Over the past three winters we’ve seen big name starting pitchers on the trade block. The Twins made clear their intentions to trade Johan Santana in the winter of 2007-2008. Last year, Jake Peavy dominated headlines for months, as the Padres fruitlessly dangled him in November. This year it’s Roy Halladay. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees have been connected to each player. They passed on both Santana and Peavy, but could it be different this year? SI’s Jon Heyman seems to think so.
What has changed between July, when the Yankees didn’t make a serious run at the available Halladay, and now? The Blue Jays’ general manager situation. They’ve since fired J.P. Ricciardi and have replaced him with Alex Anthopoulos. Learning from his predecessor’s mistakes, Anthopoulos has a different stance on Halladay than Ricciardi. The latter was hesitant to trade Halladay within the division, and also would not grant a trade partner a window to negotiate an extension. As we learned this morning, a Anthopoulos could allow an extension window. In his column this morning, Heyman notes that Anthopoulos will be more willing to deal within the AL East. Says the Jays’ GM:
“This isn’t the NBA where you’re talking about one of five guys on the floor at all times … If you have two trades that are identical, and one is in the division and one is outside, then it’s easy to go outside the division. However, if the trade is better inside the division, I think you have to take a look at it. We have to do what’s best for our organization.”
Another factor that has changed is Halladay’s price tag. As Heyman notes, the Red Sox made a large offer for Halladay in July, consisting of Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, and Nick Hagadone. From the Yankees, Heyman reminds us that the Blue Jays wanted a package centering around both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. The Blue Jays won’t get anything close to that this winter. They still should trade Halladay, but will have to accept a lesser package of prospects. That will make him more attractive to both the Yankees and the Red Sox.
Still, I’m not sure the Yankees will be serious players in this sweepstakes. They have their top two pitchers locked up for four and six more years, and they also have a number of promising young arms to complement them. Adding Halladay would be a good move for any team, but considering the price they’d have to pay, they might opt to stick with their guys and wait to see if Halladay reaches free agency next winter. I say this because even though Anthopoulos will deal more openly than Ricciardi, the Yankees have shown that they’re not keen on paying twice for a player.
Anthopoulos’s willingness to deal within the division will clearly open an avenue for the Yanks. All things equal he’d deal Halladay elsewhere, but if the Yankees have the superior offer he’s not going to spurn them. That means, however, that the Yankees would have to top any offer from another team, and the other team in question probably needs Halladay more than the Yankees. Unless the market is truly limited to just the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox (which I doubt), it stands to reason that another team would be willing to offer more for a player they need, and who would be a luxury for the Yankees.
The negotiation window also makes Halladay more attractive, though I’m not sure it’s a tipping point for the Yankees. Heyman talked to a GM who thought that Halladay could get a “Santana or Sabathia deal.” Halladay will be 33 early in the 2010 season, so I’m not sure any team will be willing to offer him a six-year extension, especially if it comes at $23 million per season. Maybe the Yankees would be willing to offer a four-year, $92 million extension (so they’d have him for five years), but again, that would mean paying a bounty in prospects and then doling out $23 million per season. That just doesn’t seem to fit the team’s M.O.
No one can rule out the Yankees acquiring Roy Halladay. He’s clearly available, and the Yankees have already been connected to him. Given the team’s past behavior, though, I doubt they get too far in negotiations with the Blue Jays. They seem more apt to make a deal for John Lackey, who will just cost money, or to take a chance on a high upside player like Ben Sheets. That’s the way Brian Cashman has operated, and unless something drastic changes in the Halladay situation, I think he’ll pitch 2010 elsewhere.