Much has been made this week about Roy Halladay’s refusal to sign an extension in Toronto. He has said that he wants to test the market after his contract expires in 2010, and given the current state of disarray the ballclub is in I can’t say that I blame him. Doc is a gamer, he wants to win, and so he should. However, if the team assembles as expected in 2010 and avoids the injury bug (eight pitchers on the DL this year), we can certainly contend. The 27-14 start we had with our makeshift roster may have been inflated somewhat by the fact that the bulk of the games were against the paltry AL Central; but despite that, I feel that the fact our roster was patched together indicates what we can do with the whole thing in place. Wells and Rios should also produce more at the plate next year (is there anywhere to go but up?). If they can add a legitimate power bat, such as Matt Holliday or Vladimir Guerrero, I believe that our team could definitely contend, especially with the expected improvement of the pitching staff.
However, this cannot be done without Halladay anchoring the rotation. Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball today, the best the Jays have ever had, and potentially the best of the decade. At this pace he will also be a Hall-of-Famer. Only Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove and Whitey Ford have as many wins as Halladay and twice as many wins as losses. Two are in the Hall-of-Fame and the other (Martinez) will be. Bottom line, he is irreplaceable. Trading Halladay now, would amount to waving the white flag for 2010, eight months before the season starts. There is another option for the Jays however – potentially trading him in 2010.
In order to see how that would benefit the Jays we need to observe the most comparable trade in recent history.
At last year’s deadline, the Cleveland Indians traded ace C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers for four players: top hitting prospect Matt LaPorta, left-hander Zach Jackson, right-hander Rob Bryson and a PTBNL who turned out to be outfielder Michael Brantley. Here is what each of these players brings to the table, courtesy of ScoutingBook.com.
LaPorta: He might have been better off being drafted by an AL team in the first place. Now that he’s an Indian instead of a Brewer though, he’ll soon have a chance to settle in as a DH for the next 20 years. LaPorta should produce big numbers in MLB in the near future.
Jackson: A bust. Once a top prospect for Toronto, he now casts as a long-reliever or emergency starter with Milwaukee.
Bryson: A promising right-hander with strikeout stuff, Bryson was buried a little too deep in the Brewers’ system until the orbit of CC Sabathia pulled him out of Milwaukee and into Cleveland. A flamethrower with a 96mph fastball and an electric if erratic slider, Bryson put up an 84:26 K:BB ratio in the 2008 Sally League last year, and should find better traction in the shallower Indians’ system.
He might be best off moving to the bullpen, where he’d have a better shot at the big leagues, sooner. If he remains a starter, he’ll need to show that he can get through a lineup more than twice with his snappy pitches, or add a quality change, and soon.
Brantley: gap hitter with good overall athletic ability, he has one of the best batting eyes in the minors, and has shown flashes of plus speed in the minors so far. In AA Huntsville last season, Brantley hit from the leadoff spot most of the time, recording a .319 average and logging 28 stolen bases in 36 attempts. He’s played all three outfield positions and also a little first base. His floor seems to be as a multitalented fourth outfielder, but if he shows he can maintain his high OBP as pitching improves, could fit into the Indians roster as a poor man’s Grady Sizemore come 2010.
There you have it, a top hitting prospect (#30 in 2009 Baseball Prospectus), a slightly above average starter who projects more as a dominating reliever (think Phil Hughes, or Joba) and a versatile outfielder who would make a super-sub at worst, but more likely a reasonably productive outfielder (.295-12-60-30+, a nice leadoff man) in the Majors, like B.J. Upton, but with contact and on-base ability instead of power.
Not a bad haul for Cleveland in exchange for an inconsistent ace, which was only going to Milwaukee for two months anyway.
Comparing Doc (left) & CC:
Starts: 274, 275
Wins: 142, 125
Win %: .673, .615
ERA: 3.46, 3.66
WHIP: 1.20, 1.24
K/9: 6.50, 7.47
BB/9: 2.03, 2.82
H/9: 8.76, 8.32
HR/9: 0.74, 0.80
K: BB: 3.20, 2.65
P/IP: 14.60, 15.81
Halladay wins more, has a better ERA, better command, keeps the ball in the park more, lasts longer and is more efficient. What more could you want in an ace. We saw what Sabathia was worth for two months. Would Halladay then not be worth more? Plan on trading him in 2010, and scrap it if the Jays are in the hunt.
Note to the Jays: Don’t panic, you have time. Trading him now is premature and pointless. All you are getting is less time with the best.