Roy Halladay trade to NL was best thing for both Red Sox and Yankees

December 7, 2009

The title to my original piece was “Roy Halladay Should NOT be in the Yankees 201o Plans.” However, as usual, the thoughts are in my head, and in my notebook (with generous amounts of information and facts to back up my thoughts) but the time to get it all down was non-existent.

Then with the big whopping four-team, 175 player trade went down last week, and I thought that I HAD to get something down.

Halladay being traded outside the American League was the best thing to happen to the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

But not only because each team does not have to face him 3 or 4 times per season, even though historically King Roy has performed well against the Yankees and more recently, the Red Sox.  And not even because the Red Sox were worried the Yankees were going to get him, or that the Yankees were worried the Red Sox were going to trade for him.

But because if either the Yankees or Red Sox traded for Halladay, then both teams would have had to empty the farm system of ready-to-star major league talent. And despite the seemingly deep pockets of both franchises, both teams NEED to keep developing younger, cost-effective talent to compete.

Roy Halladay IS one of the top 5 best pitchers in baseball, is very durable and is tough minded with a bulldog attitude on the mound. He will be good for 30+ starts for the next 5 years, as his mechanics are phenomenal. These strong mechanics put less wear on his elbow and shoulder ligaments.

Contrary to popular negative perceptions on pitch counts and innings totals, mechanics are the primary determinant to how durable a pitcher will be. The only time Halladay missed time due to arm issues was back in 2004 when he experience shoulder soreness. He stopped lifting weights in the off season and the shoulder issues were gone.

Since his AGE 25 breakout season in 2002 (Joba’s age during the full 2011 season), King Roy has amassed a record of 130-59 with a 3.13 ERA over 1710 innings, and won the AL CY Young award in 2003. That season saw “Doc” at his best, going 22-7, 3.25 ERA with an incredible 6.38 SO/BB ratio.

And that solid control has been the key to Halladay’s success. While allowing a measly 8.56 H/9 during that eight-year span, he also has only allowed 1.6 BB/9 for a WHIP of 1.19. That walk rate is Curt Schilling like; even Greg Maddux like.

Notice the trend of winning pitchers and low walk rates? There is no indication that Halladay is going to decline in this category. His season last year produced better numbers at 1.3 BB/9. He has successfully converted from a power pitcher to more a ground ball threat, and he always seems to hit his location when he needs an out.

Also contrary to popular sabermetrician negativity, pitchers can pitch effectively while not striking out hitters. Getting the baseball on the non-fat part of the bat is an art form, and Halladay has that mastered.

But the New York Yankees (specifically Brian Cashman) showed a couple of seasons ago with Johan Santana that they will not pay top prospects for top talent, and then pay an exorbitant amount of money, too. The money is not the issue as they passed on Santana, but then signed CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira the next off season. But Cashman will not offer up top talent no matter who that player was, even Halladay.

And neither will Theo Epstein of the Red Sox.  If Theo really wanted Halladay, he would have had to definitely give up promising starter Clay Buchholz, probably High A minor league pitcher Casey Kelly (many scouts think he could enter the Sox pen in 2010), and maybe OF/DH prospect Ryan Westmoreland and/or 1B prospect Lars Anderson. Remember, this was before the Jays made the Halladay trade and did not yet have Brett Wallace, their new 1B of the future) in their system.

From the Yankees, the Blue Jays were seeking top hitting prospect Jesus Montero and either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. Also, seeing the Yankees give up three Major league talented players for Curtis Granderson, new Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos probably would also demand AAA starter Zach McAllister or a younger left handed pitching stud like Manuel Baneulos.

And for both the Red Sox and the Yankees, that is too much to give up, even for Halladay.

Epstein is adamant about not giving up Kelly or Westmoreland and knows he might need Buchholz for more offense down the road, while Cashman usually trades secondary talent for needs but rarely ponies up stud prospects (see Johan Santana).

After trading lots of players for Victor Martinez, Epstein is also learning this tactic. Instead of Halladay, Theo tried for Bay, then Holliday and settled for John Lackey, somewhat of a Halladay-lite. All three of those guys were free agents, where it is just money, no players. If Epstein will never give up Kelly, then San Diego Padre first baseman Adrian Gonzalez also will never get to Boston.

While the Yankees have a deep farm system, with influential players at each level, the Red Sox don’t have many future impact players in their system. In Triple A, the Sox have pitchers Junichi Tazawa and Michael Bowden, in Double A there is Lars Anderson and OF’s Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick, while in Single A there are the aforementioned Kelly and Westmoreland.

While the Sox have continuously paid over slot for amateur talent, they really don’t have much in the system ready to contribute. Most of their top guys are former high school kids, and are still in the 19-22 age range. And if they trade away the few remaining players other teams covet, they will have to pay top dollar for future players.

While the core of Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, etc is signed for several more seasons each, the Red Sox need to replace (or re-sign at insanely high prices) Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, David Ortiz, Victor Martinez and JD Drew over the next year or two. That is a lot of offense to replace. Even the Red Sox don’t have that much money to throw around. They need to keep those young prospects in their system.

