The garden of Halladay

halladay_250_111909.jpgSince new Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos let it be known that he would not object to trading Roy Halladay within the American League East, there has been much speculation about another Yankees-Red Sox competition for the veteran right-hander’s services. If true, this almost ensures that Halladay will be traded in the division, because these are two teams deep in resources who will be motivated to top each other, thus escalating their offers above and beyond what teams outside the division would be willing to offer.

This news is both exhilarating and depressing. The Yankees just won a World Series by leaning on three starters, and their 2010 rotation is unsettled beyond CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Halladay is one of the best starters in the game and an additional asset in new Yankee Stadium given his groundball tendencies. The depressing part is that Halladay will cost a lot, particularly if the Red Sox and other teams are bidding up the price. It would be sad to see Phil Hughes and Jesus Montero blossom in a Blue Jays uniform. Halladay will be 33 next year, while Montero will be 20, so even if Halladay spends the next five years in pinstripes, Montero will still be in his prime for years after the Doc has checked out.

The “other hand” to that is that flags fly forever, and maybe you trade 20 years of Montero for two more World Series appearances with the present group. Perhaps by that time there will be some other Montero around to distract from the 30 homers a year the original is hitting at the Rogers Centre. On yet another hand (the fifteenth hand, I believe), the Yankees’ position players are rapidly aging, and keeping a player like Montero around may help keep them competitive in ways beyond what Halladay might contribute. We’re lost in Borges’ Garden of Forking Paths here.

Were the Yankees to let the cup of Halladay pass from their lips, it might not be a bad thing. The odds are that Hughes or whoever the Yankees might trade won’t develop into a Cy Young pitcher of Halladay’s caliber, but they might, or might be good enough that the Yankees prosper anyway. Hughes will be 24 next year. In seven years he’ll be 31. Seven years from now, Halladay could be on the golf course 12 months a year. Were he to go to the Red Sox it would be a tough thing, as Halladay has pitched very well against the Yankees over the years (though not nearly so well against the Red Sox), but like the Yankees, the Red Sox have problems that Halladay can’t solve; in fact the same problem, an aging roster. The replacements that Theo Epstein trades for Halladay in December he might need by July.

Here’s another argument for trading for Halladay: Commissioner Selig and his umbrella Perkins say that each postseason series will not have 43 days off between games next year, with no series running less than six weeks each. As such, were the Yankees again to make it to October with just three trustworthy starters, Coffee Joe could not get around it by starting the Golden Trio on short rest–that fourth starter would almost certainly come into play. In addition, the same relievers could not be used in every game. If Halladay gives you anything, he gives you length, so he would be a help to any team trying to work through a more reasonable schedule.

And then there’s the Mayan calendar. If that’s right, then none of this matters anyway.

ANGELS PATRONIZED

I’m offended by the notion that what put Mike Scioscia on top for the American League Manager of the Year award is that his team succeeded despite Nick Adenahrt’s death. Adenhart’s death was tragic and futile, and no doubt the young men of the Angels’ organization were deeply affected. That said, I have more faith in the professionalism of the ballplayers on that team, a fairly seasoned lot, than to believe they would have packed it in on April 9 for any reason, no matter how upsetting.

Further, as one who deals with existentially-flavored depression on a fairly regular basis, I find it impossible to believe that any manager, Scioscia, Joe Girardi, Joe Torre, Connie Mack, John McGraw, could jolly anyone out of a true bout of sadness. Words just don’t mean that much when you’re staring into the abyss. Nor has anyone said that Scioscia held individual counseling sessions or did anything out of the norm except report to work and keep making out his lineup cards. What else can you do in such a situation except keep playing?

Finally, in the most basic baseball sense of things, the loss of Adenhart was not necessarily something decisive the Angels had to overcome. While he was projected to be a big part of the team, and certainly had talent, he had not yet established himself in the Majors. In the same way that Joba Chamberlain or Hughes has advanced one foot and retreated two, Adenhart might have had steps back in his future. Certainly his Minor League record suggests that would have been the case.

