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Monday, July 20, 2009

Why the Phillies Should Trade for Roy Halladay

Before the Eagles start training camp, the huge talk in the Philadelphia sports world surround whether the Phillies should trade a bunch of prospects and perhaps a current Major Leaguer or two for the Blue Jays' Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in the American League.

There are two schools of thought.

Those opposed to the trade recoil in horror at the thought of trading the next Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio, the next Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen, the next John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander or the next Adam Jones and four other good prospects for Erik Bedard. They are equating the prospects subject to speculation -- pitchers Kyle Drabek and Jason Knapp and outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor -- to Halladay, Chad Billingsley, Darryl Strawberry and Darryl Strawberry (the latter two, of course, without the off-the-field problems). And, of course, no one wants to trade such a potent foursome for just one Roy Halladay. Then the talk turns to whether the Phillies should trade J.A. Happ as part of the deal. Happ is 7-0, looks to be a good middle-of-the-rotation starter, has good poise, etc. Those opposed to the trade just don't want to part with Happ.

Those supportive of the trade argue that the Phillies are really primed to win now, that most prospects don't turn out to be all-stars, that pitchers get hurt (and that Drabek already has recovered from arm surgery), that Happ hasn't beaten a team with a winning record and could be the 2009 version of Marty Bystrom, the rookie pitcher in 1980 who came up in Septemer, went 5-0 and hasn't been heard from since. They argue that you have to pay a steep price in terms of prospects because Halladay is signed through 2010 and, if the Jays were to keep him, they'd get a supplemental #1 pick and the #1 pick of the team that signs him. So, it stands to reason that if the Jays were going to trade Happ, they'd want at least 3 prime prospects, perhaps 4.

I tend to agree with the pro-trade side. Happ might not turn into Bystrom, but I'm not so sure he'll turn into Warren Spahn, either. Yes, lefties develop late, and Happ could have a long career, but we're talking Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in the American League. As for the position-playing prospects, I am torn. On the one hand, they sound really good, and the Phillies' track record of late in developing good position players has been better than it had been, say, from 1985-2002. Still, that doesn't mean that all of the mentioned players will turn out to be stars, but it stands to reason that one of them will. After all, you want the other team to get some value in a trade like this; otherwise, it will make it hard for you to trade in the (near) future, because people will wonder whether you're really offering anything of value. That said, with teams having omnipresent scouting these days, it should be hard to slip something by another team anyway.

So, let's be reasonable here. You want your team to give up as little as possible, but you want your team to land Roy Halladay. We all agree on that. The question is whether the Phillies' front office can get Halladay without giving up, say, all of its top four prospects in this trade. And, it depends on what other teams -- the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees -- are willing to offer.

The trade sweepstakes will be interesting to watch, but players like Halladay aren't available all that often when a) you have good prospects to trade and b) your team is primed to contend for several years. Those facts should motivate the Phillies' front office to try to get this trade done.


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