Same with the Yankees. The Yankees have  a few important contracts to rework soon including Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, but it is not as severe as the Red Sox need to replenish. Even Cashman has had “budget” the last two seasons.

That is why the Red Sox and to a lesser extent the Yankees, both needed to refuse to trade for Roy Halladay. Even though each team knows they are in direct competition with each other, they also know there is a finite amount of resources available. Each team needs to be prudent with who they sign long term, and must continue to supplant their roster with more younger, home grown talent.

Trading for Halladay would not just cost resources now (via prospects and cash), but down the road when more higher priced free agents need to be signed because you traded your best impact replacements.


Boston Red Sox Go to a Six Man Rotation

September 18, 2009

In doing prep work for my weekly Friday radio show appearance on The Shore Sports Report, I came across the Boston Red Sox upcoming pitching match ups.

Clay Buchholz is going tonight at Baltimore, Jon Lester (3-0, 0.84 vs. O’s this yr – a gambler’s lock if their ever was one) goes Saturday, and Dice-K on Sunday. The longer schedule has Tim Wakefield making an appearance on Monday and Paul Byrd going Tuesday at Kansas City.

That leaves last night’s pitcher, Josh Beckett, as the sixth man!

Good planning by Boston picking up Byrd late to give them innings, and working in and keeping Buchholz in the rotation while he was struggling early. Clay is now 4-0 in his last six starts including two wins each over AL East rivals Tampa Bay and Toronto.

All the Red Sox starting pitchers were going through various issues: veterans Brad Penny and John Smoltz – ineffectiveness (eventually both were released), Dice-K and Wakefield dealing with severe injuries, while Buchholz was ineffective early on and Beckett has been getting hit lately. 

But Lester has been a rock and nothing short of magnificent lately. Since May 31 (a span of 19 starts) Lester is 10-2, with a 2.02 ERA. He also has not lost in his last 10 outings.

Although he pitched well last Tuesday versus the Angels, I am still wary of a strong comeback for Dice-K. He adjusted to the AL by not nibbling after getting ahead in the count, but the AL hitters have not time to adjust to him Too many Angels that night were taking pitches right down the middle of the plate, expecting Dice-K to nibble.

Lets see a few more starts before we call Matsuzaka all the way back.

But in September is when you want to start playing your best ball (just ask the 2007 Colorado Rockies), and the Red Sox have begun to play well in a facets of their game.

The key is their starters and with Beckett, Lester and Buchholz at the top, that is a formidable three. If Dice-K or Wakefield are healthy and throwing well, the Red Sox will be a tough out in the playoffs.

It starts with their pitching and the Sox are giving their staff a break by going to a six man rotation, something they talked about last winter.

Lets see if this rest helps them come October.

Trade David Wright: New York Mets Need to Make a Move for the Future

July 7, 2009

There has been much criticism for Omar Minaya this year regarding the lack of a move in getting a hitter for the depleted, injury-ravaged New York Mets lineup. With injuries to Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran, the Mets are left with only David Wright, a 40-year-old Gary Sheffield, and a bunch of “he doesn’t scare me” type of hitters.

I have been critical of Minaya in the past, primarily for his lack of building farm systems as GM of the Mets and, after he was given the GM job for the Montreal Expos, making inexcusable trades by the boatload.

Notice how many proven major leaguers Minaya has traded away, including Jason Bay, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Orlando Cabrera.

This piece has been in the hopper for two weeks, but after a terrible 10-game stretch where they went 2-8, it merits even more consideration. After taking three of four from the (at that time) first-place St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets were only a half game out of first place.

The Phillies had lost 14 of 18 games and were receiving terrible pitching, Raul Ibanez was injured, and Jimmy Rollins was mired in a huge slump.

The Mets were ready to make their move towards first place.

Except a little thing happened on the way to a World Series title.

The Mets remembered they had a minor league lineup surrounding David Wright, their starting pitching (outside of Johan Santana) was terrible, and their bullpen is hit or miss on any given day.

Even their most reliable bullpen arm, Frankie Rodriguez, has been inconsistent lately. Over his last seven appearances, K-Rod has allowed eight hits, five earned runs, and seven walks in 7.1 IP, and has blown two saves

Throw in shoddy defense and awful fundamental baseball, and you realize this is not a good baseball team.

Their recent bad stretch started with being swept at home versus the New York Yankees, where the combined score was 18-3. The minor league lineup was impotent, but the pitching was not good either.

That is the rub: The Mets fans want Omar Minaya to make a move for another bat to improve the lineup, but the Mets will never win if they do not get better starting pitching.

The current Met starters are Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Livan Hernandez, Fernando Nieve, and Tim Redding. That is one great pitcher, one up and down youngster, and three journeymen.

That is not the making of a postseason rotation, and even Santana has looked well…un-Santana-like lately. His last seven starts have returned a 2-5 record, 5.61 ERA, and 1.43 WHIP.

