Thursday, December 10, 2009

By Jonathon Northrop - Contributor

Considered in a vacuum, the trade offer of Joe Saunders, Erick Aybar, and Peter Bourjos for Roy Halladay is a good one: good for the Angels, who receive one of the five or so best starters in baseball for a couple of good but not great major leaguers and a solid prospect. It is also good for the Blue Jays because they get two quality major leaguers and a solid prospect for a superstar pitcher who wants to be traded.

But we can't really consider it in a vacuum. Roy Halladay will almost certainly cost more per annum than John Lackey, if for less years. But both should command total contracts at, or near, $100 million (my guess would be Halladay at 5 years/$100MM, Lackey 6 years/$100MM or 5/$90MM). So the money is close. So then we have to ask the question: which package would you rather have?

*Roy Halladay, or

*John Lackey, Joe Saunders, Erick Aybar, and Peter Bourjos

How much does Roy Halladay improve the Angels over John Lackey? The difference may not be that great, although it is probably 2-3 wins plus something the Angels have lacked in the postseason: A true ace to compete with the best of the best. However, who would be replacing Saunders in the rotation? Matt Palmer or some free agent, most likely. So effectively by trading for Halladay the Angels are not only swapping him with Lackey but Saunders with a lesser pitcher, making it somewhat of a wash. And that isn't counting the loss of Aybar, who came into his own last year as a quality major leaguer, although not (yet?) a star. Peter Bourjos may be a good player or he may be a fifth outfielder--it is too soon to tell.

When I first heard of this trade offer I thought, "That's a solid package but we're not losing Reckling or Kendrick or Wood and I'd rather have Halladay." After a day of it simmering on the back-burner, I'm not so sure. I'm not sure the Angels need Halladay. Want, yes, but not need. There is this mentality that fans are prone to that is really a kind of materialism: You know, when you set your mind on a new computer or car or Ipod or...whatever it is. You enter a kind of altered state of consciousness where you simply "must" have it, and you start over-valuing the object of your desire. Let's hope that baseball owners and general managers aren't so petty (yeah, right), or at least I for one am hoping that Arte Moreno and Tony Reagins are less biased than I and the majority of Angels fans are.

Would I make this trade today? I honestly don't know, but probably not, at least if I thought that I could sign Lackey or, say, Erik Bedard. Even though Halladay is a truly great picture--one of the five best in baseball, although probably not as good as Lincecum, Sabathia, and Johan Santana--we have to look at the larger pitcher, the ripple effect. The total value of Saunders, Aybar, and Bourjos is less than the value of Halladay in my mind, at least over the next year or two (he will be 33 next year, after all). However, it really comes down to the question of whether the value of the difference between him and Lackey is greater than the value of those three. And I don't think that it is.


According to this thread Peter Gammons has said on Mason and Ireland that the Blue Jays have turned down the offer of Saunders, Aybar, and Bourjos; furthermore, that they wanted five players including two young position players of the caliber of Aybar, Kendrick and Wood, in addition to others.

Sigh of relief.

There are also numerous rumors of various packages, none of which seem to have much substantive evidence as actually having been placed on the table by Tony Reagins. It may even be that no offer was ever made, although the initial rumor (Saunders, Aybar, and Bourjos) seems to have some substance to it.

Again, Angels fans should be reminded that as things stand right now the rotation is composed of four good to very good pitchers in Weaver, Kazmir, Saunders, and Santana, with a bunch of quality young arms on the way up (Bell, O'Sullivan, Reckling, Walden, etc). Until the point in which one or more of those pitchers are ready (as soon as next year for one or two of them) there are a couple decent options in house to act as placeholders in Matt Palmer and potentially Dustin Moseley; there is even an outside chance that O'Sullivan is given the job in April, or the more likely possibility that the Angels sign a free agent (I would love to see them take a risk on Erik Bedard).

But the bottom line, in my opinion, is this: The Angels are coming from a place of strength with their starting rotation, with or without Lackey or Halladay. Either one of them would turn the rotation into not only good but great; both would make it it incredible. But at what cost? If the Angels are going to send that sort of talent for an established star I would rather he be younger (Halladay is almost 33) and a position player.

Here's hoping that John Lackey signs with the Angels; but if he doesn't, that is fine too. I think Moreno and Reagins know that the Angels are far from being in a desperate situation, which is why we won't see any knee-jerk trades or free agent signings that bankrupt the future for the immediate present. We still have more good days ahead, folks.
Love to hear what you think!

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