CD's Connect the Dots...Christmas In July?

These are heady times for Phillie faithful. There is much truth to the theory that at present, Philadelphia is at the very epicenter of the baseball universe. With this in mind, it seems feasible that the team is feeling a bit ebullient, but even so would they dare to celebrate a...Christmas in July Halladay?

Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays is widely considered one of the greatest pitchers in the major leagues today. Oh, you could make an argument on behalf of CC Sabathia with the Yankees or Johan Santana with the Mets and advocates of current phenom Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants will have their say but any discussion of great major league hurlers must either begin or end with Roy Halladay on the list. And with considerable justification.

Simply put, Roy Halladay's resume would fill a page in the Who's Who List of baseball greats even if he retired today. To wit, a Cy Young Award winner in 2003 and twice runner up for the coveted honor. He has twice won 20 games, in 2003 and 2008, and wins with almost frightening consistency, as his lifetime 141-69 record attests. And he is a workhorse of the first order, finishing with 246 innings and 9 complete games last year. Even this, playing on a team in Toronto that is average at best, Halladay has found time to compose a 10-3 record to this point, certainly good enough to earn his starting pitching assignment in the recent All-Star Game.

With this in mind, it was no surprise that the buzz reached near crescendo heights when current Toronto Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi announced a few weeks ago that he would begin taking bids on a possible trade for Halladay before the July 31 major league trading deadline. Whether or not this was a surprise to the Blue Jay hurler has not yet been determined, but after quietly considering his status, Halladay indicated that he was not adverse to being moved to a contending team with a winning spirit. He also indicated that if the move could A] help Toronto shed some player salary [Halladay has 1.5 years left on his current contract and is still owed over 20 million dollars] and B] give his current team a chance to rebuild with young prospects, so much the better.

It didn't take major league baseball writers and pundits long to peruse the major league landscape and decide that the Philadelphia Phillies and Roy Halladay would seemingly make for a perfect baseball marriage, the team currently looking for top of the rotation pitching help and Halladay looking for a very good team in which to win a World Championship. Needless to say, Philadelphia fans jumped on the Halladay bandwagon with both feet and began painting scenarios that would work in order to accomplish this trade.

After all, a rotation led by lefty Cole Hamels and righty Roy Halladay would be guaranteed to send shivers up every National League spine from Los Angeles to New York. How could the Dodgers expect to defeat a team with two aces at the top of the rotation? What would the Mets do to counteract this wondrous dynamic duo of destiny and doom. Indeed, on paper the rotation would look impressive, led by the H boys, Hamels and Halladay and further bolstered by the yet another member of the burgeoning 3-H Club, J.A. Happ. Add to this the wily stances of veterans Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton and what team wouldn't want to open a seven game playoff series with this starting staff?

Still, life has a way of bringing truth to the forefront at the most inopportune times and the euphoria attached to a Christmas in July Halladay was punctured by the reality that in acquiring such a valuable right arm, the Phils might just have to bite off a bit more than they are wanting to chew. With any higher rank comes the corresponding greater responsibility as word began to filter out as to the players the Phils might just have to give up in any deal for the Blue Jay ace.

Pitching phenom Kyle Drabek's name was first to reach print, followed very soon after by young outfield phenoms Michael Taylor and Dominic Brown as well as catcher Lou Marson and shortstop Jason Donald. As if this wasn't enough to make any Phillie follower blanche in agony, the reports surfaced that Toronto was closely monitoring the progress of one J.A. Happ, he of the sterling 7-0 record in Philadelphia this year and easily the most successful southpaw starter in a rotation that features Mssrs. Hamels and Moyer.

Suffice it to say that opinions were certainly not uniform in either direction as to the possible ransom demanded by Toronto for the privilege of possibly renting Halladay for the next 1.5 years. To the many win at any cost crowd, these names seemed a mere pittance to pay for just such an honor as watching the talented righty dominate National League hitters for the rest of the season. To them, this acquisition almost guaranteed a return to the Octoberfest known as the World Series, and wouldn't the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees or Los Angeles Angels quake in fear when the newest Quaker took the mound wearing red Phillie pinstripes. Fair enough and certainly worthy of discussion.

