There are issues involved with the hypothetical marriage
between the Rangers and Roy Halladay that weren’t factors when Texas traded
Mark Teixeira two years ago, but there are a few things instructive about the
2007 trade that, in part, helped put the Rangers in the position that they’re now
in, able to compete with anyone in terms of loading up an impact package of
young players to close a huge deal.
Are we 2007 Atlanta? Or are we the ’07 Dodgers?
And do we have to be either?
Before diving into that question, let’s get two things out
of the way, a couple issues that are not insignificant but that aren’t really in
need of too much analysis.
First, all circumstances considered, can the Rangers take on
Halladay’s contract? He’s owed about $7
million the rest of the way this season; that figure will be just under $5
million when the trade deadline arrives.
He’s set to make $15.75 million in 2010.
Of course, Vicente Padilla’s $12 million salary comes off the books this
winter, and Padilla, Hank Blalock, and Frank Catalanotto combined earn over $22
million that will be gone in 2010.
Yes, the Rangers have a number of arbitration cases this
winter, but practically speaking, Halladay’s 2010 contract is not so much the
question. It’s the balance of his 2009 salary.
Second issue to note, and dispose of: Would Halladay waive
his no-trade clause to come to Texas? Johan Santana wouldn’t. It’s not so much a question of whether he
thinks the team can win. Halladay, age
32, obviously has another massive contract or two in him (maybe one if he were
to agree to an immediate extension with his new team). Though it’s hard to imagine his stature as an
established ace being threatened when that next contract comes up (as long as
he’s healthy), Rangers Ballpark has not been particularly kind to him. The opposing .799 OPS is the highest mark
against Halladay in any stadium in which he’s pitched more than twice, as is
the 6.14 ERA. Is this where he’d want to
be, since he has some control over that?
OK, let’s assume Texas
can manage a trade for Halladay financially, and that he’d accept a deal here.
Can the Rangers put together a strong enough package to land
Not as easy an answer.
There have been a dozen columns written in the last few days
touching on the Rangers’ place in the Halladay sweepstakes. Lots of interesting points have been made, a
great many in common, but there were two in particular that took a opposite slants
on a key issue:
Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas
Morning News: “There is no need to start dumping prospects now. Yes, everyone loves to talk about how loaded
the Rangers’ farm system is. It’s a good
idea to keep it that way, at least for another year. Remember that most prospects in baseball, no
matter who’s [sic] system it is, eventually become suspects.”
Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus: “At some point the
Rangers will have to convert their prospect depth into major league players,
and this is one way to do that. They
would probably have to deal one of Derek Holland or Neftali Feliz, but then
they could pull from further down their list and create a stronger package than
anything most teams could assemble.”
It’s fairly self-evident, I would assume, that I’m a pretty big
a proponent of minor league player development, but I gravitate toward Sheehan’s
mindset on this issue. In fact, I’d turn one of Cowlishaw’s points
back on him: Yes, most prospects do become suspects. That’s part of the reason why you don’t
hesitate to trade some of them. Better to
trade a kid too early than too late.
Stated another way: When Texas
traded Ruben Mateo and Edwin Encarnacion to Cincinnati for the hugely disappointing Rob
Bell, it hurt a lot more that the Rangers hadn’t moved Mateo sooner for
something far more meaningful than it did to move Encarnacion before he’d
established himself as a true prospect.
My point: If the deal is right, especially when you’ve got
such a deep inventory of prospects with market value, you have to be willing to
move some of them. They won’t all make
it, and even if they all somehow did, there wouldn’t be room for them all to
make it here.
So for me, if the threshold question for some is whether it’s
indeed time for Step Five, my
answer is yes, for the right player. Roy
Halladay is the right player.
OK. Atlanta or the Dodgers?
Before launching into this, if you have a few minutes, give
the first half of my June 18, 2008
report (title: “Why this could be a tough trading season for Texas”) a glance. The premise: Because you can’t trade draft
picks in baseball, trade offers are rarely equivalent, and when a team with a top
farm system like the Rangers is on the other end of the phone, particularly
with a player like Halladay the one being shopped, the chances that a team would
accept anything less than the top two or three kids in that system – even if
competing teams would have trouble matching a package of the fourth, fifth, and
sixth prospects – might be slim.
If this were the NFL or NBA, the price for a player like
Halladay might be two first-round picks and two legitimate prospects. But when only players are involved, it’s
obviously all about which ones a seller can pry loose from a buyer, and when
the commodity for sale is one of the game’s very best pitchers, the leverage
sits with the seller.
Especially when what’s for sale is good for two pennant
races rather than one. If Toronto does shop
Halladay aggressively this month, Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi will have taken a page
right out of Jon Daniels’s July 2007 book. As the Braves learned in July 2008, trading a
year and two months of Teixeira was worth a huge amount more than trading two
months of the slugger.
By all accounts, though a number of teams were in on
Teixeira when the Rangers made it known that he was available, it came down to
the Braves or Dodgers for various reasons, primary among which was the fact
that those two NL clubs had the young players Texas most wanted.
We know what the Braves – whose GM John Schuerholz was quietly
about to semi-retire – were willing to part with.
The Dodgers reportedly offered first baseman James Loney,
outfielder Andre Ethier, and right-handed reliever Jonathan Meloan. Like Atlanta,
they wanted a veteran reliever back, but while it was Ron Mahay that the Braves
targeted, reports are that Los Angeles
asked for Joaquin Benoit.
wouldn’t give up Class A righthander Tommy Hanson or Class A outfielder Jordan Schafer,
despite the Rangers’ attempts to get one or both.
wouldn’t part with Class AA lefthander Clayton Kershaw.
