Sorry, I Can’t Support Trading For Halladay

Roy Halladay in pinstripes?
If the news reports from SI.com over the weekend are correct, the Yankees have apparently inquired about the Toronto Blue Jays’ asking price for their ace righthahnder.
I know that this gets Yankee fans excited because just imagining a potential rotation of Halladay, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte (should he elect not to retire) would just about assure the Yankees of a return to the playoffs.
What is not to like about Halladay? At age 32 Halladay is among the best pitchers in baseball. The 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner is coming of a season in which he was 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA. 
Throwing out injury-plagued 2004 and 2005 seasons, since 2002 Halladay has averaged 18 victories a season for a Blue Jays’ team that has never won a AL East title. The thought is just imagine what he would do for a very good Yankee team with a talent-laden offense.
But there are a few points to be made before we go printing up playoff tickets and scheduling parades down the Canyon of Heroes for 2010.
One big drawback is that Toronto will not accept Shelley Duncan and Chien-Ming Wang for Halladay. They are not stupid. They will be looking for a lot of players — some major league and some prospects.
The last time the Yankees chatted with Toronto about Halladay the asking price reportedly was both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes among other players. So it stands to reason that the asking price will include one or the other, perhaps both.
With the Jays having shed Alex Rios and being forced to keep an untradeable and expensive Vernon Wells, it stands to reason that prize outfielder Austin Jackson will be part of the deal too. They also could ask for one of the Yankees prize catchers, Austin Romine or Jesus Montero.
That is a pretty steep price to pay for any pitcher, much less Halladay.
I have seen this script before with the Yankees. They go through stages where their minor-league talents ebbs to nothing. Then it begins churning out talent. The Yankees, desperate to add a pitcher here or hitter there, then trade their prospects away in return for established players.
That’s OK when it works. But, so often in the past, it hasn’t.
Take the case of poor Jose Rijo. Rushed to the major leagues at age 19 because “Boss” Steinbrenner insisted the Yankees have a pitcher to compete with the Mets’ rookie sensation Dwight Gooden, Rijo was not prepared for the rigors of the major leagues.
He was 2-8 with a 4.76 ERA in 24 games with the Yankees in 1984. Rather than patiently wait for Rijo to develop, the Yankees shipped him off to Oakland before the start of the 1985 season.
The Yankees looked like genuises because Rijo bounced back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation for three years before the Athletics sent him to Cincinnati before the 1988 season.
But the Yankees and A’s looked like fools when he reeled off five seasons over the next six seasons with 13 or more wins with his highest ERA during that period was an injury-marred 1989 season when his ERA ballooned all the way to 2.84!
He was the Reds’ 1990 World Series Most Valuable Player and he followed that with his best season in 1991 with a 15-6 record and a 2.51 ERA. 
Arm problems shortened his 1995 season and he only pitched one more season before leaving the game in 1995 at age 30. He made a brief comeback in 2001 and 2002 with the Reds as a reliever before retiring for good.
He was 116-91 with a career ERA of 3.24. I just wonder if the Yankees would have had the patience to have kept him while he was developing. But patience sometimes is at odds with the Yankees’ stated goal of winning the world championship every season.
That impatience also claimed Doug Drabek in 1987. After a rookie season in which Drabek dared to go 7-8 with a 4.18 ERA the Yankees dealt him to Pittsburgh to obtain 33-year-old Rick Rhoden. 
At first glance, the Yankees made a great trade. Rhoden was 16-10 with a 3.86 ERA in 1987. Drabek was 11-12 with a 3.88 ERA for an awful Pirate team.
But in 1988 Rhoden quickly declined due to arm problems and was 12-12 with a 4.29 ERA and he was shipped off to Houston for his last season. He was 2-8 with a 4.28 ERA and he retired. 
Drabek, meanwhile, developed into the ace of the Pirates’ staff and was 22-6 with a 2.08 ERA in 1990 and won the NL Cy Young Award. He pitched two more season for the Pirates before he was traded to the Houston Astros in 1993.
Toiling for poor Astros teams for four seasons, Drabek eventually fell off and had poor seasons in 1997 with the White Sox and 1998 with the Orioles before having to hang it up. Pitching for some real bad teams, Drabek still was 155-134 with a 3.73 ERA in his career.
The question is would the Yankees have been better off in 1990 having held onto both Rijo and Drabek?
Considering that the best starting pitcher on the Yankees staff that season was Tim Leary and he was 9-19 with a 4.11 ERA I would say the answer is yes.
The Yankees also traded away Al Leiter before they knew what they had. More recently there was the trade of Ted Lilly. People also forget that Steinbrenner wanted to trade Andy Pettitte during the 1998 season in which he finished 16-11 with a 4.24 ERA. Steinbrenner was upset because Pettitte was 18-7 with a 2.88 ERA the year before.
Steinbrenner felt Pettitte was in decline at age 26. But then-manager Joe Torre insisted that good lefthanded starters do not grow bountifully on trees and General Manager Brian Cashman agreed. 
Pettitte stayed. 
Good thing, too. Pettitte pitched five more seasons in New York and won 13 or more games in each season, including a 21-8 record in 2003 — his last season before leaving the Yankees to pitch for the Astros.
The point of all this is to remind fans that no matter how good the pitcher the team may be acquiring, that the fact is that Halldaday’s best days are well behind him. The prospect of him breaking down now is more likely now than when he was 25.
When you trade a Phil Hughes away you are losing a chance to ever see what his peak will be because he has not hit it yet. He is only 22. Can Yankee fans accept a possibility that Hughes might be a Cy Young Award winner for Toronto in  2013 while Halladay is trying to hold on as a relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies?
If the answer is no then the Yankees should steer clear of any deal that includes any young prospect the Yankees want to keep. 
Trading away the future is never the answer. The key is to make the roster younger each year as your older players lose their skills and retire. That also is a great way to reduce payroll gradually.
So as much I would love to see Halladay a Yankee uniform, I am not in favor of a potential deal in this case. I also have not even addressed the fact that Halladay, because he would a free agent for the 2011 season would have to be signed to very lucrative long-term contract before he will even agree to waive his limited no-trade clause.
Wouldn’t it be easier just to sign John Lackey to a free-agent deal, keep your current prospects and just lose a player in the annual baseball draft?
Lackey may not
be as good as Halladay but Lackey would certainly fit in well with what the Yankees have. And the Yankees would keep Hughes and Chamberlain and all the good young minor-league pitching they have.
Isn’t that a good thing?
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2 comments

  1. thefreak

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Its never a good thing when you have to give up the farm for just one player. As for Lackey, ever since I’ve been playing fantasy baseball I’ve liked this guy. Sure he got hurt, but look what he did this year? He pitched extremely well against the Yankees in the playoffs. And he should’ve won that game but th eAngels skipper played right into the Yankees hands by taking him out.

    He’d be a good fit on the mound in NY.

    http://evilempire.mlblogs.com/

  2. maloko

    i would agree that the yankees get too impatient with their young prospects. even though halladay is a pitching stud, we’ll be better served by keeping joba chamberlain and phil hughes

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