Go back to around noon Monday, and two rationales and scenarios in which the Phillies trade for Roy Halladay seem more or less plausible:
- Rationale: put together a super-rotation for 2010 fronted by Halladay and Cliff Lee. Scenario: Phils give up a quality package of prospects and take certain cost-cutting measures, e.g. trading Joe Blanton in a straight salary dump
- Rationale: ensure that you have an ace beyond 2010 without having to give up much in the way of prospects. Scenario: trade Cliff Lee for prospects to flip to the Blue Jays, adding maybe a second-tier guy at most, and to free up payroll
But the upshot of the rumors we're hearing--effectively, Lee plus three of our best four prospects for Halladay, a few million bucks, and two or three guys from the bottom half of the Mariners' top ten prospects--is that the Phils will have made a slightly better than lateral move for 2010, depending on how you feel about Halladay vs. Lee, and weakened themselves beyond that through the swap of projected stars like Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor for guys more likely to be marginal contributors like Phillippe Aumont (a relief pitcher) and Tyson Gillies (a third or fourth OF).
The only clear "win" is having Halladay at what seems like a team-friendly contract beyond 2010. That's a big deal, to be sure, but given Halladay's reported preference for the Phillies, it's very possible they could have obtained that outcome while either keeping Lee or their prospects. Remember, Johan Santana wasn't traded until February 2008; the Phils' leverage would have been stronger in a month or two, not weaker.
That Amaro has characterized himself as a "bird in hand" guy makes me worry that some variant of the upsetting reports is true--that the combination of his impatience and the atrociously short-sighted "$140 MILLION OR DEATH!" diktat of ownership (would it really have been so awful to have Lee one more year at a bargain price? I understand revenues from a championship can be pretty sweet) led to a splashy but awful deal.
That the deal is pretty clearly worse than what Amaro could have done to get Halladay five months ago, when he had much less leverage, gives me some hope that either the reports are erroneous or that the team knows something about the Mariners prospects coming back that we don't.
At any rate, I'm exhausted and somewhat depressed by this whole thing. Hopefully we wake up to better news.