Here's a link to something Tom Verducci wrote on SI.com last week about the Phillies becoming the closest thing to the Yankees in the NL. Basically, they've become the team for which every other contender must account. This was as it was first emerging that the Phils were aggressively pursuing Roy Halliday-- a pursuit that looks as if it has come to fruition.
If you're a longtime Phillies fan, this new, elite-level Phillies franchise is a little hard to wrap your head around. After all, it wasn't that long ago that stars like Curt Shilling and Scott Rolen were looking to leave Philadelphia, because they were convinced that management wasn't committed to winning. And who could blame them? I saw Curt Shilling pitch a lot of games, and I can't tell you how many wins he lost because of the inferior Phillies bullpen. One year, it seemed like every game Shilling pitched, he took a lead into the eighth, when Steve Schrenk would inevitably be brought in-- and, also inevitably, he would blow the game. Shilling, clearly, felt that his only chance to win in those days was to throw a complete game. He was probably right.
But Rolen, as it turns out, probably should have been a bit more patient. He was actually the beginning of a youth movement that has become the core of this Phillies team. Rolen was soon followed by Pat Burell and Jimmy Rollins, and later Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels. Again, if you followed the Phillies for awhile, this is still hard to accept. I grew up going to Phillies minor league games in Reading, and let me tell you, if ever a farm system was bare, it was the Phillies in the '80s. I recall only one even remotely impact player from that era, part time first baseman Ricky Jordan. Ricky Jordan!
But now the Phillies look to be contenders for a long, long time. Their core is still young, and already has a World Series title under their collective belts. The farm system remains deep, meaning the team will continue to get better either from within, or by parlaying their prospects into players, as they did first for Cliff Lee, and now for Halliday.
I don't quite understand the mechanics of this trade. Basically, the Phillies are getting Halliday from Toronto, and shipping Cliff Lee to Seattle; in addition, the Phillies are sending prospects (reportedly outfielder Michael Taylor and pitchers Kyle Drebeck and J.A. Happ) to Toronto, and receiving prospects back from Seattle. I don't know anything about them, but reportedly the Seattle package is not as good as the Phillies prospect package, nor as far along.
This prospect package is essentially what the Blue Jays asked Philadelphia for over the summer (with the substitution of Taylor for Dominick Brown, who may be better ultimately but is not as far along as Taylor). The Phillies decided this was too high, and went and got Lee for a package of good, but inferior, prospects. Drebeck, in fact, was considered untouchable.
So why make that deal now, when you'll actually be getting less out of Halliday? What has changed? If the Phillies have decided that they need another elite starter to compete with the Yankees in a possible World Series rematch next fall, then yeah, they're right. After all, Lee was the only starter that proved capable of beating the Bombers, and you just can't be sure that Cole Hamels will regain his 2008 form. So adding Halliday, even at such a steep price, seems like a reasonable idea.
Why trade Lee? If the idea is to make your rotation lights out in October, Halliday/Lee does that. But just Halliday puts you back at square one. Granted, Halliday is an upgrade over Lee, but Lee is an upgrade over Hamels or whomever else the Phillies will plug into the rotation. Plus, now you've lost Happ, and Drebeck, who would probably be pitching in Philadelphia by the end of the summer. Who will pitch those innings? Pedro Martinez? Kyle Kendrick?
I understand that the Phillies thought that they couldn't lock up Lee long-term, but they can Halliday. Fine. So why not keep Lee for the year? If the goal in trading Lee for prospects is to restock the farm, then the two draft picks the Phils would pick up if Lee signs elsewhere as a type A free agent after next season accomplish that. It just doesn't make much sense. I would understand if the Phillies were shipping Lee to the M's, then sending Seattle's prospects to Toronto and thus keeping their own farm system intact, but this seems like the worst of both worlds.
Oh well. Roy Halliday's a Phillie, or about to be, and it's hard to complain about that. The Phillies have shown that they have no intention of being satisfied with a two or three year run, and are looking to be the team to beat in the National League for a long time. Considering where they've been, they get a pass.
For now. It doesn't take long for fans to go from suffering to spoiled; just ask the Red Sox.
UPDATE: So the trade was finalized today, finally, and did not include Happ, but a catching prospect that I haven't heard of. So that's certainly better, although the Phillies have now traded two catching prospects in the last six months. I hope they really do like Ruiz.
So the Phillies rotation would look to be Halliday/Hamels/Blanton/Happ/Moyer or Pedro. Not bad, but they are really counting on Hamels to rebound, and Happ to be the real deal. I think both those things will happen, but I'd feel a lot better if Cliff Lee was in front of Cole Hamels, or Kyle Drabeck was waiting in the wings.
Oh: I misspelled Kyle Drabeck's name. Knew it was one or the other.