SportsProf

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Early Halladay Season in Philadelphia?

There's a report in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer that the Phillies are going to pursue Roy Halladay. Halladay, you'll recall, was the most sought after prize at last year's trade deadline. The Phillies,though, opted to spend less, trading a prospect of good but less-valued prospects to the Indians for Cliff Lee. That deal worked out pretty well for them.

Now the report is that the Phillies want to "win now", which presumably is a good thing, inasmuch as most teams are supposed to want to win in the present day. After all, perhaps I'm silly, but most fans purchase their tickets hoping to see victories. Dispensing with that slam at trite comments, the Phillies are faced with offering Joe Blanton arbitration. It would appear that if the Phillies can land Halladay quickly and before they have to decide on whether to offer Blanton arbitration, that they'd part with Blanton (who stands to get a big raise) and get Halladay.

So, here's what the rotation would look like on opening day:

Cliff Lee
Roy Halladay
Cole Hamels
J.A. Happ
Jamie Moyer, Pedro Martinez or Kyle Kendrick

Untouchable prospect Kyle Drabek is ticketed for AAA for at least half a season.

Yes, that means they'd have an iffy fifth starter situation (not to mention a reconstituted bullpen with perhaps as many as 3 newcomers). That also would mean that they'd have two starting pitchers -- Lee and Halladay -- eligible to become free agents after the 2010 season. It would stand to reason that the Phillies also would want to ink one of those two pitchers to a longer-term deal at the time of the Halladay trade (if they were to give Halladay an extension) or before it (in the case of Lee). Otherwise, they're putting all of their eggs -- pitching-wise -- into the 2010 season. That said, apparently the crop of free-agent starters after the 2010 is bountiful, which is good for the wealthy teams but perhaps not as good for the free agents, as the more they're are the more options teams might have, thereby driving down the price of the incremental individual free-agent pitcher.

Watch the Phillies' payroll -- and their commitment to expanding it -- closely. Yes, only Chase Utley is signed beyond the 2011 season. Yes, they'll have to give raises to Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz, and they'd be wise to sign both to three-year deals. The bigger questions -- long-term -- are Jayson Werth (signed through 2010), Ryan Howard (signed through 2011) and Jimmy Rollins (signed, I believe, through 2010, although I am unsure of option status after that). In other words, the Phillies need to do some good work to stagger the expiration dates of the contracts of key players so as to avoid a mass exodus or a significantly depleted roster of position players after next season or, if not that, the 2011 season.

But, for right now, if the team can a) sign a third baseman who can achieve an OBP of .350, b) improve the bullpen, c) upgrade the bench and d) wow, sign Roy Halladay, they'll be the solid frontrunners in the National League and return to the post-season better fortified against the Yankees.

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