Update, Dec. 8:
You want lazy? This is lazy. I’m bumping this post, originally published on Nov. 11, because I feel the same way today and Mets fans keep going on about getting Roy Halladay:
Original post, Nov. 11, 2:04 p.m.:
In a subscriber-only post to Newsday that I am not able to read, Ken Davidoff compares the trade market for Roy Halladay with the one for Johan Santana before the 2008 season and explains that “the Mets believe they have at least a chance” to land the Blue Jays’ ace.
OK, here’s the thing: Roy Halladay is a stud. He’s thrown over 220 innings in each of the last four seasons, he strikes out a decent number of guys and he rarely walks anyone. Plus, he pitches in the uber-tough AL East, meaning he’s certainly been one of the three or four best pitchers in baseball over that time.
But Halladay’s situation is not exactly like Santana’s situation for a number of reasons.
For one, it’s important to remember that the Mets didn’t exactly trade four prospects for six seasons of Santana. They traded four prospects for the right to sign Santana to a six-year deal at market rate.
Given Santana’s excellence, it’s difficult to put a price tag on the exclusive negotiating rights the Mets acquired when they traded for him, but it’s reasonable to say the deal was a good one.
Still, as great as Santana is, he has already missed part of a season with an arm injury. And though all reports say Santana will return to full health, it’s not a safe bet he’ll stay that way through 2012 and 2013, when he’ll make a total of $49.5 million.
Theoretically, a deal for Halladay would either be a trade for one year of Halladay — he’s due to be a free agent after this season — or an arrangement like Santana’s, wherein the Mets would gain a negotiating window in which to sign Halladay.
And that’s where the situation differs massively from Santana’s. Halladay would certainly require a long-term deal, probably similar to the one Santana signed. But Halladay will be 33 in May, and Santana was about to turn 29 when the Mets locked him up.
Santana won’t be as old as Halladay until before the 2012 season, when he’s entering the final years of his contract with the Mets. Locking up Halladay for that long would mean committing big money to a pitcher while he’s in the back half of his 30s, and that’s a way, way riskier proposition.
Of course, Halladay hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down in the past couple of years. His average fastball velocity, according to Fangraphs, was actually higher than his career mark in 2009.
So maybe Halladay is the rare breed of dude who can remain effective deep into his 30s, and the Mets would be well-suited to lock him up for the long-term, even if it meant committing around $50 million a year to two starting pitchers.
Still, Halladay did miss nearly half the 2004 season with a shoulder injury, so it’s not like he’s impervious to pain.
Of course, analysis of any potential deal cannot be separated from the cost, and since we have no idea what it will take to land Halladay, it’s difficult to say for sure whether the Mets should or shouldn’t pursue him.
If the Blue Jays are randomly smitten with Anderson Hernandez and want to do a straight swap, well then, you know, yeah. But way more likely, any package strong enough to net Halladay would start with several of the Mets’ best remaining young players or prospects, further depleting an already shallow system.
And moreover, when the Mets dealt for Santana, they were coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs by a single game, so it was reasonable to assume Santana alone might push them over the edge.
This year, obviously, that is not the case. And though having Halladay would probably mean about eight more wins for the Mets than trotting Tim Redding out every fifth day, it’s unclear if he alone could make the difference between the 2009 Mets — even assuming full health — and a playoff team.
And that’s an important distinction, because by trading prospects for Halladay then signing him to a big contract, the Mets would likely be committing nearly all of their available offseason resources to a single 33-year-old pitcher.
That just doesn’t strike me as a good idea.