Throwback Thursday: Blue Jays Trade Franchise Great Roy Halladay
It was six years ago this week that the Blue Jays traded Roy Halladay, one of the greatest players in club history.
Photo by Adrien Veczan-Reuters
Each week, VICE Sports takes a look back at an important event from this week in sports history for Throwback Thursday, or #TBT for all you cool kids. You can read previous installments here.
The situation Alex Anthopoulos inherited wasn't ideal, but his first objective was as clear as day: trade one of the greatest players in club history and one of the elite arms in baseball, Roy Halladay.
The Blue Jays were on the verge of completing their second consecutive fourth-place finish in the ultra-competitive American League East in 2009 when general manager J.P. Ricciardi was handed his walking papers on the second-last day of the season. Toronto didn't look far for his replacement, promoting Anthopoulos, assistant GM to Ricciardi at the time he was fired, to fill the void. The young Canadian's first task may have been apparent, but it wasn't going to be easy to get the desired return for the face of the franchise and Blue Jays legend, who was one year away from hitting free agency.
Ricciardi, almost embarrassingly, talked openly about trading Halladay during his last season with the team, but no deal ever came to fruition. Trade rumours were persistent, something Ricciardi did nothing to dispel, and it was clear that Halladay wouldn't sign an extension with the club before his contract was up. It became obvious what Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays had to do—Halladay needed to go in order to avoid the risk of losing him for nothing. The optimal time to trade Halladay had probably already passed, but going into the 2010 season with him was not really something Toronto had the luxury of affording. Not for a team that needed to kickstart a rebuild in the toughest division in baseball. So, a couple months into the job, Anthopoulos made his move.
It was six years ago this week that Halladay was shipped off to the Phillies for a package headlined by right-hander Kyle Drabek and catcher Travis d'Arnaud. Outfielder Michael Taylor was also part of the trade, but the Blue Jays immediately flipped him to the Athletics for corner infielder Brett Wallace. The Halladay deal was the first big move made by Anthopoulos, who showed a penchant for making high-profile, blockbuster trades during his six years as Toronto's GM.
Save for d'Arnaud, who was later dealt to the Mets with flamethrower Noah Syndergaard as part of the R.A. Dickey trade, none involved in the deal lived up to expectations. Halladay, meanwhile, continued his All-Star form in the National League and went on to have two elite seasons with the Phillies before injuries got the best of him and forced him into retirement. He helped the team get two wins shy of a World Series appearance after the Phillies made two consecutive trips to the Fall Classic before he arrived.
By WAR, the best season of Halladay's career came in 2011, his second year with the Phillies. He was 8.3 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs (8.9 per Baseball Reference), while notching career bests in strikeout rate (23.6 K%), ERA (2.35) and FIP (2.20). The year before, he won the second Cy Young Award of his career. He also threw a perfect game that season and months later became the second pitcher in history to throw a no-hitter in the postseason.
As for the Blue Jays, they didn't get much out of the deal, but at the time the return was promising and the collection of players they received were all highly regarded. They didn't pan out, but with Halladay less than 12 months away from being able to walk, Toronto got a high-upside return that was widely considered strong. Here's what was written at Baseball Prospectus at the time of the trade:
Credit Alex Anthopoulos for doing what his predecessor could not, and landing an interesting, variegated group of prospects when he was dealing with something of a distressed property. ... Anthopolous got good stuff for the one year of Halladay he had to work with, and the page has been successfully turned.
Replacing Halladay was impossible. He won the 2003 Cy Young Award, was a six-time All-Star with the Blue Jays, and his 48.9 WAR (FanGraphs) with the club is the top mark in team history.
But the Blue Jays brought in three players who were all on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list heading into the 2010 season (Drabek, No. 25; Wallace, No. 27; d'Arnaud, No. 81). Drabek was viewed as a potential front-line arm, d'Arnaud was supposed to be the catcher of the future—he's turned into a core piece, albeit on the Mets—and Wallace was a big bat who was a first-round draft pick the year before.
Wallace was later moved for Anthony Gose, who turned into Devon Travis, while Drabek's once-promising career went south in a hurry after undergoing Tommy John surgery for the second time.
In didn't work out the way the Blue Jays wanted in the end, but the team acquired significant talent for a player who had at maximum one season left in Toronto. That's all you could ask for at the time.