SportsProf

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Advice for the Phillies and Blue Jays

This report indicates that the talks between the Phillies and the Blue Jays for ace Roy Halladay aren't going well. The reasons -- the Phillies don't want to part with their top minor-league pitching prospect, Kyle Drabek, and the Jays aren't back off their initial trade request that consists of Rookie of the Year candidate J.A. Happ, Drabek and 6'5", 220-pound OF Dominic Brown, viewed as the best position-player prospect in the Phillies organization.

Let's separate the two issues, because they aren't one and the same. As to the first, well, the Phillies might have to bite the bullet and take a risk that Drabek, who has already undergone arm surgery, will turn into the next John Smoltz (traded for Doyle Alexander, who helped lead the Tigers to a division crown). As to the second, in most negotiations you don't lead with your ultimate "wish list" result. Instead, you lead with something that you'd be willing to come down from reasonably. So, for example, a reasonable negotiator experienced in the art would be well within reason to infer that if the Jays initially asked for Happ, Drabek and Brown, they'd be willing to settle for less. That doesn't mean that they'd be willing to settle for less than Drabek, but certainly less than Happ, Drabek and Brown.

So, it could be that the Phillies aren't reasonable in being unwilling to peddle Drabek. After all, you have to give up quality to get it. But that doesn't mean that the Phillies are being unreasonable. It just means that they have to figure out what "lesser than full wish list" combination of players the Jays would be willing to take. For example, what if they offered the following combination: AAA hurler Carlos Carrasco (once viewed as a middle-of-the-rotation starter), Drabek and Michael Taylor (and OF now at AAA Lehigh Valley who has had a stellar minor-league career). Or, alternatively, Carrasco, Drabek, Taylor and catcher Lou Marson (another good prospect but perhaps expendable now that Carlos Ruiz seems to have the Phillies' job for a while). That's a pretty good package, and the Phillies don't have to yield Happ. Put differently, there should be room to make a deal so long as the Phillies aren't required to yield all three of Happ, Drabek and Brown.

However, it appears to be quite unreasonable for the Jays to stick with their initial offer and not yield. They obviously haven't listened well to the Phillies or are confident that someone else might enter the fray seriously enough and make a rich enough offer to cause the Phillies to yield in this game of chicken. It's a big gamble. If they win, they're smarter than the rest of us and I'll stand corrected regarding this post. If they end up keeping Halladay, then it's a sign that they misjudged the market, will ride their ace to another fourth-place finish and either trade him before the 2010 trading deadline or fail to do so for similar reasons and end up losing him after next season (where the quid will be a supplemental first-round pick in the 30s overall and another team's first-rounder).

If the Jays are willing to move off their initial position, they can make a deal by tomorrow. I do agree, though, that the Indians' Cliff Lee won't be much cheaper (and I think that Halladay is a better bet). Lee's salary is much more attractive than Halladay's (by about $10 million), he's signed through the end of next season, and his team's GM, Mark Shapiro, pulled off one of the all-time trades 7 years ago when he dealt Bartolo Colon to Montreal for three prospects -- Lee, 2B Brandon Phillips and OF Grady Sizemore. Talk about being able to judge talent!

So here's some advice for the Phillies: see what Toronto asks for, see what Cleveland asks for, and try not to trade anyone that Cleveland asks for, knowing that despite the Indians' current state Mark Shapiro knows talent (and you don't want to be the GM in a deal that yields Lee, Sizemore and Phillips, or the current-day versions thereof). But make the deal for Halladay if you can, get a possible closer before the deadline, and then work hard to repeat -- because it's within your grasp.

And here's some advice for J.P. Ricciardi, a well-schooled GM and a bright guy: you can be the prettiest girl on the block, but you only can go to the dance with one guy. Translated, that means that you should work the phones hard and take the best offer you can, because it's like to be much better than what you'll get a year from now when you're seeking to offer Halladay for rental for the highest bidder. Halladay's value will drop because the suitors only will get him for one season's pennant race instead of that and a full season. Don't cut your nose off to spite your face -- make the best deal.

And don't posture publicly to try to bully or humiliate your trading partner, and close the leaks now. Get the deal done, and then trade your high-priced players and rebuild. That's your mission, and anything less before Friday will be a failure.

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