After all, winning can become contagious and Phillie Fever has reached almost withering heights by now. The team is a virtual sell out factory at Citizens Bank Park and the acquisition of Halladay would assure that nearly any ticket yet available for future games would be lapped up in a rapid fire pace. And a rotation featuring Hamels, Halladay, Blanton, Moyer and the newly signed Pedro Martinez would be one worthy of note.

Yet the baseball purists, the Phillie fans who still get as much pleasure in following a prospect through the minor leagues on their way to Philadelphia were equally appalled at such a price to pay for someone who promised nothing more tangible than a "greater opportunity" for future fortune and fame, but with no guarantees on the sales slip. To these hearty souls, a price that included Drabek, Taylor, Brown or Happ was simply too much to pay, regardless of the skill level they would bring.

Indeed, both parties have justifiable cause for their suspicions and while another World Series banner flying over the skies of Citizens Bank Park evokes delirious delights of the soul, the erosion of a Phillie farm system that has carefully and painstakingly been cultivated by the organization gives equal pause to the going up worth the coming down? Not since the dominant Cincinnati Reds of 1975-76 has a National League team repeated as World Series champions. Yes, those Reds of Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, George Foster and Tony Perez. Another Phillie championship would surely put this group of player in select and glorified company.

Not only that, but winning often on baseballs highest stage makes for compelling cases when it comes to future Hall of Fame inductions and make no mistake, players like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and possibly even Jamie Moyer are now playing not just for the present but for immortality. Utley is already being discussed as one of the greatest second basemen who ever played the game, and another World Series championship could further cement the argument. Howard recently became the faster player ever to achieve 200 hundred home runs and his home run heroics may soon join the ranks of the Ruths, Aarons and Mantles.

As for 46 year old Jamie Moyer, he is ever so quietly rising up the ranks of some of the more skilled long-term southpaws who ever played the game. Oh, his inclusion into the Hall of Fame is unlikely to ever become more than mere fodder on an internet blog, but should A] he win one more World Series and B] continue winning between 14-16 games for the next two or three seasons, he will be nearing the magical 300 win mark and no pitcher with that many wins has ever been denied Hall of Fame entry. Longest of shots? Absolutely. Impossible? Ask that question to the Florida Marlins, who recently were dominated by the slow stuff of Jamie Moyer, as he fashioned a one-hit shutout over seven innings against the floundering Fish.

So, there is ample reason to request a Christmas in July Halladay and it might well be granted between now and July 31. It seems as if the Phillies, more so than almost any team, not only has the reasons but the resources to accomplish such a celebration. Need proof? Lets take a quick glance at other teams who might have both the reasons and the resources to bring in Roy Halladay. 

Boston or the Yankees? Both are in the same AL division as the Blue Jays and Toronto is unlikely to want to deal their ace to teams that they will have to face 18 times a season.

Los Angeles Angels? They could use another starting pitcher and certainly have the financial resources to obtain such a prize but value their prospects as gold and hoard their gems more than almost any team in baseball. The same can be said for their neighbors, the Los Angeles Dodgers. They are not likely to pay the price in talented young players for the luxury of the catch.

Other possibilities include the St. Louis Cardinals, but they will not move Colby Rasmus and the rest of their system is quite pedestrian. They are out of the Halladay Hunt. The New York Met cupboard is bare, the San Francisco Giants won't mess with their newly discovered chemistry and the Chicago Cubs are currently going through bankruptcy hearings and would seem ill-equipped to take on another mega million dollar salary.

Which leaves the Philadelphia Phillies as the last team standing. And it is likely that both Blue Jays GM Ricciardi and Phillie counterpart, GM Ruben Amaro are aware of this and are carefully playing the waiting game to see just who will blink first. The Jays could well decide to keep Halladay and hope to either move him in the winter or reload for another title effort in 2010. Neither seems like an enviable choice at the moment, though to his credit, Halladay has insisted that he is content in Toronto and more than willing to play out his contract north of the border.

For his part, Amaro can wisely play the waiting game and hope that the price goes down. After all, his team has a sizable lead in the National League East and looks very much like a team fully prepared for the rigors of October. He also has the luxury of giving equal opportunity employment to such luminaries as Rodrigo Lopez and future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. The Dominican dandy, who some believe is the greatest pitcher of the generation, recently inked a prorated contract that will allow the Phillies to slowly evaluate his skills with a goal of August for his inception into the club's starting rotation.

