Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Deal Or No Deal?

Let the bidding begin.

Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi has declared his team as a non-contender and got the baseball world abuzz by making ace Roy Halladay available for trade.

And the suitors are lining up: the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Cardinals, Phillies, Brewers, Dodgers and Angels have all been identified as possible landing spots.


Make no mistake, this is not going to be a cheap deal. We talking about one of the best pitchers in the game today. Halladay is 141-68 with a 3.47 ERA and a Cy Young in his career and this season he's 10-2 with 2.79 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.


With so many teams interested, it's going to take more that a handful of prospects. The Blue Jays are going to ask for and command a lot. Being the strongest team financially isn't going to have any impact on getting this deal done.


And surely the Yankees and Red Sox are going to be involved in the talks. They'll want to see if maybe the asking price might be reasonable, but more importantly, they'll want to make sure to drive up the price tag.


I'll let Dave worry about the Red Sox end of things, but for the Yankees I'm wondering if it's really worth it.


We have some idea about the names the Jays will be asking for. It will some combination from a list that includes Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Robinson Cano, Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke, Austin Jackson, Ivan Nova, Ian Kennedy (even though he's hurt), Jesus Montero, George Kontos, Francisco Cervelli, Mark Melancon and Zach McAllister. In short, the Yankees' best young players and prospects who are close to major-league ready and the Jays will be in position to land three or four.


And while Halladay is a great pitcher, the price, I think, will be just too high.


First, he's 32, which is three year's older that what Johan Santana was when the Yankees pulled out of those talks. Second, he is injury prone, battling various ailments throughout his career, including a groin strain this season -- and in his two starts since his return from the DL, he has not looked good.


But most importantly, remember that Halladay likely is near the end of his prime years, and though he has only 1-1/2 years left on his contract, he also has no-trade clause and likely will want an extension to waive it.

In the past, the Yankees would have made a deal like this without hesitation. They brought in pitchers such as David Cone, Jimmy Key, Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina. All of them contributed and pitched well and helped them win, but the returns diminished as the years went on and they were not able to perform up to their standards of the past.

Win now and don't worry about the farm system, we can always buy more veterans, was the philosophy.

But the Moneyball Era has changed all that. Teams, such as the Red Sox and Rays, are using their farm systems to build young, fast athletic teams, stocking them with players they can keep under their control until late in their prime years.

And that strategy has allowed those teams to not only catch up to the Yankees, but pass them by as the Bombers grew old and slow.

Brian Cashman has been trying to change the Yankees' philosophy, and as the list above shows, we are starting to see some benefits.

Now is not the time to change course. Yes, Halladay is great pitcher and would definitely help this season and next, but the price is just too high. If the Yankees bring him in, they had better win it all this season, because their future will be bleak.

Look at where the Mets are. They made the deal for Santana, giving up four of their top prospects. While Santana has been great, they haven't won a World Series yet and their farm system is beyond barren, making it difficult for them to get Johan enough help.

SO, kick the tires, Cash. Drive the price up for the others. Just don't do the deal ... unless you're getting a steal.

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