February 27, 2015

Will a Halladay Trade be Worth It?
A Historical Look at Trades for Aces


According to the poll we ran, 45% of you would quite literally trade the farm system for Roy Halladay, while 55% would not. The airwaves and newspapers are abuzz with passionate arguments about how we have to try to win now, or how we can’t mortgage the future for one player. Neither side is wrong. Neither side is right.

Luckily for us, this wouldn’t be the first time in the history of baseball that a team traded a boatload of prospects for a #1 starter. Over the last 12 years, 14 trades have happened in which an “ace” is traded for a leigon of young players. I’m going to examine those trades here, and give grades to the team in the Phillies position (i.e. giving up the prospects) based on how the trade worked out.

Dec 15, 1997

Padres get: Kevin Brown
Marlins get: Derrek Lee, Steve Hoff, Rafael Medina

Brown’s contract status: Off season move, 1 year left on contract.

How it worked out: Brown was dominant in his season with the Padres, with a 2.38 ERA over 257 IP. He led the Padres to 98 wins and a NL Pennant, only to be swept by the Yankees in the World Series. After the season, he signed a long-term deal with the Dodgers. Lee was the only chip in the deal that they missed, as he went on to help the Marlins win a championship in 2003.

Grade: Winning the pennant makes this a worthwhile deal for the Padres, even though Lee turned out to be a star. B+

July 31, 1998

Astros get: Randy Johnson
Mariners get: Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, John Halama

Johnson’s contract status: Mid-season move, 1/2 year left on contract.

How it worked out: Johnson was 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts for the Astros, but the offense couldn’t support him in the playoffs and the Astros were bounced in the first round by Brown’s Padres. Johnson signed with the Diamondbacks after the season. Garcia had a great 5 1/2 season with the Mariners, making 2 all-star games. Guillen didn’t meet his potential until he was traded to the Tigers, where he made 3 all-star games, and John Halama was a solid rotation guy for a couple years.

Grade: The Astros risked it with Johnson hoping it would get them a World Series, but it didn’t get them past the first round. They gave up 2 future all-stars that could have helped them in the final years of the Bagwell/Biggio era. D+

Feb 18, 1999

Yankees get: Roger Clemens
Blue Jays get: David Wells, Homer Bush, Graeme Lloyd

Clemens’ contract status: Off season move, 2 years left on contract.

How it worked out: The Yankees were coming off a season in which they won 114 games and the World Series, and Clemens was coming off a year where he won his 2nd straight Cy Young. The Yankees won 2 more World Series with Clemens, who pitched so-so in the regular season, but very well in the playoffs. Wells was solid for the Blue Jays, but the Jays really messed up this deal when they dropped their demand for Alfonso Soriano to be involved. Bush, the only young player in the deal, was a bust.

Grade: You could argue that Yankees would have won those World Series with either Wells or Clemens, but we know they did win them with Clemens. A

July 26, 2000

Diamondbacks get: Curt Schilling
Phillies get: Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla, Nelson Figeuroa, Travis Lee

Schilling’s contract status: Mid-season move, 1 1/2 years left on contract.

How it worked out: We know this one well. Schilling had his best years with Diamondbacks, including winning a World Series, while Ed Wade traded one of the best players in baseball, and got back no one in particular.

Grade: Schilling put the D-Backs over the top, and only gave up a couple decent Vicente Padilla seasons to do it. A+

June 27, 2002

Expos get: Bartolo Colon
Indians get: Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Lee Stevens

Colon’s contract status: Mid-season move, 1 1/2 years left on contract.

How it worked out: The Expos were making a playoff push but fell short even after acquiring Colon, who went 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA with the Expos. They then moved Colon to the White Sox the next season for El Duque and others. Meanwhile, they gave up an MVP candidate, a Cy Young winner and an all-star 2B, setting the franchise back years.

Grade: Probably the worst trade on this list, the Nationals would look a lot different right now with Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips on their squad. F

Nov 30, 2003

Red Sox get: Curt Schilling
Diamondbacks get: Brandon Lyon, Casey Fossum, Jorge De La Rosa, Michael Goss

Schilling’s contract status: Off-season move, trade contingent on Schilling signing a multi-year extention.

How it worked out: Schilling, like with the Diamondbacks, was the missing piece for the Red Sox and led them to their first World Series title in 86 years after winning 21 games in the regular season. Lyon was a decent relief pitcher for the Diamondbacks, but they really didn’t get much out of this deal.

