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Why the Philadelphia Phillies Should Not Trade for Roy Halladay
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
July 22, 2009
The entire city of Philadelphia is abuzz with talk that the Phillies are the leading contender to acquire Roy Halladay. I don’t like it one bit, and here’s why:
First, I believe that when teams succeed following a certain strategic mindset, they should stick to that mindset. Keith has been trying to figure out what team in the 2009 season most accurately resembles the 2005/2006 Chicago White Sox; he has suggested both the Cincinnati Reds and the Tampa Bay Rays. But if Philadelphia acquires Halladay, it will be the Phillies that most resemble that 2006 White Sox team. As South Siders will recall, the 2005 White Sox went to the World Series with a team that specialized in pitching and defense. That defense was built around small time but invaluable players, and the team was assembled by way of several underrated but somewhat brilliant moves – chiefly, refusing to re-sign Magglio Ordonez and trading Carlos Lee away for Scott Podsednik. But then, the White Sox went away from the model, dealing Aaron Rowand and Freddy Garcia to the Phils for Jim Thome, and then acquiring Javier Vazquez. What appeared to be a huge upgrade in talent actually exploded in the White Sox face.
No team has built success more smartly than the Philadelphia Phillies. The 2008 World Series Champions were built with homegrown talent – Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, Brett Myers – smart Rule 5 moves – Shane Victorino – seemingly insignificant, small money free agent acquisitions – Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz – and equally deft, but also seemingly insignificant trades – Brad Lidge, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Matt Stairs. The Phillies continued the trend this offseason, letting Burrell go and signing Raul Ibanez, who has gone Andre Dawson for the Phils.
But now the Phillies, or at least their fans and local talk radio hosts, want the team to abandon the model and give away the farm (literally) for Roy Halladay. I love Halladay, and I think he’s a stud, but Toronto Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi is going to ask too much for him. It is alleged that any package for Halladay will require rookie J.A. Happ and prospect Kyle (Doug’s son) Drabek, plus another player or two. Drabek is only 21 and already looks good, while Happ is 7-0 and has (literally) been the Phillies best starting pitcher this season. Outfielder Michael Taylor is also said to be in the mix; all he’s done in 92 minor league games this season is go .325/.402/.559/.961. It seems to me that the Phillies have gotten to the point they’re at based on the fruits of their farm system, and the Halladay deal would signal the end to the farm-raised talent era in Philadelphia. Ask the Yankees how it worked out for them when they stopped raising their own talent and started buying it from other teams.
Second, Halladay is 32 years old and will pitch his 2,000th inning this season. He is currently 21st on the active list in innings pitched. The five guys directly ahead of him on that list are Mark Buehrle, Jason Schmidt, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Bartolo Colon. BUehrle and Lowe are still quite good, but Schmidt, Hudson, and Colon are all guys who have been excellent but now can’t make it through a full season. After those five, the next five are Esteban Loiaza, Tom Gordon, Mike Hampton, Kevin Millwood, and Jeff Suppan, of which only Millwood can even pretend to pitch at this point. Then its Javier Vazquez, Steve Trachsel, Livan Hernandez, Pedro Martinez, and Andy Pettitte – a speckled group to be sure. Following that, its Tim Wakefield, John Smoltz, Jamie Moyer, Randy Johnson, and Tom Glavine – all guys who had success after 2000 innings pitched, but who have to be considered the exceptions to the rule that in this day and age, you don't know what a guy is going to give you after 2,000 innings.
The point here is that Halladay is getting to the point where non-talent related issues start to get in the way of being able to pitch. Are the Phillies going to trade away two top quality arms and a top quality outfielder to get a guy who might not be a regular starter in two years?
Which brings me to my third point – the Phillies don’t sign players to big contracts. Unlike the doofuses on local talk radio shows, I consider that a good thing, not a bad thing. Nevertheless, Halladay’s contract is up after next season, and in all likelihood he will be talking about contract numbers that the Phillies are simply not going to put up. Are the Phillies really going to trade away three top flight guys for the centerpiece of the 2011 New York Yankees off-season?
For all the fun that C.C. Sabathia gave Milwaukee last season, I’ll bet Brewers fans would rather have Matt LaPorta back every time they watch C.C. pitch for the Yankees. As neat as it was to have Bartolo Colon for half a season, I’ll bet the Washington Nationals wouldn’t mind having Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips right about now. The Cardinals gave up Dan Haren to get Mark Mulder. The list of “win-now” trades that hurt almost immediately afterward goes on ad infinitum.
The fourth reason, quite simply, is the odds. Outside of various New York Yankees teams, the number of teams to repeat as World Series winners is remarkably small – Blue Jays in the 1990s, Reds and A’s in the 1970s, the 1929-1930 A’s, and the 1910-1911 A’s, and that’s it. The odds are remarkably slim that the Phillies could repeat even with Halladay, because that’s how baseball goes. The mighty Oakland A’s of 1988-1990 only won one World Series. Albert Pujols’ Cardinals went to three straight NLCS and only managed one Series championship. Even the 2000 Arizona Diamondbacks, after acquiring Curt Schilling, had to wait a year before winning the Series, and some mighty talented Yankees teams of this decade haven’t even sniffed a Championship.
Simply put – you can’t guarantee a World Series Championship by acquiring Roy Halladay, but you can maximize the possibility in the next five, or even ten, years by not acquiring Roy Halladay. There is no such thing as a sure thing in baseball. But there is a such a thing as a great team with a great system, and the Phillies have it.
The desire to keep on winning is a compelling one, and frankly starting pitching has been an issue in Philadelphia for as long as I can recall. But the Phillies’ front office has been very smart in recent years – remember the trade that started the current era of Phillies baseball, when the team traded away Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle? – and it has paid off handsomely. In my opinion, trading away several players in exchange for Roy Halladay may make the team better in 2009, but simply isn’t worth sacrificing the team’s success in 2010, 2011, 2012, and beyond.
I would expect the team that was on the winning side of the Aaron Rowand for Jim Thome trade to understand that.
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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