The Angels had many such baseball situations that they had to work through to get to the postseason. Howie Kendrick slumped early. Vlad Guerrero and Torii Hunter got hurt, as did John Lackey, Ervin Santana and key bullpen piece Scot Shields. Brian Fuentes was always a blown save away from losing his job. At the same time, they were also the only really solid team in a weak division, something you can’t say about Girardi’s Yankees and Terry Francona’s Red Sox, both of which had their own baseball-oriented problems to deal with. They didn’t have to confront death, and that’s something we can all be thankful for, but just because Scioscia’s team did have that occur doesn’t necessarily make him the best manager in the league last year. Treating Adenhart’s untimely demise as an excuse to lionize a manager is both trivializing and exploitative.

MORE OF ME, SORT OF
Last weekend, NPR had a “Write a song” contest. I was too swamped by the Baseball Prospectus annual to do much more than kibbitz about a few words in the item ultimately entered by my songwriting partnership, but perhaps that was a blessing to the song that was ultimately created. If you’re interested in a completely different and heretofore unpublicized aspect of my creative output (as here embodied by my collaborator, Dr. Rick Mohring), you can find it on the scroll list halfway down the page under the name “Casual Observer.” I hope you enjoy listening to our “Carrie and Pierre.”

6 Comments

Right on about the Angels.

Meanwhile. I don’t know if you noticed, but the trade market has been different ever since the Yanks and Sox drew a line around their very best prospects two years ago in the Santana negotiations. Since then, teams have been trading prospects from their top 6 but not their top two or three. That’s why Halladay didn’t go at the deadline, and if anyone thinks they’re gonna get more for him now, when he can only help win 1 title, they be nuts. Plus, Halladay has an NTC, so basically, if Cash is patient and Halladay says he wants an extension, I think we can get him for a package that doesn’t include Hughes or Montero. It will be an interesting offseason as Cash deals from presumptive strength rather than obvious need for the first time in years. After the `98 season, they surprised everyone by making a trade for the Blue Jays Roger Clemens, could something similar be on the way?

I agree 100% on the Angels. I’ve been appalled all year long about that topic. And really, I hope the Angels would hire professionals such as grief counselors to handle things like this. I’m not sure why everybody assumes Mike Scioscia single-handedly willed his team to maintain focus at that time.

And in a strictly baseball context, Mike Scioscia is the same manager that always splits Mike Napoli’s playing time evenly with the likes of Jeff Mathis. Any manager that harms his team by playing Jeff Mathis evenly with Mike Napoli is not someone that I want managing my team. Similarly, he’s also the same manager that pinch-hits Gary Matthews in place of Mike Napoli in crucial playoff games.

So yeah, I find it hard to believe that Mike Scioscia is the best manager in his own division, let alone the entire AL.

I am in the camp of DON’T sign Halladay, and I don’t think the Red Sox will either. If both teams are patient for one season, Lee will end up on team and Halladay on the other.

Kudos to Mr. Goldman – you could not have said it any better! While I agree that Scioscia is a great manager, his accomplishments this year do not qualify him for the MOY award. As regards to Roy Halladay, Brian Cashman is an intelligent individual and he will let the dice roll and suggest the Jays take the following package for Halladay: Joba Chamberlain, Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. CAPISH!!!

The Halladay possibility has the makings of a Cold War standoff between the Yanks and Red Sox. At least, that will be the way the press presents it, so that we keep buying papers and visiting revenue-producing blogs. The Yanks and Sox both have prospects and money that they could conceivably turn into the 33-year-old ace. But the cost in both terms will be astronomically high, when you consider that Halladay would demand a lucrative extension in order to wave his no-trade clause. As a result, I do not think we will see Halladay traded during the winter months.

The trade deadline will be a different story. The Blue Jays will be able to demand as many or nearly as many quality prospects in return for their ace. Halladay will still have his full no-trade clause as leverage. But, I think we would see him approve a trade to a contender at that time, rather than limiting his possibilities to a team willing to extend him a contract. In that scenario, he would be the ultimate hired gun. If he hits the free agent market healthy after the 2010 season, he’ll get a deal that would match any extension offer he would receive today.

I’m not so sure Halladay is going to cost that much. Due to the Jays not being able to trade him during the season, it’s either lower their demands or end up with the 2 compensation picks for losing Roy to free agency.

I’m starting to think a package like Chamberlain, Gardner, and a couple of other smaller pieces in the minors would work. See my blog for more details.

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