Grade: Ended an 86-year drought and didn’t give up much to do it. A+

Dec 17, 2004

Braves get: Tim Hudson
Athletics get: Dan Meyer, Juan Cruz, Charles Thomas

Hudson’s contract status: Off-season move, 1 year left on deal. Signed an extension before his first pitch with Braves.

How it worked out: Hudson has been solid, when healthy, for the Braves, but the team has only made the playoffs once in his 4 years there. Right now he’s being paid $13 million to miss the season and will be a free agent after the season. Meyer was supposed to be a can’t miss pitching prospect, but he missed, as did Thomas, while Cruz made his mark on other clubs.

Grade: Hudson didn’t have the impact that the Braves had hoped, but the prospects they gave up didn’t end up hurting them. B

Dec 20, 2004

Cardinals get: Mark Mulder
Athletics get: Dan Haren, Daric Barton, Kiko Calero

Mulder’s contract status: Off-season move, 2 years remaining on deal.

How it worked out: Mulder had a good 1st year with the Cardinals with a 3.64 ERA in 205 IP, but blew his arm out the year after and has not been effective since. Meanwhile, Dan Haren became so good, that he’s on the other end of one of these deals a little bit down the page.

Grade: Haren has been a top-5 pitcher in the NL the last 2 years, and you could make the argument he’s the best pitcher in baseball this season. The Cardinals were looking for an ace, but they already had one. They avoid an “F” because they only gave up one star. D-

Jan 11, 2005

Yankees get: Randy Johnson
Diamondbacks get: Javier Vazquez, Dioner Navarro, Brad Halsey, $9 million

Johnson’s contract status: Off-season move, trade contingent on Johnson signing a multi-year extension.

How it worked out: Johnson was not the dominant pitcher the Yankees had hoped, putting up a 3.79 ERA in his first season and 5.00 ERA in his second. Vazquez is a good pitcher who can’t handle the big lights and Navarro was the starting catcher for the AL champion Rays last year.

Grade: The Yankees didn’t get what they wanted from Johnson, but didn’t give up any stars to do it. However, pieces like Vazquez and Navarro might have been best used acquiring someone else. C

Nov 24, 2005

Red Sox get: Josh Beckett (and Mike Lowell)
Marlins get: Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia

Beckett’s contract status: Off-season move, 2 years remaining on deal.

How it worked out: Fantastic for both teams. Beckett gave up 4 runs in 4 postseason starts in 2007, leading the Sox to their 2nd World Series title of the decade. Lowell happened to be the MVP of that series. Hanley Ramirez on the other hand, has become one of the best players in baseball.

Grade: Beckett has been very good when healthy, but blister problems have continued to plague him. However, the Red Sox absolutely don’t win the 2007 World Series without him. Right now they would probably trade Beckett back to the Marlins for Ramirez if they could given the pitching depth in their system, but winning the Series guarantees a good grade. A-

Dec 15, 2007

Diamondbacks get: Dan Haren
Athletics get: Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland, Chris Carter, Carlos Gonzalez, Aaron Cunningham, Greg Smith

Haren’s contract status: Off-season move, 3 years remaining on deal.

How it worked out: Haren, part of the Mark Mulder deal above, has been exactly what the Diamondbacks wanted him to be, sporting a 2.84 ERA through 2 seasons with the squad. Unfortunately, the young offensive players have struggled big time and the Diamondbacks haven’t sniffed the playoffs. Meanwhile, since Haren had 3 years left on his contract, the Diamondbacks had to give up a ridiculous prospect haul to get him. Anderson, the jewel of the deal, is a flame-throwing lefty who, at 21, is already a part of the A’s rotation. Smith and Gonzalez went to Colorado as part of the Matt Holliday deal. Carter and Cunningham are both still top offensive prospects.

Grade: This is a real tough one. The Diamondbacks can’t complain at all with what Haren has given them, but the team has been such a disaster that they might have been better off just hanging off to all those prospects. Anderson, Carter and Cunningham all appear like they will be solid pros and Anderson might be a star. Chances are none will be as good as Haren, so I don’t know who they would take. B

Jan 29, 2008

Mets get: Johan Santana
Twins get: Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra

Santana’s contract status: Off-season move, trade contingent on Santana signing a multi-year extention.

How it worked out: Santana has been very good for the Mets, with a 2.72 ERA through 2 seasons. However, whether it’s the bullpen or the injuries, the Mets haven’t cashed in on their acquisition. On the other end, Gomez is struggling to hit, and it remains to be seen what kind of player he will be. Humber, Mulvey and Guerra all could be starters some day, but none are top prospects.