Please do not tell me about his lack of run support. The job of a starting pitcher is to win games—not to have the best WHIP or ERA or FIP, but to win games for your team. Santana has not done that consistently this year. To his credit, he has 16 decisions, but he needs to begin outdueling the other starter.

Now with Santana normalized and everybody else iffy, when are the Mets likely to put a good stretch together that gets them back into the race?

Is the return of Oliver Perez going to brighten everybody’s day in Metland? Definitely not.

Perez has always been a head case, and now with the guaranteed three-year, $36 million contract, he is even more so.

When is John Maine going to return? He is not yet throwing, and if he does return, will it be the usual inconsistent Maine who has that terrible inning every game?

Maine is a pitcher who does just enough to keep you thinking he is really good, but when you see the end result, it is almost never good.

Their home park is designed to be a pitcher’s park, so the Mets need to design their team to fit their ballpark. Getting better, more consistent starting pitching and getting better defensively will help the Mets more than adding a big bat to a AAA lineup.

The Mets do not have a good starting rotation, and there is no real help on the horizon unless they take drastic steps to improve their team to their ballpark.

The worst thing for the Mets (and Omar) to do is panic and make a move for a bat that will not help them this season.

Eventually Reyes will be back, and likely Beltran too, but probably not Delgado. Even if all three came back next week completely healthy, the Mets rotation is still an inconsistent wreck.

The second-worst thing for the Mets is to go on an improbable little run where they win seven of 10 after the All-Star break, giving the team (and the fans) hope that they could recreate the aura of the 1973 Ya Gotta Believe team.

But that team had great pitching. This 2009 Met team does not.

The same thing happened to the Yankees last year. They went on an eight-game winning streak after the break and thought they could come back and overtake both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

They made the big trade for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, but the Yankees were without the big bats of Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada and did not have the starting pitching to keep in the race.

The 2009 Mets should not make the same mistake the 2008 Yankees did. The Mets should make a move, but make it for pitching, and not to try to win this season, but to win in the future. Instead of trading for a bat, the Mets should trade a bat, and trade their best bat, because that will get you more value for the future.

Under Minaya’s tenure, the Mets have always played for this season and to win now. Now, it is time to change course and build for the future.

The future is with a potent rotation based upon good young arms that, while pitching half their games in spacious Citi Field, will not be afraid to throw strikes.

The Mets should pursue a trade with the Boston Red Sox that sends third baseman David Wright and Fernando Martinez to the Red Sox in exchange for CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RHP Clay Buchholz, AA 1B Lars Anderson, and any two of Justin Masterson, Daniel Bard, and Michael Bowden.

This trade does three things.

First, it improves the stable of young major league-ready arms for the Mets. Second, it gets the Mets their power hitting first baseman of the future. Third, it kills the Mets’ crosstown rival New York Yankees, who see the Red Sox improve an already potent lineup with the addition of the power-hitting Wright.

Just imagine the righty-hitting David Wright in Fenway banging line drives off and hitting towering drives over the Green Monster, and doing it in a big series against the Yankees!

The Met fans will enjoy their take of the loot too, as Buchholz and Masterson/Bowden step right into the rotation, and Ellsbury provides a solid leadoff hitter and great defense.

Ellsbury at the top allows Reyes to move into the middle of the lineup, where his 190-plus hits every year will plate 120 runs, many of them scored by Jacoby.

Anderson is a big power hitter, providing necessary power for the Mets for years to come. He should be ready for the majors next year, and whoever loses the first base battle between Anderson and maybe Ike Davis, the Mets’ first-round pick last season, moves to a corner outfield spot or is trade bait for more pitching.

Ellsbury is a proven major leaguer, something the Mets do not yet have in the young but talented Martinez.

F-Mart’s youth and their potent lineup allow the Red Sox to groom him slowly for center. The 20-year-old would get a few months of seasoning in AAA and would be brought back up in September.

The Mets would be wise to explore this option soon, as the Cleveland Indians have scouted the Red Sox’s minor league system in anticipation of the Sox making a run at Indians catcher Victor Martinez.

The Red Sox need extra offense, and by getting the powerful Wright to play third, they can move Kevin Youkilis back to his comfortable first base, having cornerstones at first and third through the year 2013, which are club options for each player.

The Mets can fill their third base need with a free agent in the offseason for a one or two-year deal.

The future at third, however, is currently a shortstop in the Mets system. Wilmer Flores is only 18 but currently stands at 6’3″ and 175 lbs. This is an Alex Rodriguez and Cal Ripken type of physical stature, and it will be more beneficial for him and the Mets if he switched over to third base.

Flores is very adept with the bat, and although he does not walk too much yet (only a .325 OBP at Low A), he also does not strike out much (only 38 K’s in almost 300 PA).

With the big park a major factor and the lack of quality arms in their system, the Mets need to merge the two. That means trading their big bat in David Wright for some proven speed and defense (Ellsbury) and some power arms to build up their stable of pitching talent.

Combining these pitchers with 23-year-old Jonathan Niese, having a good season at Triple A, the Mets can be a force in the National League East for years and help bury the crosstown rival Yankees in the same process.