The Halladay Trade

Well, the big trade went down last week, and I have to say, I’m disappointed. Not because of what the Jays got back; I think they did quite well in that regard. I know I said the Jays should “go for it”, but since then the Yankees have gone out and gotten ridiculously better by adding Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson (and Javy Vasquez since the Halladay trade) and going for it was no longer a viable option, making the Halladay trade a necessary, if soul-destroying, evil. No, what I am disappointed about is the distinct lack of articles titled “The Doctor Is Out” in the wake of the trade being announced. Guys, I know times are tough, but let’s not completely forget what sportswriting is all about: awful titular puns.

The guys the Jays got back (Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace, Travis D’Arnaud) are probably the best the Jays could have hoped for in a trade, though I would have liked to have seen Carlos Triunfel come over from the Mariners instead of Travis D’Arnaud.

I would say Anthopoulos did well here. I would say he did well here, except that immediately after the trade was completed, Anthopoulos said the plan was to transition Wallace to first base. This I don’t understand. At all. The general opinion on Wallace’s defense is that he could probably be a below average third baseman, which is fine, but that he would likely have to move to first base eventually, which is also fine. What I don’t understand is why move him now? The Jays aren’t exactly rife with third base talent. On the major league roster there are Jose Bautista (average hitter, slightly below average defender) and Edwin Encarnacion (above-average hitter, horrible defender). In the minors there is... well no one. Not until you get to Kevin Ahrens, who just raked to the tune of a .215/.282/.302 line in High-A in ’09. If you’re going to move someone to first base, why wouldn’t it be Encarnacion? He’s proven that he can’t play third base effectively (though I’d like to see if Butterfield could fix him), mainly due to the fact he can’t throw with any kind of accuracy whatsoever. Which, you know, would make him well-suited to playing first, since being able to throw isn’t necessary to play that particular position. This is made even more confusing based on this quote from Anthopoulos:

We think Wallace is capable of playing third. But, we see him being an above average defensive first baseman. Our hope is to have a strong as a defensive club as we can and putting players in a position where they have a chance to impact the club in the best way defensively. 

Well, if you think he can play the position, why not make him show he can’t before moving him? Anthopoulos’ justification thus far has been that he thinks Wallace can be an elite-defender at first base, but I still don’t ever like moving a player down the defensive spectrum if you don’t have to, because finding a replacement for the position the player is moving from is harder to do than finding a replacement for the position the player is moving to.
The thing that REALLY gets me though is, if the Jays were simply planning on moving Wallace to first anyway, why not trade for a first base prospect? It’s not like they would need to look far. Oakland’s top hitting prospect, along with Brett Wallace, is Christopher Carter, a right-handed hitting first baseman who is the same age as Wallace and hit 40 homers in the minors in 2008, and raked last year too. Is Carter the first baseman, who is currently the better hitter, worth more than Brett Wallace the third baseman? I don’t think so. Unless the A’s saw Wallace as a first baseman, like the Jays do, I don’t see why they would be willing to trade away Wallace, but not Carter.
In a vacuum, I’m not against the swap of Michael Taylor for Brett Wallace. Except, you can’t evaluate moves in a vacuum, and with all the circumstances, what with the premature position switch and Carter being readily available, I’m just not sure I agree with Anthopoulos’ decision-making process here.
Of course, I could be completely off base and maybe the Athletics really do value Carter that much more. Or maybe the gap in defensive abilities between the two players really is that significant, trumping Carter’s edge in hitting. Or maybe Anthopoulos just plain likes Wallace more. I don’t know. I just think it’s a little curious.