Grade: This trade still makes me mad. The Mets got the best pitcher in baseball and didn’t even have to give up their best prospect to get him because the Twins so poorly misplayed their hand with the Yankees and Red Sox. Obviously, Johan hasn’t taken the Mets to the playoffs, but they didn’t give up anyone elite to get him. A-

Feb 8, 2008

Mariners get: Erik Bedard
Orioles get: Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, Tony Butler, Kameron Mickolio

Bedard’s contract status: Off-season move, 2 years remaining on deal.

How it worked out: Bedard and Felix Hernandez were supposed to give the Mariners a 1-2 punch that would lead them to the AL West title. It didn’t. Bedard only threw 81 innings for the Mariners and they finished with one of the worst records in baseball. This season he’s healthy and pitching better, but the Mariners are only a fringe contender. The other franchise in this deal, the Orioles, have pretty much rebuilt their franchise on this trade. Adam Jones is a superstar in the making and Tillman is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Sherrill has been their closer for 2 years and both Butler and Mickolio are viable major league prospects.

Grade: In a couple years, this could rivals or pass the Expos/Colon trade above. The Mariners were blasted at the time of the trade for giving up too much, and the injury to Bedard and emergence of Jones has actually made the deal worse than originally thought. F

July 7, 2008

Brewers get: CC Sabathia
Indians get: Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, Micheal Brantley

Sabathia’s contract status: Mid-season move, 1/2 year remaining on deal.

How it worked out: The Brewers, desperate to make the playoffs, traded for the Indians stud, knowing he was a half year rental. Much like Randy Johnson and the Astros, Sabathia was comically dominant (11-2, 1.65 ERA) in the regular season, but couldn’t get the Brewers past the first round (and Sugar Shane Victorino’s power stroke). On the Indians end, all of the players are still in the minors and while they expect big things from LaPorta, nothing is guaranteed at this point.

Grade: The Brewers made the playoffs, which makes the trade at least somewhat of a success. However, they certainly envisioned Ben Sheets being there with Sabathia and making a run deeper in the playoffs. Since the prospects they gave up aren’t in the majors yet, it’s not possible to give them a proper grade. N/A


While some talking heads, writers and fans speak with such certainty that the Phillies should, or should not, make this trade - these trades (shockingly) show that there is no definitive right or wrong answer on this. Some teams went on to win the World Series after the move, some severely damaged their franchise for years to come.

Let’s run down the grades I gave out for the teams in our position…

A – 5
B – 3
C – 1
D – 2
F –  2
N/A – 1

If you count A’s and B’s as “successful” trades, 8 of the 14 trades turned out OK for the teams giving up the prospects. Only 5 of the 14 turned out bad, but 2 of those 14 really decimated the franchise trading the prospects. However, both those teams were trying to get to the upper echelon of teams, not already there like the Phils. So on a whole, you can say that there is about a 60% chance you won’t regret the trade.

What does concern me is that only 2 of these trades included 5 or more prospects (what the Blue Jays are asking) and those graded out at a “B” and an “F” and the package that is closest to what we would have to give up is what the Mariners gave the Orioles (though none of our prospects are as highly regarded as Jones was). However, the Mariners were not ready to contend and Halladay is far, far better than Bedard.

I didn’t expect this to show one way or another that we should do the deal, but it does give some perspective. It seems as though the teams that were already built for success and made the move to put them over the top had a better chance of not regretting it than those who did it to try to play with the big boys. Obviously, we fall into the former category, so that would infer we have a better chance of success with the deal.

For me, whether to do this deal or not will still come down to the package we have to give up, but I hope this gives everyone some perspective that there is no easy, or correct, answer at this point and we’ll just have to wait and see.

I’m sure there are plenty of talking points I missed – does this change the way you think about a possible trade?

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  1. Kenny says:

    good read.. man looking back on that colon trade.. lol… the difference is i dont think any of the Phillies prospects are locks at being stars like guys like  phillips or adam jones figured to be..and we would not be trading the whole system.. just a good chunk of it..

  2. Jacob says:

    Prospects in the Dan Haren trade:

    Carlos Gonzalez – 23-year-old outfielder currently hitting .202 with 1 HR in 84 ABs (at Coors, no less)

    Brett Anderson – Classic lefty whose fastball averages 92 and who gets by on polish (his dad’s a college coach)

    Chris Carter – Double-A 1B who strikes out too much

    Aaron Cunningham – Potential 4th outfielder

    Dana Eveland -  Proverbial AAAA SP

    Greg Smith – Soft-tossing lefty

  3. Jef says:

    Definitely insightful. My greatest fear with a trade is that it turns into the Bedard trade. However, I think you brought up two good points. 1) It depends on the package. 2) Teams that were already at the top echelon were built to succeed, so they could “afford” the trade to put them over the top. My belief is that if we get Halladay, depending on the package, he would almost guarantee us into the 2nd round if not the World Series. He would also support one of those 11-2, 2.65 ERA type of stats until the end of the year. If we don’t make the trade, I think we are ok to get into the playoffs, just don’t know how far. I think the Phillies should definitely trade for another SP, but in the form of a Blanton, not Halladay. I also think they should bring in BJ Ryan for a look. You can’t have too many LHPs.

