Roy Halladay has to be considered one of the elite pitchers in the game, so acquiring him is going to cost somebody a bunch of prospects. As Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi stated, it would have to be a deal that would "make me sit up and notice." And, after you acquire him, you've then got a sizeable contract that you have to deal with [approximately $7 million for this season and another $15.75 million for 2010].
Depending on who you talk to, the Phillies have that ever beloved financial flexibility to acquire a pitcher who is owed that type of cash. The Phillies will have approximately $23.3 million come off the books through free agency and the end of their contribution to Jim Thome's retirement fund. They also won't have to keep paying Adam Eaton or Geoff Jenkins, saving another $17 million. Of course, they'll also have pay raises for some of their players, to the tune of about $16 million in guaranteed deals and another $3 or $4 million in arbitration raises. When you do the math, the Phillies would have approximately $20 million - probably a little less - to spend and still keep their 2010 payroll in the same neighborhood that it is now. With the addition of Halladay's contract, they would still have about $4 million in their wallet.
It also helps that the Phillies don't seem to be hurting because of the economy. They've now got 33 straight sellouts at Citizens Bank Park, keeping a regular cash flow coming into the coffers.
GM Ruben Amaro and manager Charlie Manuel appear to be on separate pages when it comes to dealing away prospects. Manuel told reporters that he would be aggressive in giving up prospects to get a pitcher like Roy Halladay. "If I could get somebody that's going to [make an] impact right away, I might - well, not might, I would go get him," said Manuel in his pre-game discussion. The only caveat that Manuel put on that point is that Kyle Drabek should be deemed off the table. For his part, Amaro seems to be slightly more passive in his approach. While he agrees with Manuel's desire to improve the club and add top of the line talent, Amaro also wants to keep a steady pipeline of young talent coming through the system.
"Some of it comes into play [adding a key player] but, at the same time, my goal is to sustain this window," explained Amaro. "To keep that window as open as possible. Our goal is not just to win for one or two or three years. It's to try to win for many years and give ourselves an opportunity to do that."
For their part, Toronto has a pretty good outfield and also has some strong outfield prospects coming along, so they might not have a real need for a player like Michael Taylor or Dominic Brown, the best outfield prospects in the organization. Like every team, they need pitching, so names like Drabek, Carlos Carrasco, Andrew Carpenter, Joe Savery, Jason Knapp and J.A. Happ could certainly interest them. They also have a hole at shortstop in the organization, so Jason Donald would be a definite interest.
Amaro expressed a desire to not deal players already with the big league club, plus, if they were to trade a pitcher like J.A. Happ, they would still need another pitcher. That logic takes Happ off the table. If Toronto truly wants talent that is very close to major league ready, then names like Carrasco, Carpenter and possibly Drabek would interest them and it's possible that the Phillies would have to include either Carrasco and Carpenter or Drabek in the deal. They would also have to provide Jason Donald and likely Lou Marson to fill holes in the Jays system with players who appear ready to play in the majors in the very near future. Then, just to top things off, you would likely also have to include a player like Travis Mattair or Tyson Brummett.
There may be one way for the Phillies to lessen the severity of the prospects that they would stand to lose, but there would be a trade-off.
While they could maybe cut down on the prospects that they would lose, they would have to eat more money by taking on a big contract that the Blue Jays are looking to get rid of, shifting some financial flexibility north of the border. The two deals that Toronto would be interested in dumping - now that B.J. Ryan has been flat out released - are Vernon Wells and Alex Rios. Over the past few seasons, the Phillies have had interest in both players, especially Rios. Unfortunately for Toronto Wells has tailed off considerably from where he was a few seasons back when the Phillies had interest in him. After hitting 32 home runs in 2006, it took him two seasons to compile that many and he is nowhere near the player that he used to be and he's now 30 years old. His contract runs through 2014 and he is owed an amazing $98.5 million over that span.
As for Rios, the Phillies were hot on his tail and nearly every offseason and into the Spring, there were rumors of how the Phillies were trying to pry him away from Toronto, but just didn't have the players to match up with Toronto to get him. Rios, who is now 28, was supposed to be the next superstar player in the majors, but his star faltered and he hasn't come close to the potential that everybody in baseball thought he had. As with Wells, the Blue Jays made the mistake of throwing a lot of money at Rios early in his career and are now on the hook for $50 million through the 2014 season.
Obviously, Rios contract would be easier to absorb and if nothing else, could give the Phillies a right-handed bat off the bench. If the Phillies were to pick up a good chunk of his remaining contract, they might be able to reshape the package that they would offer the Blue Jays. For instance, a package like Carpenter or Carrasco plus Donald, Marson and a mid-level prospect might get the package done and the Phillies would come away with both Halladay and Rios, but they would also come away with a substantial - let's say half - portion of Rios' ridiculous contract.
And you know, at the end of the day, all of this could be moot because Halladay, Wells and Rios all have no-trade clauses in their contracts. Halladay is said to be willing to waive his if he's headed to a contending club, but has been mum on whether or not there would be a cost associated with him waiving that clause. Perhaps an additional year or two of guaranteed money will be required to get Halladay out of Toronto. If Halladay does become a free agent after the 2010 season, the Phillies would be nearly guaranteed two additional draft picks provided they offered him arbitration, which could give some relief to giving up so many prospects now, since there may be a mild return on that investment down the road.
No matter how you slice it or how creative you can get, acquiring Roy Halladay won't be easy and it certainly won't be cheap. At least the Phillies have the prospects that it would take to make Ricciardi sit up and take notice if they decide to go all in on acquiring a veteran ace to put at the top of their rotation, which is a stark contrast over the many times when the Phillies simply didn't have the prospects to even get into a discussion with another club about acquiring an elite player. Now, the question is, do they have the guts to risk sending a package of those players elsewhere to get Roy Halladay?