It’s reasonable to assume that if the Dodgers had agreed to
put Kershaw on the table, Teixeira would have been a Dodger, and Elvis Andrus
and Feliz and friends would not be Rangers.
It’s not all that unusual for teams to get impact deals done
even when making their top prospects untouchable. The Mets got Santana without putting Mike
Pelfrey or Fernando Martinez on the table.
The Cubs got Rich Harden without parting with Josh Vitters. The Phillies kept Carlos Carrasco and Lou
Marson when they traded for Joe Blanton.
Now, it’s not always the case. The Diamondbacks parted with their two top (and
arguably four of their top six) trade-eligible prospects to get Dan Haren
(though they were getting three years of Haren control). The Brewers traded their top prospect to get
And no, Harden and Blanton weren’t Halladay.
But Santana was.
Arizona and Milwaukee got their guy
by trading their best prospects. The
Mets didn’t have to – but had the benefit of Santana reducing Minnesota’s
leverage by reportedly exercising his no-trade clause to kill talks with Texas,
if not other teams as well. The Cubs and
Phillies got their veteran starters and held onto their top kids. And so did the Braves in getting Teixeira,
even though they still gave up a ton to get him.
The Dodgers, once you got past Kershaw, couldn’t come out on
That’s where the Rangers might be closer to the 2007 Braves,
given the quantity of this organization’s very good prospects. The big difference is that while Atlanta acted out of uncharacteristic desperation, given
Schuerholz’s status, Texas
won’t do that.
So can the Rangers propose a deal that the Jays would take
over all others (and again, this assumes that the payroll implications and Halladay
no-trade clause are cleared hurdles) without parting with the best this system
has to offer?
Let’s look at what Toronto
needs. There are potential matches with Texas, unquestionably. Looking a couple years down the road (when
the Jays will conceivably be without Halladay whether they trade him or not),
it seems to me that the identifiable holes are at catcher and every infield
spot other than second base, and of course they will demand and get pitching in
any Halladay deal as well.
I’m thinking this is what I would offer, not at the outset
but when it came down to bottom line time:
a. either Neftali Feliz and Mitch Moreland . . . or Justin
Smoak (or Chris Davis) and Blake Beavan (or Tommy Hunter)
b. Taylor Teagarden
c. Wilmer Font or Wilfredo Boscan or Guillermo Moscoso or
d. Engel Beltre or Mike Bianucci or Jose Vallejo or Joaquin
Arias or Marcus Lemon
And I want reliever Jason Frasor in the deal, too, to give
me another right-hander for the final third of the game. He’s under control through 2010.
Group A is the key. For
Halladay, I’d give up Feliz or Smoak, but not both.
Derek Holland and Martin Perez are untouchable, for me. So is Joe Wieland, even though he’s not on
the same tier. And Andrus, of course, is
Yes, I want Halladay to extend his contract and be here for
more than just a year and a third. But that’s
likely not going to happen as a pre-condition to the trade. You take the chance that he helps this team
win a division in 2009, and that in the winter he agrees to rip up the final
year of his contract and replace it with four or five more.
One local writer suggests Texas
could put Blalock and Padilla in the deal, after which Toronto could flip each of them elsewhere for
tack-on prospects. Makes great sense for
the Rangers, but I don’t see it working.
Why would another team trade anything for Padilla when he was passed
over on league-wide waivers recently? I’m
guessing that if Texas
could have traded either Padilla or Blalock for any sort of prospect at any
point this season, it would have already happened.
will be in on Halladay, and that’s a fascinating thing. At first blush, you’d assume Toronto
wouldn’t want to put Halladay in a Red Sox uniform when the Jays will be
every season, but at the same time they’d presumably be stripping the Sox of Clay
Buchholz and maybe Lars Anderson or Josh Reddick and more, and maybe Ricciardi
feels like he’d be closing the gap that way.
I think it would be crazy for the Jays to trade Halladay to Boston, but Ricciardi has
done some confusing things in the past. Regardless,
it does make sense to keep the Sox involved, if for no other reason than to
drive up what other teams have to offer.
The Yankees have said they’re not in on Halladay. We’ll see.
The Phillies are said to be a favorite to go hard after
Halladay, and they have a solid crop of top-tier prospects. The Mets?
There will be interest, but can they compete when it comes to what they
Would you be OK trading Feliz, Moreland, Teagarden, Font,
and Beltre for Halladay and Frasor?
Or Smoak, Beavan, Teagarden, Boscan, and Vallejo?
Is either package enough?
Objectively, maybe Toronto
will believe it’s entitled to more.
Maybe the Jays insist on either Feliz or Holland plus either Andrus or Smoak.
But the question will be whether another team can match Feliz
or Smoak in the first place. If Feliz or
Smoak is Toronto’s “guy” – a player that Ricciardi has circled when surveying
the systems of the interested clubs (cf.,
Kershaw for Texas in 2007, Hanley Ramirez for Florida after the 2005 season) –
then maybe the Rangers have the leverage not to offer both since, arguably, no other
club can trump a package that includes one of them plus Teagarden and three other
Toronto will surely start
talks, if they ever get started, by asking for Feliz (or Holland) plus Smoak. But the Rangers asked the Dodgers for
Kershaw, and the Braves for Hanson and Schafer, and though Texas was told no by both, the club still
made a deal with one of them.
That, I think, would be a reasonable plan here. If a Philadelphia
offer, for instance – maybe Kyle Drabek or Jason Knapp, plus Dominic Brown and
Jason Donald and Lou Marson – forced Texas
to include Feliz and Smoak in order to stay in the hunt, then that’s when we
There’s a point at which we’d be giving up too much, even
for a pure number one like Halladay. What
I’m thinking is that, maybe, we are deep enough that we can survive the
sweepstakes without having to meet what is sure to be Toronto’s initial demand.