  4. Pete says:

    Anderson hit 97 during his shutout of the Red Sox… A “B” wasn’t a bad grade!

  5. stu says:

    what a great article, thanks Pete.

  6. bball says:

    The team more desperate to make the move tends to overpay which can lead to a deal like the Expos or Mariners one.  But when the other team is desperate to trade an ace they take back garbage like when we traded Schilling or when the Twins traded Santana.  IMO we should make Drabek off limits and work around a Taylor or Brown as the main prospect.  We could also include Marson, Donald and a mid level pitching prospect.  That would be the maximum I would offer. I don’t want to trade Happ with the way he’s been pitching and I don’t want to give up a major pitching prospect because pitching is harder to come by.  Now if that deal would get it done then so be it.  If not then I’ll be happy adding a Blanton type starter.  Hopefully the Jays will get desperate with all the trade talk.  If they talk about it enough they might have to trade him like the Twins.

  7. Pete says:

    bball -

    I agree, I think you make Drabek and Happ off-limits and don’t get desperate. Wouldn’t surprise me if he stuck around and then the talks heated up again in the winter.

    You can’t make a deal like Mariners made where everyone knew at the time they gave away way too much.

  8. JSS says:

    Players I would make available for this deal are Donald, Marson, Kendrick, Mayberry and Bastardo. I might consider Savery, Flande, or Carrasco to sweeten the deal.  I wouldn’t want to give up players like Brown, Taylor or Drabeck at this point.

  9. phil the phan says:

    Recliner, I had never heard of this site until today.  That was an excellent,  well-researched report on trading aces.  I will have to bookmark this as one of my new-found favorites.  kudos

  10. Pete says:

    JSS -

    They won’t give him up without Drabek, Brown or Taylor. Chances are they will require 2 of those guys. So I’d guess you are in the “keep the farm” camp.

    Phil -

    Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. We are big on research here, both in the posts and in the comments. Gotta back stuff up! Hope to hear from you on future posts.

  11. Pete says:

    just heard Michael Taylor interviewed on 950 ESPN. Some interesting stuff…

    • Says he thinks his best “tool” is hit for average. He doesn’t see himself as a Ryan Howard type, rather a .300+ hitter who can also hit 20-25 HR and drive in runs.
    • Says he was “blown away” by how good Kyle Drabek’s pitches are. Says he is “top 2-3″ of all the pitchers he has seen in the minors.
    • He’s good friends with Zach Greinke, who he went to HS with.
    • Taylor is incredibly bright, personable and honest. His character will absolutely not get in the way of his success.
  12. The Real Rob says:

    If you add Martinez and Halladay to our starting pitching, it would help tremendously especially come postseason time against California’s best! (Giants and Dodgers).

    Halladay v.s  Lincecum is tonight’s All-Star matchup.  It could be a possible matchup this regular season, as well as a 1st round matchup! 

    It really depends on whether the Phillies want to win now or take a couple more years to win more Championships.  It is not an easy road for players and fans alike!

  13. Dan says:

    I personally don’t get what the debate about Halladay is about. Baseball, like any sport, is full of what-ifs. What if Drabek turns out to be an ace? What if Drabek gets injured again, gets TJ surgery Again, and can’t even crack a rotation? What if Taylor becomes an All-Star outfielder? What if Taylor is the next Marlon Byrd? What if both are ok but not the top-of-the-line players people think they are? What if Halladay blows out his arm? What if Utley or one of our mainstays goes down? Etc Etc.

    There are always different potential futures that one can consider. However, the most likely ones to occur can be figured out by present facts. What do we know about this year’s season? We know the Philles are in 1st place in the NL East even after they went through a bad slump, dealt with Ibanez getting injured, and had their pitching staff look like they were a mediocre Legion rotation. We know that Hamels is no longer pitching like a #1 or even a #2 (whether it be because of mental error, fatigue, or tipping pitches). We know our bullpen has been basically abused. We know that Happ has pitched well, however of his 6 wins none have come against a team that can be considered good. We know that Blanton has looked like the ace of this staff, but he is what he is – Heavy B – a #2 – #3 hole pitcher. We know that the Phillies are so desperate for pitching that they just took a million dollar gamble on Pedro Martinez.

