The Blue Jays started the 2009 season as hot as can be. On May 12 they were 23-12, a game up on the Red Sox in the AL East and 6.5 ahead of the Yankees. While some thought they were for real, it looked more to me like a 2005 Orioles job. Lo and behold, almost two months later they’re 43-41, seven back of the Red Sox and six back of the Yanks. They’re not out of it, but it would take an incredible run to charge back in this powerhouse AL East.
What does this mean for the Jays? Ken Rosenthal thinks it means they’re ready to take offers for ace Roy Halladay. It’s not the first time we’ve heard Halladay speculation, but with a year and a half left on his deal the Jays will never find a bigger haul for him than they will this month. General Manager J.P. Ricciardi has said that the team’s best chance to win next year is with Halladay in the rotation, and that’s true. But is it their best long-term option?
What further complicates the situation is that the Jays owe gobs of money to Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, who are both underperforming, through 2014. The Jays just have to hope they produce, because there is little or no chance of trading either without eating a significant portion of the contract. Moving Halladay, who rightly would be the highest-paid Jay next year, could improve the team not only with prospects, but with a bit of financial flexibility that they could use to make another deal in the off-season.
There are almost no bad scenarios for the Yankees here. Rosenthal’s list contains only three American League teams: the Yanks themselves, the Red Sox, and the White Sox. Obviously, the Yanks don’t want to see Halladay starting at Fenway any time soon, but almost any other scenario, including acquiring him themselves, looks just fine.
What about acquiring him? Rosenthal notes that Ricciardi would deal within the division, though we all know there’s a premium there. Any package would probably have to start with Phil Hughes, and then include one of the Yanks’ precious few bats, likely one of the catchers. Would Hughes, Romine, and a third prospect, probably of the top-10 variety, be enough to land Halladay? Would the Yankees be wise to make such a move?
There’s no doubt that acquiring Halladay would leave the Yankees with the best rotation in baseball. In the short term, they’d be as well off as any other team, probably better off. In the long term they’d be giving up prospects, sure, but prospects can bust. It looks like Phil Hughes is finding his way, and it would probably suck to face him four or five times a year. But it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as facing Halladay that many times.
Chances are, Halladay stays put. Teams are more reluctant to part with prospects than ever, especially because of their economic value. The Blue Jays will request a ransom for Halladay, and rightly so, but other teams might not be so keen to part with young, cheap, controllable players to acquire an expensive one whose contract runs only through 2010. If there’s a deal to be made, though, I expect the Yanks will at least kick the tires.