The Toronto Blue Jays officially entered full rebuilding mode Wednesday afternoon after completing a four-team trade that sends ace pitcher Roy Halladay to Philadelphia for prospects Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis d'Arnaud.
In a subsequent move, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos shipped Taylor to the Oakland Athletics for infield prospect Brett Wallace, who was drafted by Toronto in 2005, but went to college and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as a first-round pick in the 2008 draft.
Halladay, who had one year left on his deal with the Jays worth $15.75 million US, has agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Phillies through 2013 at $60 million.
"This is where we wanted to be," Halladay said at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. "It was an easy decision for me."
Who's next to leave T.O.?
With the Blue Jays in "building" mode, according to general manager Alex Anthopoulos, there are a few veteran players who could follow ace pitcher Roy Halladay out the door: first baseman Lyle Overbay, closer Scott Downs, lefty Brian Tallet and set-up man Jason Frasor.
But really, anyone not part of the vision for a competitor in 2011 or 2012 can now be had.
Outfielder Alex Rios (waivers), third baseman Scott Rolen (traded) and closer B.J. Ryan (released) are the other big names to have parted ways with the club over the past year.
Shortstop Marco Scutaro and catcher Rod Barajas have both departed as free agents, as Toronto seemed to prefer getting the compensatory draft picks rather than re-signing the players.
That will be of cold-comfort to long-suffering Blue Jays fans, who adored Halladay like few other players and saw him as the key to a first post-season trip since 1993.
The Blue Jays also are giving $6 million US to the Phillies, which must be signed off by Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
The other part of the four-team deal has Philadelphia moving left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners for three prospects: right-hander Phillippe Aumont of Gatineau, Que., outfielder Tyson Gillies of Langley, B.C., and pitcher J.C. Ramirez.
Halladay, 32, is fresh off a 17-win season in which he led the Blue Jays in innings pitched (239), strikeouts (208) and earned-run average (2.79). The six-time all-star also topped the American League with nine complete games and boasts a lifetime record of 148-76 with a 3.43 ERA.
"Roy is known as the best pitcher in baseball and will have instant respect," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's a No. 1, a blue chipper, and I expect him to stabilize our pitching staff. Roy brings a great work ethic and tremendous character, and he'll have a big presence in our clubhouse."
Halladay, a Denver native, won the Cy Young Award as the league's top pitcher in 2003 and finished in the top five of voting on four other occasions.
"Without question, Roy is one of the top pitchers in the game today," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. "He has the talent, professionalism and makeup that embody what we look for in players, and we're very happy to have him in a Phillies uniform for at least the next four seasons."
It's the biggest player move by Anthopoulos since he took over from the fired J.P. Ricciardi in October, and definitively sets the team in a new direction.
Anthopoulos made it clear in early November that he sees the Blue Jays as a team in a "building" mode, with the priority being the acquisition of young controllable assets.
The return for one of the franchise's greatest and most significant players certainly helps on that front. The incoming trio join an emerging core that is fronted by second baseman Aaron Hill, outfielders Adam Lind and Travis Snider, right-handed pitcher Shaun Marcum and left-hander Ricky Romero.
Ricciardi attempted to trade Halladay to Philadelphia before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, but his asking price of a handful of top prospects was apparently too high and the Phillies instead acquired Lee from Cleveland.
Halladay maintained his stance that he wanted to wait to see where the Blue Jays were headed before signing an extension beyond the 2010 season, and with him and the team having different timelines for building a winner, Anthopoulos pulled the trigger.
One source indicated to The Canadian Press the only way to persuade Halladay to stay longer term was to sign three or four significant free agents this off-season, and it's not clear that would have got the Blue Jays over the hump.
Halladay is a low-maintenance superstar, dependable and determined, who embraced the city and wanted nothing more than to help restore the franchise to its past glory. But despite his best efforts, Ricciardi could never build enough of a supporting cast around him, and with Halladay's baseball clock ticking, he decided to accept the trade to pursue his sole remaining goal of winning a World Series.
Drabek, d'Arnaud and Wallace are first-round draft picks. The Phillies took Drabek 18th overall in 2006 and d'Arnaud 37th in 2007, while the St. Louis Cardinals selected Wallace 13th in 2008.
Prior to the July trade deadline, Amaro refused to include Drabek, 22, in any deal.
The son of former Houston Astros hurler Doug Drabek was the Phillies' minor league pitcher of the year in 2009. He started the season at high-A ball with Clearwater and finished at AA Reading, posting a combined 12-3 record, 3.19 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 158 innings.
Drabek, according to MLB.com, boasts a fastball he runs regularly to 92-93 mph, but his best pitch is one of the better power curveballs in the minor leagues. Many baseball observers also feel his competitiveness and athleticism should allow him to maximize his stuff.
D'Arnaud, 20, played 126 games at class-A Lakewood in 2009 and hit .255 with 13 homers and 71 runs batted in.
He was said to be the Phillies' top catching prospect and fourth on their depth chart. Scouts reportedly love his gap power but there are mixed reviews on his plate discipline and footwork behind the plate.
Wallace, 23, split last season at AA Springfield and AAA Memphis and Sacramento, hitting .293 with 20 home runs and 63 RBIs.
Some consider Wallace's offensive upside to be greater than Taylor's, with the main question surrounding where his home will be defensively. The Blue Jays might see him as a first baseman, which would enable Anthopoulos to pull the trigger on the much-rumoured trade of Lyle Overbay.
Wallace played third base all of last season but the Athletics did work him out at first after acquiring him in the Matt Holliday trade.