They scouted him thoroughly in the Dominican Republic and reports of a fastball that consistently touched 90-91 MPH convinced them that he still had some gas left in the tank; at least enough to assist the team through the Dog Days of August. Look for Martinez to get three to five starts in August and if he does well he will remain in the rotation into September. Should he falter, or fail completely, the team then would look to the likes of the veteran Lopez or rookies like Kyle Drabek, Andrew Carpenter, Carlos Carrasco or the rejuvenated Kyle Kendrick to help then navigate the treacherous division deciding waters of September.

It is also worth discussing why the Pharm System Phanatics are in such a tizzy about the rumored package for Halladay and just what impact said package might have on the club's future. Any discussion of the talent in the system now begins with 21 year old right-hander Kyle Drabek, currently at Double-A Reading. The son of former big league pitcher Doug Drabek, the youngster has been dazzling this year, to the tune of a 9-1 record and an overpowering performance in the recent Future Games. Simply put, he is the best pitching prospect to come through the organization since Cole Hamels and is expected to vie for a starting berth in the rotation in 2010. There are even rumors that young Drabek could well surface in Philadelphia sometime in late August in order to not only help with the Phillie pennant push but also to be eligible for post season play this year. Yes, he is that good.

Both Amaro and Manager Charlie Manuel have declared Drabek as untouchable so it seems likely that any amount of persuasion on the part of Toronto will certainly fall on the deaf ears of both Amaro and Manual during the next two weeks. That is a very good thing, but still does not go far enough as far as many fans are concerned. They fear that Amaro may well fall victim to the dreaded either/or syndrome that currently involves the talented pair of outfield prospects, Michael Taylor and Dominic Brown. The feeling is that Toronto will demand one of the two young fly-chasers and that Amaro will feel pressured to relinquish one or the other in order to salvage the deal.

Logic dictates the following question...why? Would the Phils have in the past succumbed if a team had requested either Mike Schmidt or Greg Luzinski in trade when both were navigating their way through the Philadelphia farm system? Had a team demanded either Chase Utley or Ryan Howard as partial payment in return for a prized recruit, would that have by necessity forced the Phils to say yes? Of course, the answers to both questions would be no, and no.

It seems that Amaro must be consistently prudent once again when it comes to both Taylor and Brown. While no minor leaguer is ever a complete "can't miss" prospect, both Taylor and Brown qualify as as close to that ranking as is humanly possible. By 2012 they should both be gracing the outfield grasses of Citizens Bank Park and plan on staying there through most of the rest of the decade. They seem that talented. Taylor is slowly but inexorably becoming a household name within the ranks of the Phillie faithful, both for his incredible exploits and because his name is constantly being mentioned whenever the Roy Halladay trade discussions take place.

If you wish to make a comparison to the minor league exploits of Michael Taylor, think Ryan Howard. Taylor is not merely working his way through the Phillie system, he is bludgeoning his way through it. After stops in both Lakewood and Clearwater last year produced such staggering numbers as a .346 batting average with 19 home runs and 88 RBI in a mere 132 games, he has arguably improved those numbers so far while playing for Reading in the more difficult Eastern League. In 86 games played, Taylor fashioned a .333 batting average with 15 home runs and 65 RBI. Add to these impressive numbers the slugging percentages of .557 and .569 and it is little wonder that the anticipation of a Howard and Taylor hitting back to back in Philadelphia has reached a crescendo peak. He has just been promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley so he is merely a phone call away form the major leagues.

Still, if Taylor is Fire, then Dominic Brown is surely Ice; the cool and smooth contrast to the meteoric Taylor. Brown has alternately been compared to the likes of Darryl Strawberry and David Justice, a rare five tool combination of speed, power, athleticism and the ability to hit for average from the left side of the plate. Baseball America, well respected for their scouting on future talent, recently listed the 21 year old Brown as the seventeenth best prospect in baseball. Not the Phillie system, mind you, but in the entire game. Heady days indeed for this Phillie organization and yet another reason for prudence rather than posturing when discussing the dispersal of any gems from the farm system.

