re not only NOT trading them, but re-signing them in their most expensive, usually declining years.

        And when we do trade them, we get very little in return. And when we get something, ( See Sheirholz, N) we just give him away!

        Although I have to admit I was for the Utley signing, as I believe he has a chance at still being productive for 2 more years.

        Honestly, I don’t have a clue how successful Branch Rickey was, specifically with that theory, but it sure sounds like a solid approach.

        In RA Jr.’s defense we don’t know if every bad move was his idea alone, or whether management coerced him into making ill advised moves ( a really good point made by Bob in Bucks the other day) , whether he got bad scouting reports, etc. But on the surface, it doesn’t look good.

  3. Sheer Harry

    September 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Solid piece.

  4. Chris

    September 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Typical negative writing. I agree it doesn’t look good but MOST prospects don’t make it. Look at the results of all the prospects the Phillies gave up. In contrast, the Phillies did indeed replenish the farm system- lack of talent for lack of talent. Plus, remember at 24, Dom Brown was a bust too

    • Carlos Danger

      September 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      How did the Phillies replenish their farm system through the Lee debacle? Trading Lee directly led to the Oswalt trade in July of 2010. Right now, I’d rather have Villar and Gose going forward than Aumont, Gillies, and Ramirez. The fact that RAJ brought Lee back just a season later makes the entire sequence just look silly and reactionary. It sure didn’t look like any sort of long range plan was at work.

    • Alex M.

      September 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      Sorry but the fact that RAJ traded away a player who was coming off the greatest year of his career for three players that have combined for -0.8 WAR over their careers is a major mistake and bust. If they would have even asked for Michael Saunders in that trade the Phillies would be in decent shape. If you look at the players just how they were ranked by baseball america in 2009, in the deal with the Indians the Phillies gave up 3 players that were ranked higher than Aumont. In addition to that the Indians got 4 players ranked in the Phillies top ten prospects for Lee, while the Phillies only got two players ranked in the Mariners top 10. That really does not compute, how does his value go down after going 4-0 with an ERA of 1.56 in the playoffs? So you can say that its typical negative writing but regardless even at that time Amaro was significantly lowballing on Lee’s value and because of it we are in a sticky situation in terms of money and lack of prospects ready to make the jump to the majors.

  5. billkirk

    September 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    This was the day I knew RAJ wasn’t qualified to be a big league GM. He didn’t bother trying to get value for Lee – which was there to be had. Lee at the time wasn’t interested in a hometown discount, and RAJ wanted to show him who was boss. Instead, he showed Phillies fans how inept he was. If only our mysterious ownership group would take a break from their international world domination for just a few minutes and pay some attention to the in-over-his-head-spoiled-rich-kid they’ve given the franchise’s reins too…

    • Bob in Bucks

      September 3, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      Anyone ever consider that this entire thing was at the direction of ownership? The timing of the announcement along with the Halladay deal makes it look like Amaro was told you can have one or the other.
      As to the replenishment argument one wonders what you could get with an open bidding process?

      • billkirk

        September 3, 2013 at 1:42 pm

        I really hadn’t thought of that, RAJ being told he needed to dump Lee immediately to get Halladay. But I’m going to say that unlikely, and here’s why:

        – Phillies ownership, to their credit, is pretty hands off. Let the baseball people make baseball decisions. This is how most good organizations run.
        – But let’s say it’s true. Is it then worth trading for Halladay? They gave up top prospects to get him. On it’s own, still a worthwhile trade. Doc was the best pitcher in the game at the time, but Lee was in the top 10. Does it make more sense to have Lee and your best prospects, or Doc?
        – Another it’s true argument. Even on short notice, RAJ should have done better. 30 other teams would have arguably given more for Lee, whose value was through the roof going into his contract year.

        This is a good point to consider, but I’m sticking to my opinion that the fault here lies with RAJ.

      • mike

        September 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm

        i agree, I remember thinking at the time that they were so hung up on Halladay and Lee was the casualty

  6. Joe a

    September 3, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    I also remember the criticism at the time was the trade was made way too quickly, without seeing if better offers were available. Certainly appeared that the phillies brass decided they needed to unload lee as a prereq of getting Doc.

    • Bob in Bucks

      September 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      Did not see your post before I put mine up. Looks like we think the same on this.

  7. Ryan H

    September 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    agreed generally with the article. however, some fault must rest at the hands of the phillies ability to develop a prospect into a pro.

    • Alex M.

      September 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      Agreed, but the same could be said that the Phillies need to improve the scouting of prospects.

  8. Jay Floyd

    September 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    @Alex M. No responsibility lies on the shoulders of coaches for Gillies’ repeated hamstring issues and his separate concussion and other health problems, which ultimately have delayed his progress in the minors. Also, I don’t think field staff should be blamed for Aumont’s inability to display the control that is required at the top level. Not even getting into the ups and down of Ramirez, how can you imply the Phillies’ staff is to blame for Gillies and Aumont not getting over the hump when it comes to reaching their developmental ceilings?

    Nice piece, Ian. Congrats on that stellar stint at Marshall’s. Discount shoes rule.

  9. Jay Floyd

    September 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    That last comment was actually at Ryan H. Sorry, Alex.

  10. Chuck A.

    September 3, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    When the hell are we just gonna let this all rest??? Seriously…it’s done. It’s BEEN done for a long while now. Yeah…there were reservations when the deal was made. But you know what?? Any one of the 3 of them could have turned out to be a stud just as easily, which would have turned RAJ into a genius (and trust me…I’m no Ruben lover…especially after this season). THAT’S the chance you take when trading for prospects.

  11. George

    September 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Not having Lee was not the only factor in needing to add Oswalt. Blanton was injured, and some others on the staff were not performing like they should have.

    In any trade for prospects there is risk involved. Had the players acquired for Lee been as good as expected, no one would even write an article like this one. It’s way too easy to criticize three years down the road when all the results are coming in, but back in 2010, the scoutingh department would have had no way of knowing how these prospects, or any prospects which may or may have been traded by another team, would turn out.

    And Lee probably wasn’t all that valuable; his contract was only for one year. That’s longer than some rental players, but it’s still basically renting when a player is that close to free agency. Many, many, teams trade players due to pending free agency and even the Mariners didn’t keep him for very long. Only teams that think one special piece will turn them into contenders will give a lot for one year of anybody.

    Amaro makes some bad moves, but this was one that could have happened to any GM. Blame him for the Papelbon contract, not this particular trade.

  12. Mike in NJ

    September 4, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    I don’t buy the “ownership forced that trade” bullshit for a second. I don’t think anyone has ever accused this ownership of being meddlesome before or since…why this one trade?

    1) Lee was only making $9M that year, and right after they traded Lee away, they resigned Blanton to a 3 yr/$25M deal. Why the EFF do you fire sale away one of the best pitchers in the game and then resign a mediocre pitcher for even more of a financial commitment? Only a moron does that.

    2) It is was about money or rebuilding the farm system, why trade 4 better prospects for a pitcher making $20M when you had a guy almost as good making half that, that you only got 3 prospects back for that weren’t ranked as high? Again, only a moron does that.

    3) Just for S&G, let’s assume Ruin WAS told either Halladay or Lee but not both, he still had to get more back for an elite pitcher like Lee, or he has to not make the trade for Halladay. Why did Lee have to be traded THAT DAY? Every contender in the league would have bid on Lee..but no…he trades him to an AL West team so we never see him pitch and get reminded daily what an incompetent GM Ruin Tomorrow, JR is.

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