I took a bit of time to offer up my thoughts on the Only Trade That Matters. For good reason, such a deal provokes an instant firestorm of reaction, and there's a point at which you are contributing to information overload instead of getting your message across.
So now it's been a week since Alex Anthopoulos and Ruben Amaro, Jr. shook virtual hands on the basic structure of the deal which would ultimately send Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies for three of their four best prospects. All the experts have weighed in on the quality of the players all four teams involved received, winners and losers have been assessed to the extent that is possible within the first week, and Blue Jays fans are surveying the landscape in this new and frightening world.
Is it really necessary to say anything more?
I think perhaps there is.
For one thing, it's necessary for Jays fans to realize that as heartbreaking as The Trade was, baseball goes on. I've had more difficulty with this than most because I have long been of the opinion that Roy Halladay was to the Blue Jays as George Brett was to the Royals or Cal Ripken was to the Orioles. He was our Yount, our Gwynn. But yet in the end, it turns out, he wasn't.
The cruel fates, missed opportunities, and questionable choices that accumulate over time brought the greatest Blue Jay of all time to an impasse with the team. The ticking of the biological clock (the one that limits how long a man can effectively throw a baseball) became too loud.
But in time, a fan realizes that there will still be baseball in the spring. In one sense, trading Doc does do one thing that needed doing, something quite apart from the considerations of how we get the most value out of this "commodity."
Halladay's presence on the team stretches back to an era in which Jays fans wait expectantly for the quick rebound which would see a revival of the Glory Days. At the turn of the century, when Doc was first breaking in and before the Yankees really lost their mind with the checkbook, it wasn't so hard for Jays fans to believe that being a powerhouse again was something that was just around the corner. It had only been five or six years, and soon we'd be back.
As long as Doc was here it was easy to imagine that a few key moves would vault us into "meaningful September games" (to use a commonly heard phrase in Jays Land). Now that he's gone, it's perhaps easier for us to finally and definitively put the past behind us are truly "start over" in terms of our expectations for the future. It's past time that Jays fans did so. Myself included.
But there's another thing that I believe to be true that the major sports media are, for the most part, ignorant or at least overlooking.
The most common theme I've seen regarding the Phillies return in this deal was that they got a marginal upgrade over Cliff Lee at the cost of too many good prospects. Some commentators acknowledge the value of being able to lock Halladay up for (likely) four more seasons at a price Lee would have spurned, but even then they are somewhat unsold.
To the extent that it can be argued that Doc would have given the Phillies the same astonishing bargain next winter in the face of huge offers (potentially) from the Yankees and Red Sox—and given that the contract he agreed to is unprecedented in it's generosity to the team it's not impossible—there is perhaps some basis for that argument. But I don't think even with that consideration it holds.
The Phillies dealt those prospects for an extra year of Halladay (as opposed to Lee) and the exclusive rights to hammer out that deal and also the prospects they received for Lee. If they had waited until next year to sign Halladay as a free agent, then they would have gotten two 2011 draft choices (at most) for Lee, so those prospects do add real value to the Phillies return.
But laying that aside, it is all but impossible to quantify what it means to have Roy Halladay on your team and in your city over and above what it means to have Lee there.
First, in terms of between-the-lines value, there's a difference. Meaning no disrespect to Lee, but he's been a start quality player for two years. Doc has a much longer track record. Keith Law has said, for instance, that the marginal value of Doc over Lee is about one win. I'm not sure I believe that because we've not yet seen Roy Halladay pitch 30+ games against National League lineups. I'm reminded of what CC Sabathia did not too long ago in Milwaukee.
But even to the extent it's an accurate analysis, I suspect that of all the ace-level pitchers out there, it's hard to imagine any other that would be considered by prognosticators to be as sure a thing to deliver high value in the coming year as Halladay.
Despite Peter Gammons (whom I usually enjoy) expressing the utterly bizarre opinion that Doc has a "medical history" of which to be to be frightened, the actual truth is that almost no pitcher is more a sure thing to be a Cy contender next year than Halladay.
But to simply analyse the value of Roy Halladay on the field every fifth day misses a substantial part of his value. It's a baseball cliche to say that a player "makes everyone around him better," but if that bromide is true of any player, it is most assuredly true of Halladay.
The stories of Doc's dedication, his superhuman work-ethic, and his indescribable focus are legend around Toronto. Yes, legend is another vastly overused descriptor when it comes to celebrities but it is a word that unquestionably fits the stories told about Roy Halladay. The Phillies clubhouse and particularly the pitching staff, are about to undergo a massive transformation in ways that can't be statistically quantified.
These things amount to real and substantial value to the Phillies, which in my mind more than justify the desire to get him into your organization one year earlier. Perhaps Ruben Amaro fully appreciates just how much value he has just added to his team. I doubt seriously that most Philadelphia players, employees, and fans yet have an inkling just how worthy Halladay is of the praise he receives.
It seems even that many do not fully appreciate the first manifestation of his uniqueness —that being the $50-100 million he left on the table to sign that contract with the Phillies.
But my advice to you if your heart lies with the Phillies is to ignore those who tell you that Halladay is a "marginal upgrade" and question whether or not the price paid was worth it.
Worth it? It would have been cheap at twice the price. A giant is about to walk among you. See that you are paying attention.
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