When it comes to pitchers on the block, the Yankees are always a likely destination simply because, for the last 15 years, landing pitchers has been the team’s modus operandi. They acquired David Cone in 1995, David Wells after the 1996 season and Roger Clemens prior to 1999 campaign. In the 2000s, the names — Javier Vazquez, Randy Johnson — kept coming but with less success, and just a year ago, the Yankees nabbed CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett out of the clutches of free agency.
So we arrive in the winter of 2009-2010 with Roy Halladay seemingly filling the role Johan Santana played in 2007-2008. Already, the Yankees have been rumored to be interested in Roy Halladay, and the new Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos seems both willing to ship off Halladay and willing to send him to an AL East competitor.
The parallels to Santana are obvious. Halladay is one of the American League’s top five pitchers, and as he has aged, he’s become a smarter and better pitcher. Over the last two years, he’s 37-21 with a 2.78 ERA and 414 strike outs in 485 innings. He has thrown a whopping 18 complete games over the last two years. As a comparison, the Yankees’ entire pitching staffs have thrown just four complete games in that same span.
Similar to Santana, Halladay is playing out the last year of his contract, and the Blue Jays are unlikely to resign him after 2010. Furthermore, as the Twins were in 2007, the Blue Jays are living through their first off-season under a new General Manager. While Bill Smith inherited a healthy organization, Anthopoulos has his work cut out for him as he tries to compete with the big guns of the East while uncoupled Toronto from a few bad contracts.
So what, then, would a potential trade partner expect the Blue Jays to want, at least initially? For Anthopoulus, trading Halladay will be a defining moment of this off-season. He’ll be trading one of the best pitchers to throw in Toronto and big crowd favorite at a time when the team is hurting for attendance. He’ll need to recoup that investment while stocking up for the future. In that sense, I don’t see him settling for a package as weak as the one Minnesota received for Santana.
If I were a betting man, I’d guess that Anthopoulus would initially ask for Jesus Montero. At that point, Brian Cashman would hang up the phone. But the point remains: Toronto will need an impact, near-can’t miss prospect to give up Halladay right now. Since the Doc has but one year left on his contract, a team acquiring him may have to give up just one prospect, but it will be a costly one. Would Austin Jackson get the job done? Would the Yankees feel comfortable trading him? Does Toronto, as many others do, feel Jackson’s stock is low right now?
In writing about John Lackey last week, Joe mentioned how Halladay is a desired piece potentially available next winter. That, of course, is where the Yanks found themselves with Santana, but Johan never hit free agency. Brian Cashman will have to ask himself if he wants Halladay enough to pay in prospects and later in cash or if the team is willing to chance it and wait. Josh Beckett and Cliff Lee loom large in 2011 as well.
Right now, this is sheer speculation and the framework for a discussion on Halladay. The rumor mill is quiet in advance of the Winter Meetings, and teams are waiting to see how the market shakes down. When the Hot Stove warms up, Halladay will be front and center. Let’s see how the Yanks approach a big-name pitcher this time around.