TORONTO — There are two interesting initial takeaways for Toronto Blue Jays fans to note as the blockbuster Roy Halladay trade inches closer to completion.
One, new general manager Alex Anthopoulos not only preaches creativity in his dealings with other teams, he practises it.
Two, he likes the prospects he’s getting in return so much that he’ll reportedly send a whack of money to the Philadelphia Phillies to help get the deal done.
Neither point will offer much comfort to those worried about the grim reality of a Halladay-less future in Toronto, but both offer telling glimpses into how Anthopoulos and his new front office handle their business.
First things first, the details, as best they can be worked out with the Blue Jays still deep in blackout mode Tuesday:
— Halladay and the Phillies agreed to a three-year extension worth US$60 million with a vesting option for a fourth season at an additional $20 million, according to multiple reports, appearing to leave physicals as the final step before the deal is completed.
— The Blue Jays are to get three prospects from Philadelphia — right-hander Kyle Drabek, outfielder Michael Taylor and catcher Travis d’Arnaud — and once everything is done, they’ll flip Taylor to the Oakland Athletics for infielder Brett Wallace, according to ESPN.com.
— The Blue Jays will also send about $6 million to the Phillies to help defray the difference in 2010 salary between Halladay ($15.75 million) and Lee ($9 million). That needs approval from commissioner Bud Selig, which usually doesn’t take long.
— The Phillies are then to send Lee to the Seattle Mariners for prospects Phillippe Aumont, a right-hander from Gatineau, Que., Tyson Gillies, an outfielder from Langley, B.C., and Juan Ramirez, a right-handed pitcher.
Got all that?
It’s an epic deal in several ways and it’s the creativity displayed by the Blue Jays that helped make it happen.
Anthopoulos has been described by those who have dealt with him as a relentless negotiator — Ricciardi called him The Barracuda — and has shown an innovative streak in some of the contracts he’s negotiated, particularly through the unique option system in second baseman Aaron Hill’s contract.
Combined with the information-gathering ability of his staff, Anthopoulos was able to mix and match the wants and needs of various teams until finding the return he wanted for Halladay.
“I think Toronto’s done very well,” said Keith Law, the former Blue Jays executive who is now a scouting analyst for ESPN.com. “It’s not a home run, this isn’t a heist, it’s a very good return for one year of Halladay.”
Of course, none of it is possible without the money.
The Phillies needed the cash to fit Halladay within their payroll and the Blue Jays decided they liked the players enough to provide it. While some people may not read much into that fact, it suggests that Anthopoulos will not have his hands tied when it comes to resources to get players the team covets.
It also underlines how much the Blue Jays believe in the players they’re getting. The Phillies didn’t have to grant the Mariners a negotiating window with Lee or throw in money to get their prospects, so the Blue Jays clearly believe the three they are getting are worth a heavy premium.
“I think the Jays get the three better prospects,” said Law. “Would I rather have the $6 million or more young players? I’d rather have the young players.”
It’s all risky business, and it will be a few years before we can accurately assess if they paid the right price.
Drabek, 22, has a curveball that earns raves, a good fastball and projects as a future No. 2 starter. If all goes right, he could make his debut during the 2010 season but it’s likely the Blue Jays won’t rush him.
They asked for him back in the summer when Ricciardi was auctioning Halladay but the Phillies balked then, and seemingly only relented when they could get Aumont to take his place in the system.
Wallace, 23, is currently a third baseman but his future likely lies across the diamond at first given that his 6-1 frame carries 245 pounds. That won’t matter if he can end up becoming the impact bat some predict he will become, although one evaluator isn’t convinced he’ll hit for big-time power.
Of note is that Wallace was originally drafted as a high-schooler by the Blue Jays in the 42nd round of the 2005 draft but he never signed. So they know him. The St. Louis Cardinals made Wallace the 13th overall pick in 2008 out of Arizona State and traded him to Oakland in July as part of the package for Matt Holliday.
D’Arnaud, 20, is another player the Blue Jays have long coveted, as Law says they planned to take him with the 38th pick in the 2007 draft but were beaten to it by Philadelphia, which chose him one spot earlier.
The Blue Jays chose left-hander Brett Cecil instead and hope D’Arnaud provides their system with an everyday catcher for the future.
Law feels he’s about three developmental years behind Blue Jays catching prospect J.P. Arencibia, who struggled at triple-A Las Vegas last year and is entering a key season in his career next spring.
As for the two Canadians in the deal, both will help replenish the Phillies system.
Aumont could end up in Philadelphia’s bullpen as early as this season, with one talent evaluator praising the heavy ball and sink generated by the 20-year-old’s 6-7 frame. He also pitches with a “real competitive meanness” that may allow him to become a premier closer.
The same evaluator was also full of praise for Gillies, a 21-year-old catalyst who plays with so much enthusiasm it “sometimes needs to be reined in a little bit.” He’s a character kid who’s overcome a hearing impairment to become a legitimate prospect, with blazing speed and the potential for pop “once his power develops into man-strength.”