The same logic applies to the teams catcher of the future, Lou Marson, who is currently plying his trade in Lehigh Valley also and should be in Philadelphia by September. He is considered the teams catcher of the future and the reality is that if he is moved to Toronto, the Phils will be painfully thin catching prospects at the upper levels for the next three seasons. Many within the organization believe that 19 year old Travis D'Arnaud has a higher upside than does the switch-hitting Marson, but he is still at Single-A Lakewood and would not be ready for major league delivery until sometime after 2012. Marson is the heir apparent to incumbent Carlos Ruiz and has been no slouch at the plate this year with a .300 average, albeit with little or no power.

Lou Marson is smooth behind the plate, calls a very good game, is familiar with the likes of Kendrick, Carrasco, Carpenter and Happ and must not be moved, even if it means walking away from a Roy Halladay deal. And speaking of Happ, he would be the final piece of untouchable territory that Amaro should place on his side when he draws an imaginary "line in the sand" when having trade talks with Toronto. Dealing Happ as part of a Halladay deal would still leave the Phils one starting pitcher short and could dangerously weaken their rotation in the present.

At 7-0, Happ has provided a life boat for a Phillie team that has seen one starter {Brett Myers] go down to injury, another starter [Chan Ho Park] fail miserably in the rotation and two others [Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer] struggle to recapture the magic that led to the championship chase in 2008. Only Joe Blanton has shown some semblance of consistency and even he struggled until June before righting his ship. Not so J.A. Happ, who has been a beacon of light since becoming a regular member of the rotation in mid-May. He has displayed a sharp curve ball, a decent fast ball and tremendous pitching moxie which reminds many of young southpaws like Tom Glavine and Joe Saunders. He is a keeper and could well form with Hamels a tremendous lefty duo for years to come.

If there is to be a proverbial "line in the sand", there it is...Happ, Drabek, Brown, Taylor and Marson. Every other prospect within a very deep Phillie system should then become fair game for the Blue Jay advances. They indicate a need for a shortstop and as painful as it would be to see him head north of the border, the Phils could relinquish infielder Jason Donald and will undoubtedly have to. A .300 hitter last year in Double-A, Donald has struggled with injuries this year but is still a highly rated young prospect. Another lefty of some repute, Joe Savery, might interest the Jays if they feel they cannot pry Happ loose from Amaro's grasp. Savery's record is 12-2 at Reading and he is considered a very solid future starting pitcher in the major leagues.

Right-handers Andrew Carpenter and Carlos Carrasco are both considered top-notch pitching prospects but could be sacrificed in any deal for Halladay. Carrasco was considered the top prospect in the organization at seasons beginning and Carpenter, who sports an outstanding 8-2 record at Lehigh, recently struck out three hitters on only nine pitches in a minor league All-Star game and got the victory for his efforts. Either one of Carpenter or Carrasco might well wet the taste buds of a hungry Blue Jay appetite.

Finally, the Phillies have a plethora of talented young outfield prospects within their system, players like Quintin Berry, Anthony Gose, Zack Collier or Jiwan James. All come with extreme pluses and minuses but all appear more than capable of someday making it big in the major leagues. In particular, Gose has stolen a minor league best 50 bases this year while Collier is still considered by most scouts as the best of the four players. Berry, on the other hand, was the Phils minor league player of the year a few seasons back.

Philadelphia also has a plethora of minor league talent that might interest the Blue Jays. Pitchers Antonio Bastardo, Johan Flande, Heitor Correa or Drew Naylor might do the trick, as might infielders Freddy Galvis, Travis Mattair or Brad Harman. In fact, the Phillie system is awash with minor league talent and if the Jays are diligent in their homework they may find a combination of players fit for a Toronto feast. Just not named Happ, Drabek, Brown, Taylor or Marson.

William James once observed that "nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task." For fledgling Phillie GM Ruben Amaro, the task seems as complicated as it does uncompleted. He would like to add another right-handed bat to his bench and add another arm to his occasionally overworked bullpen. Jobs as yet unfinished but certainly work that should be reasonably simple to complete. Not so the task of seeking one more arm for a Phillie team that stands on the very precipice of baseball greatness.

That arm is currently available and to the untrained eye would seem an easy enough bird to cage. Yet Amaro must be careful thus he celebrate too quickly his desired...Christmas in July Halladay.

Columnist's Note: Please email all questions or comments to and I will respond. Thank you! CD from the Left Coast

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