Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Allure Of Halladay

As the Yankees took their beating in Anaheim over the weekend, the pull toward trading for Roy Halladay has grown stronger for some.

Joba Chamberlain has regressed and appears to be showing a nasty stubborn streak by not listening to his coaches or catchers (i.e. Jorge Posada). Andy Pettitte is looking old, consistently inconsistent, and is as likely to put up a stinker as a decently pitched game. He may not even be able to pitch gems again. And then there's Chien-Ming Wang, injured through a disastrous first half and sitting on the DL with a shoulder strain. The Yankees think he'll be back in early August, but you never know.

That leaves the Yankees' rotation appearing short, causing some to panic.

Two schools of thought have emerged as how to acquire Toronto's stud righty:

  1. Trade the farm.
  2. Take back Vernon Wells' contract and lessen the Blue Jays' asking price.
Peter Abraham is suggesting the way the Yankees could land Halladay would be to give up Joba, stud catching prospect Jesus Montero and any other prospect the Jays would like (Austin Jackson, Zack McAllister, whomever). He points out correctly the Yankees are loaded with catching prospects.

Meanwhile Newsday's Anthony Rieber is suggesting the Yankees could give up a package of Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera, Ramiro Pena and two lower-level pitching prospects simply by agreeing to take back in Vernon Wells' and the $110 million he's due through 2014 in addition to Halladay.

If the Jays would agree to that, Brian Cashman should jump over that deal, but something tells me that's a pipe dream. The Jays are trying to rebuild in a manner similar to Marlins: by landing quality prospects.

On the surface, Halladay would help fix the Yankees rotation.

He is a great pitcher, a former Cy Young Award winner with a 141-69 career record with a 3.47 ERA and two 20-win seasons. He's 10-3 this year with a 2.85 ERA in 123 innings. He's thrown 220+ innings in each of the last three years and would help lighten the load on an overly taxed bullpen that has thrown the fourth most innings in the majors.

But look deeper. He's 32, not 27, and at the end of the traditional prime years. He's also coming off a groin injury, just the latest in a career full of injuries. He's been on the DL five times, including twice with shoulder problems. Take a look at his history:

  • June 17, 2009: Groin, 15-day DL -- missed 11 games.
  • May 11, 2007: Appendicitis, 15-day DL -- missed 18 games.
  • Apr. 11, 2006: Forearm injury, day-to-day -- missed 9 games.
  • July 9, 2005: Left leg injury, 15-day DL -- missed 76 games.
  • July 20, 2004: Right shoulder injury, 15-day DL -- missed 61 games.
  • June 3, 2004: Right shoulder injury, 15-day DL -- missed 14 games.
There's only one year since 2004 that Halladay has not missed time (though the appendicitis in '07 is one of those fluky things). But as Halladay gets older, we can expect that trend to continue and for his workload to drop.

Since coming back from his latest groin injury, Halladay also has not looked good, going 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in three starts. He even gave up three runs, two earned, in two innings in the All-Star Game. Those numbers seem to indicate that Halladay is not quite 100 percent.

The Yankees know something about groin injuries and older pitchers (see Clemens, Roger). They know they don't heal quickly and sometimes not at all until after the season when a pitcher can have the proper amount of rest.

If the Yankees do trade for Halladay, it's a bigger gamble than many would like to admit. Any time a GM makes a trade for an older pitcher, he's balancing the chances of winning today against the franchise's future. If he can get someone who's a difference maker, then he has to go for it.

But the question with Halladay is whether he is that guy anymore. Are we looking at him and seeing what he is? Are we just seeing him in all his past glory? It very well may be that Halladay has reached the summit of his career, still in that glory, just about to begin his decent.

Could he help this season, maybe next? If he's healthy, probably. Is he worth a package of Joba, Montero and another top prospect? Definitively no.

This team is going to make the playoffs. Will it go far as presently built? Probably not. The pitching isn't there yet. But trading prospect in the hopes that Halladay can deliver a title is a continuation of past mistakes. Haven't we learned from the Randy Johnsons of the world?

Joba is 23. Let's ride out his growing pains and see if can eventually become at least a No. 2 pitcher. Many great starters have gone through what he is going through and there is nothing that says he can't turn it around this season. Phil Hughes will replace Pettitte next season and we have to believe Wang is just in the midst of a bad season (unlike Daisuke Matsuzaka, Wang did show progress when he came off his first DL stint).

Don't mortgage the future for a guy who's best years are behind him.


Dave said...

See, I think this is where the Yankees have a big problem. Will their fan base allow them the luxury of building a contender? I still don't see it. By and large, the NY fans demand that title every single year. And until that mentality changes (and to be fair, that includes Hal and Hank as well), NY is going to have trouble being a competitive team year-in and year-out.

I think Boston could have this problem 5-10 years from now, especially with another title or three under the belt. But we're still so damned happy we won in 2004 and 07 that we'll give the ownership some space to work. "We" being the real fans, as opposed to the pink hats who think you can win a title every year.

Aviv said...

I actually think there is a big divide among Yankees fans on this, breaking largely along generational lines. I think older fans, such as Mike Francesa, thinks that you can't rebuild in New York. Of course Francesa also said the Knicks would never, ever, ever, get below the salary cap, so take his opinions for what they're worth ... nothing!

Younger fans are recoginizing what's happening in baseball and the fact that you just can't sign free agents who are in their prime any more or trade for them because most franchises are locking up players for long-term deals at a younger age.

As it is, the rebuilding isn't a total dismantling. But it does require a little patience.