    We also know that there is no dominating team in the NL, let alone all of baseball again. We know that the Dodgers, while good, are not THAT good. With that being said, we know that the addition of Halladay would increase our odds of winning the NL Pennant and the World Series by a huge amount.

    I know that it might take a lot to get Halladay, but with a chance to win back-to-back World Series should any grouping of prospects really be considered “a lot”? Remember the feelings you had last year when they won, the feelings you had at the parade, the feelings you had reading the Inqy or watching the news after they won… wouldn’t potentially getting to be able to feel those ways (or at least close to it) be worth trading a major league rotation guy (Happ), a double A pitcher who already had TJ surgery and many thought had a future as a closer, and a 5 tool OF (with us having another one in the minors), and a bunch of maybes (Carasco, Marson, Donald, etc)?

    You get Halladay and he makes your chances to win another W.S. in this window (next 2 and a half seasons) much higher. We still have more than enough time to continue to develop prospects to replace our current players. I hope Amero has the stones to pull the trigger. We already have one organization in this town that is afraid to go for it, no need to have another.

  14. Pete says:

    Toronto Sun reporting today that Angels are now in the lead for Halladay

    PHILLIES 4-1

    Training in Clearwater means 10 weeks at the Halladay home in Oldsmar, Fla. Phils say they have prospects but talk is that the Jays don’t like them, or at least not the ones the Phillies would move. The Jays like J.A. Happ, who has been better than Cole Hamels. Shortstop Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson have been mentioned.

  15. Pete says:

    another note that makes me think this trade isn’t going to happen…

    “There are some untouchables,” Amaro said. “But again, each situation will make you think how to handle those situations. There are some guys I absolutely would not want to trade. We’re fortunate that we’ve built more depth in our system to be able to have our discussions.”

    But “would not want to trade” certainly is different than “will not trade.”

    So are there players Amaro absolutely will not deal?

    “There are guys we will not trade,” Amaro said.

  16. Mark says:

    Another facet of this deal is the extension right? IF the Phillies decide to trade for Halladay then the will want to him to sign at least a 3 year extension. So the Phillies have Halladay from now until 2013 at least. And Drabek plans to be on the major league club in 2010. That takes away 3 years at least that Drabek would be pitching and would cut some of the damages from the trade.

  17. Pete says:

    Jim Callis answering a question for me…

    Pete: Would you trade Drabek, Brown, Marson and Donald for Roy Halladay?

    Jim Callis (ESPN): If I could sign Halladay long-term, yes. That would position the Phillies as the team to beat in the NL East (and the whole NL for that matter) for a while. Without a long-term deal, I’d still have to think about it. I’d hate to give up all that young talent for 1 1/2 years of Halladay, but the deal would still give me a great chance to win another World Series in the next two years.
  18. GARGS says:


    Awesome post.  No one but me–and you to a much lesser extent–care about the Twins.  The Twins had been known as ripping teams off in trades but their last two trades (Santana to mets for Gomez/Humber and Bartlett/Garza to Rays for Delmon Young) have worked out horribly for the Twins and very well for the other teams.  

  19. Adam says:

    Interesting SI article.  Someone feels very highly about some of our prospects.  The article lists 10 minor leaguers who they expect to be future all-stars.  The Phils have two players on the list – Brown and Drabek.

  20. Adam says:

    Taylor got promoted to AAA today.

  21. Pat says:

    To be fair, Bedard was thought to be the next big ace while Halladay is one of the 2 best pitchers of the last 8 years.

  22. Bryan says:
  23. Pete says:

    haha – It would appear so – with grades and everything!

  24. Andy says:

    You missed the point of the Sabathia trade….. small market team rolls the dice and goes for it.  LaPorta could turn out to be an all-star for 10 years running and 95% of Brewer fans would still say it was worth it.  Those 3 months will last forever.  Too often GMs are building teams not too lose, so they don’t lose their jobs.  Fans don’t want a perennial contender, they want to reach for it all.

  25. Pete says:

    yes, chances are the Brewers “grade” will turn out to be a positive

    though – I will say going for it once usually doesn’t work. Not a single small market team on this list won a World Series because of their move.
  26. Andy says:

    The final result didn’t matter.  For the last 27 years September baseball in Wisconsin has been all but meaningless.  Last fall it was alive and the world stopped every time CC touched the ball.  Welcome to a small market.