Over the next two weeks, in conjunction with the run-up to the July 31 trade deadline, Phillies Nation will be presenting the Top 10 Trades in Phillies History. Consideration was given to the performance of the players traded with their new club v. the performance of the players acquired with the Phillies in addition to heavily weighing the success of the Phillies once the trade was completed.
This series will be immediately followed by the Top 10 Worst Trades in Phillies History, starting approximately on July 7.
The 2009 Phillies came just two wins short of repeating as World Series champions. Throughout the series, the Phillies deficiency was clear: the Phillies, despite getting two memorable performances, and more importantly wins, out of midseason acquisition Cliff Lee, lacked starting pitching. Relying on two starts from 37-year old Pedro Martinez, the Phillies dropped a very winnable World Series in six games.
Lee was the reigning AL Cy Young winner heading into the 2009 season. The Phillies snagged Lee in a midseason deal that sent Carlos Corrasco, Jason Donald, Jason Knapp, and Lou Marson to Cleveland in exchange for Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco. At the conclusion of the season, Toronto made the league aware that 2003 AL Cy Young winner Roy Halladay was available. During the 2009 All-Star break, rumors went wild that Halladay would be willing to become a Phillie. The Phillies, facing fears that they would not be able to resign Lee beyond his $9 million option for 2010.
The dots all started to connect themselves in December 2009.
As the well-documented, yet still-murky story goes: General Manager Ruben Amaro and ownership believed that Lee would not be amenable to a long-term, team-friendly extension whereas Halladay had, in some form or another, indicated he would agree to sign something close to a three-year extension at $60 million beyond 2010. Amaro pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Lee to Seattle and pulled an adjacent deal to acquire Halladay from Toronto for catcher Travis d’Arnaud, pitcher Kyle Drabek, and outfielder Michael Taylor.
In a vacuum, acquiring Halladay had the makings of one of the finest moves in Phillies history. Halladay took the mound for the first time for the Phillies on April 5, 2010 in the opening game at Nationals Park. Halladay pitched seven innings and struck out nine, earning a win in his first decision. Doc would win his first four decisions with the Phillies including a complete game shutout on April 21 in Atlanta. On May 29, Halladay had thousands of households in Philadelphia switching their televisions from the Stanley Cup Finals of the Flyers and Blackhawks to the perfect game Halladay was throwing. Halladay struck out 11 en route to completing the perfect game.
In 2010, Halladay would win 21 games, threw 9 complete games, including 4 shutouts across 250.2 innings, leading the Majors in all categories en route to winning the National League Cy Young award, an NL All-Star birth, and a sixth-place MVP finish. Halladay’s magic ride would continue on October 6: in his first postseason game, Halladay threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds, striking out 8, allowing just one walk in an economical 104 pitches. Halladay would lose his next start 4-3 in Game One of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants but would win a must-win Game Five to keep the Phillies alive. The Phillies would be eliminated in six.
With the mission of winning a World Series not accomplished, Halladay went in to 2011 looking to carry his team even further. Halladay would win 19 games, losing just 6, lowering his ERA to 2.35 ERA, leading the NL in complete games and ERA+ while leading the Majors in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). Halladay would win Game One of the NLDS against the Cardinals, pitching eight innings, allowing three earned against eight strikeouts. Halladay would take the mound in the decisive Game Five, allowing only a first-inning run. Despite going eight innings, allowing just one run while striking out seven, the Phillies would be held scoreless and would be eliminated from the playoffs.
Still one of the undisputed best pitchers in baseball headed into the 2012 season, Halladay would win his first three decisions but his velocity would drop and his strikeout totals would dip. Following a May 27 game where Halladay left after two innings, Halladay would be placed on the disabled list, making under 30 starts for the first time in his career since 2005. Halladay would win 11 games in 2012 with a 4.49 ERA before slowing down to 4-5 record with a 6.82 ERA in just 13 starts in 2013. Halladay’s time as a Phillie, and in professional baseball, had come to an end.
And what about the talent the Blue Jays received in exchange for Halladay? Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, a five-time Baseball America Top 100 prospect and 2007 first-round pick of the Phillies, would be traded prior to the 2013 season for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey and would make his Major League debut at age 24 for the Mets on August 17, 2013. d’Arnaud has struggled to put it all together in the Majors so far, hitting just .189/.277/.269 with four homers in 257 MLB PA battling through various injuries.
Drabek, a two-time Baseball America Top #100 prospect and the Phillies’ 2006 first-round pick, would reach the Majors on September 15, 2010, pitching six innings, striking out five in a losing effort against the Baltimore Orioles. Drabek, still just 26, has struggled to remain healthy, posting a career 8-15 mark thus far with a career 5.37 ERA.
Finally, Taylor, ranked as the 29th best prospect in baseball prior to the 2010 season by Baseball America, has seen just 81 plate appearances in the Majors. Taylor was traded twice on December 16, 2009, first from the Phillies to the Blue Jays and then from the Blue Jays to the Oakland Athletics for infielder Brett Wallace. Taylor was then traded the Chicago White Sox on June 14, 2014 and is hitting .135/.210/.189 with just one homer in his Major League career.
The Phillies acquiring Halladay could have been one of the greatest trades in club history. It had all of the elements of a great trade: the Phils gave up prospects that haven’t yet lived up to their superstar potential or, in some cases, their potential of becoming Major League regulars, acquired a pitcher that won the Cy Young in his first season and finished second in his second season, and rode Halladay into the playoffs two years in a row.
But a few things prevent this trade from ranking higher. First, the Phillies only got two awesome seasons, one average season, and one awful season from Halladay. Second, while the Phillies earned surplus value on Halladay’s $20 million per year contract in 2010 and 2011, according to FanGraphs, Halladay was worth a net negative $32.9 million against the last two years of his contract and a net negative $12.2 million over his entire deal. Third, the Phillies didn’t win a championship during Halladay’s run, but that certainly wasn’t entirely Halladay’s fault. But because Halladay had two of the best single-season pitching years in Phillies history, Amaro’s trade for the former Cy Young winner earns the deal a spot in the Top 10.