As we approach the 7 year anniversary of the infamous Roy Halladay trade to the Philadelphia Phillies, it’s important to keep the word “prospect” in perspective
Almost seven years ago (seriously?!?), the Blue Jays were faced with a trade request from one of the greatest pitchers the organization had ever known. Roy Halladay was tired of losing, and wanted to move to a contender and chase a ring before his career came to a close. He was forthright with the Blue Jays that he would not re-sign at the end of his contract, and gave the club the opportunity to bring some prospect capital back in return for his departure.
The only real problem was Halladay wanted to go to Philadelphia, which limited the Blue Jays ability to leverage other trade proposals against the Phillies. That said, the Jays still came away with what seemed like a “good haul”, acquiring Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud, and Michael Taylor. Taylor was then immediately flipped to Oakland for Brett Wallace. To complicate the web a little further, the Jays eventually traded Wallace for Anthony Gose, which is where I’ll stop for a moment.
Let’s take a quick look at these five prospects and see how their careers have worked out thus far.
Kyle Drabek: Drafted 18th overall in 2006. Career: 8-15, 5.26 ERA in 43 games. -0.1 WAR over 7 seasons.
Was signed by the San Francisco Giants in July, and is attempting to revive his career as a shortstop.
Travis d’Arnaud: Drafted 37th overall in 2007. Career: .245/.311/.393, 30 HR, 102 RBI in 281 games. +0.8 WAR over 4 seasons.
Currently slated to be the starting catcher for the New York Mets in 2017, but only played in 75 games in 2016. Has battled injuries, and has yet to fulfill his potential as a big leaguer.
Michael Taylor: Drafted in the 5th round of the 2007 draft. Career: .167/.254/.216, 1 HR, 1 RBI in 37 games played. -1.1 WAR over 4 seasons.
Not to be confused with Michael Taylor of the Washington Nationals, this Taylor has not appeared in a big league game since the 2014 season
Brett Wallace: Drafted 13th overall in 2008. Career: .238/.316/.389, 40 HR, 138 RBI, in 494 games played. -0.6 WAR over 6 seasons.
Wallace actually got a fair amount of playing time with the San Diego Padres in 2016, but he didn’t exactly secure his job going forward. He finished with a line of .189/.309/.318 including six HR and 20 RBI in 217 at bats.
Anthony Gose: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft. Career: .240/.309/.348, 12 HR, 69 RBI, 57 stolen bases in 372 games played. +1.9 WAR over 5 seasons.
Gose is now in the Detroit Tigers’ organization, and spent most of the season with their triple-A affiliate. He appeared in just 30 games last season, and has an uphill battle to make the team in 2017. The Tigers are rumoured to be shopping many players, so Gose may have better luck staying on the roster if other veterans are traded.
Even though each player listed above had big time upside, not one of them has turned into a consistent big leaguer. There was a time that Drabek and others were borderline untouchable as prospect assets, so it’s disappointing to see how little each has contributed on the big league level.
Before anyone thinks I’ve forgotten, the Blue Jays did turn Gose into Devon Travis with a trade prior to the 2015 season, and that has worked out splendidly. To further the point I haven’t really made yet, Travis was a 13th round pick in the 2012 draft, the lowest of any player discussed so far.
The Blue Jays also included d’Arnaud in the package that brought R.A. Dickey, so they did get something in return for that asset. Dickey was a polarizing figure while in Toronto, but there’s no denying that he contributed more than any of the prospects above have to any major league club. Of course, the Jays also sent Noah Syndergaard to New York in that deal as well, which proves there are some prospects who pan out.
Nearly 700 words into this article, I’m finally getting to my point, and I’d like to do so with the help of Twitter:
Good morning. The three players traded for Roy Halladay have amassed less than 2 WAR in their collective careers.
By no means am I suggesting that every prospect is doomed to fail, that would be foolish. Taking a peek at the World Series champion Chicago Cubs’ collection of homegrown stars is a great example of the other side of this argument.
However, it’s just as important to remember that prospects can be “fool’s gold”, and there are almost no guarantees when it comes to player development at the highest level. When you add up Drabek/d’Arnaud/Taylor/Wallace/Gose you get a career +0.9 WAR, with two players essentially out of the game, and the others not all that far behind. Travis d’Arnaud looks like the best candidate to stick as a major leaguer, but he’s going to have to prove he can stay healthy in order to retain a job as a starter.
As much as it stings thinking about a player like Noah Syndergaard getting away, it’s equally important to remember how many “prospects” never pan out. As the Blue Jays consider potential trades this offseason, it’ll be important to remember for every “Thor”, there are five or more whose greatest contribution to their organization is as trade bait.