Halladay trade nets two Top 50 prospects
Acquired in offseason, Wallace, Drabek on MLB.com's list
TORONTO -- In one dramatic move this offseason, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos changed the perception of his farm system. Dealing ace Roy Halladay to the Phillies in December netted a trio of potential impact players for Toronto's future and gave the organization a much-improved Minor League landscape.
In the Halladay trade, which was a complex series of moves that also included the A's and Mariners, Anthopoulos reeled in first baseman Brett Wallace, right-hander Kyle Drabek and catcher Travis d'Arnaud -- three former first-round Draft picks. On Wednesday night, Wallace and Drabek were among the 50 players who made the cut for the MLB.com top prospect rankings.
"We're very excited about the three players that we did acquire," Anthopoulos said after completing the Dec. 16 trade. "We think all three of these players fit into our philosophy going forward of having some exciting, young, controllable players. These players are ones that we feel are going to be a big part of what we're doing going forward."
Of the three prospects in question, d'Arnaud is the furthest away from the big leagues. Wallace and Drabek, on the other hand, could be knocking on the big league door at some point this season. Within the MLB.com prospect list, Wallace was ranked 16th overall and Drabek came in right behind him at No. 17.
The hope is that Wallace can develop into a mainstay at first base and in the heart of the Blue Jays' lineup, and that Drabek can one day emerge as the leader of a rotation that lost its long-time ace in Halladay. Both Wallace and Drabek play a major role in Anthopoulos' vision: turning the Toronto franchise into a perennial contender.
In that respect, the Blue Jays do not want to rush the players to the Major Leagues.
"It's easy for us to be short-sighted," Anthopoulos said after the trade, "just to want to get these guys up here to show the fans how exciting they are, but really we have a plan in place. When they do get up here, it's for them to stay. We want to make sure we get the development done. We don't need to rush.
"This is all about the long-term plan, building a core and developing these guys the right way."
In the initial trade for Halladay, the Blue Jays acquired Drabek, d'Arnaud and outfielder Michael Taylor. Toronto then sent Taylor to Oakland in order to obtain Wallace -- a player the Jays had targeted for a few years. After learning he'd been dealt to Toronto, Wallace was excited about the opportunity to be an integral part of the club's direction.
"Any time you go to a situation where you know they're trying to rebuild with youth, that's something that's exciting," Wallace said last month. "They're definitely not afraid to give young guys an opportunity, and I think my job now is just to go into camp, be in shape and be ready to play. Hopefully, I make it as hard as possible for them to send me to [Triple-A Las] Vegas.
"If they do, I'll continue to do as well as I can there and try to put pressure on them to bring me up. Hopefully I can get there and help that team as soon as I can."
Last year, the left-handed-hitting Wallace hit .293 with 20 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .367 on-base percentage over 138 Minor League games spent between Double-A Springfield, Triple-A Memphis and Triple-A Sacramento. In his final 44 games of the season with Sacramento, Wallace hit .302 with a .505 slugging percentage.
In 2005, Toronto selected Wallace out of high school in the 42nd round of the First-Year Player Draft. Wallace did not sign, opting for college baseball at Arizona State. The Jays hoped to draft Wallace again in '08, but the Cardinals grabbed him first with the 13th pick -- four slots ahead of Toronto.
Last July, St. Louis sent Wallace to Oakland as part of the trade that brought slugger Matt Holliday to the Cardinals. As this winter's Halladay trade talks heated up between the Jays and Phillies, Anthopoulos called A's general manager Billy Beane to float the idea of a Taylor-for-Wallace swap. Eventually, Oakland agreed to the trade.
"It did not come together fast at all," Anthopoulos said. "Oakland did not give this player up easily. I think they deliberated on it for a long time. This was not a quick, 'Yes.' This took weeks. We had a lot of debate, too, because Taylor is a great player, as well."
When the Blue Jays discussed a possible Halladay trade with the Phillies in July of last season, Philadelphia balked at Toronto's wish to have Drabek included. When the Phillies changed their stance this winter, the Jays jumped at the chance to land the 22-year-old righty. For Drabek, the trade led to mixed emotions at first.
"It felt a little weird," Drabek said last month. "I certainly didn't want to leave the Phillies. They were the team that drafted me. There's always the part where you want to try to stay with that team, but I know these days it's getting harder to do that.
"Then again, I like that the Blue Jays, they kept wanting me. That felt good that a team wants you that bad."
This past season, Drabek split his time between Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading, going 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA and 150 strikeouts across 158 innings. Drabek features a fastball that can touch 96 mph, a plus curveball that he uses as a strikeout pitch and a changeup that has shown potential.
"He's an intense, fiery competitor," Anthopoulos said. "That's something that you really need -- a tremendous will to win. I think that's one of those things that allows you to get to the front of a rotation. All these guys have tremendous ability, but being a real competitor is something that I think is going to separate Kyle Drabek from the pack."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.