Now that the Halladay trade is official, it's time for some analysis.
Back in July, I complemented the Phillies' acquisition of Cliff Lee, partially because "the organization didn't have to part with any of their 3 top prospects (according to Baseball America)."
Now the Phills have parted with 2 of those 3 prospects to make a much smaller upgrade in the rotation. Their primary motivation was that Halladay was willing to sign a contract extension at a reasonable price and Lee wasn't. Fair enough - if Philadelphia felt the need to wrap up an ace for the next few years, maybe it was worth giving up some great prospects. But, why did they feel required to trade their other ace? Why not keep both?
This trade is being described as a three-way deal, but it's really two separate two-team deals. No players are being exchanged by the Blue Jays and Mariners. There's no reason why the Phillies needed to get a third team involved. If they'd just traded for Halladay, they'd have the best 1-2 in baseball and the best rotation overall. They'd be the clear favorite to win the NL pennant, and with their two aces, a legitimate threat to the Yankees/Red Sox if they made it to the World Series. They'd be the first NL team to act like the Yankees and Red Sox this century.
Instead, they traded Lee and his very reasonable contract for 3 good-not-great prospects, which isn't that much better than just taking the draft picks next year.