As Mike noted earlier today, the Yankees Brain Trust has assembled in Tampa to begin preparing for next week’s Winter Meetings. One name bound to come up — as it has numerous times this week — is Roy Halladay. The Blue Jays want to trade him, and the Yankees have the pieces to acquire him.
As Halladay’s name has been the most talked-about this Hot Stove League, we have a general sense of what the Blue Jays want from a potential trade partner. Since the team has to replace one of its most beloved players who also happens to be a high-impact player, Toronto wants a Major League-ready arm and a top hitting prospect. Yankee fans have filled in the gaps for this to mean Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes along with Jesus Montero or Austin Jackson. That’s not an unreasonable expectation for Toronto’s initial demand.
When or if a trade goes down, Toronto’s price will come down, and with Halladay’s desire to see this wrapped up before Spring Training, the Yanks can wait out the Blue Jays. It’s beginning to look like The Son of Johan Santana. But not quite, as Buster Olney writes today.
In one of his better blog posts in recent months, Olney challenges the Yankees to be perfectly honest with themselves. We know that they publicly say Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are both starters with high ceilings, but after a few years of watching the pair develop, Olney wants the baseball experts in the organization to lay it on the line. I quote at length:
But here are a couple of things that are different since the Santana talks: Hughes and Chamberlain. They are two years older, two years further along, with (generally) two more years of major league service time. Both players will be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time after next season. Hughes, 23, is coming off a year in which he demonstrated that he could be a shut-down reliever during the regular season — he struck out 96 in 86 innings, with a 3.04 ERA — before he struggled in October. Chamberlain, 24, had flashes of excellence as a starter, but generally was erratic, before finishing his year with some strong outings in the postseason.
If I were sitting in Brian Cashman’s chair, I would identify the smartest pitching people I have on my staff, whether it be manager Joe Girardi or pitching coach Dave Eiland or others, and I would ask them two questions: What are Hughes and Chamberlain now, and what do you think they will be going into the future?
In other words, do you think in three years they will be middle relievers? Do you think they will be dominant closers? Do you think they will settle in as back-of-the-rotation starters, or do you think they will be frontline AL East starters?
And if the smart people that Cashman trusts believe that Hughes and/or Chamberlain will be anything other than (A) dominant closers, or (B) No. 2-type AL East starters, well, then I’d call Toronto immediately and be ready to talk about trading one or perhaps even both of the young pitchers.
Olney is spot on right here. For three years, we’ve been touting the Big Three and the youth movement, but at some point, the Yankees have to recognize when to cash in some of their chips. I don’t know if Roy Halladay is the right move to make; I don’t know if now is the right time. After all, we can’t consider Joba or Phil disappointments, let alone busts, until years have gone by, and it’s very challenging to predict the baseball future.
But if the Yankees’ experts — if the men and women assembled in Tampa — are not sold on a stellar future for either of these young players, the time to make a move is nigh. As pitchers go, they don’t come much better than Roy Halladay, and the Yanks must ask, “What price an ace?”