Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sportsology: Baseball's 2-Cy trade

By Rick Morris

Our good pal Russ Cohen at Sportsology has done it again with an excellent column about the biggest blockbuster pitching deal in several years. Courtesy of our content-sharing relationship with The 21st Century Media Alliance, here is the analysis.

Russ's Rants - Halladay and Lackey Fuel The League's Arms Race?

By Russ Cohen

The Phillies are locking down starter Roy Halladay as we speak, and most of the free world believes that Cliff Lee will be headed to Seattle. I give Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tremendous credit for making moves he believes will help his club, but the team is still running a huge risk here.

Is Halladay better than Lee? I say yes, but I think the bigger question is this: is Cole Hamels the same? Even though we won’t know the answer until next season, I believe that his better days are behind him. Age doesn’t matter here and his stats dropped off dramatically last season. I don’t think you can say he was tired because C.C. Sabathia (265 total innings) pitched as much as Hamels (262 total innings) last season and he had plenty in the tank in the World Series. Could Hamels change his fortunes by learning another pitch? Maybe, and I think he’ll need to do that in order to make this trade a success. Otherwise, fans will ask why didn’t the Phillies keep both pitchers? The answer is simple: the Phillies have a budget of around $140 million, no matter how much revenue they bring in. Will that plan backfire on them?

Lee wasn’t making a lot of money and he could have walked after the season, but in the end, his salary – coupled with Halladay’s – was more than Phillies ownership was willing to swallow. The other important part of this deal will reside with the prospects. My feeling is that the Phillies prospects are better than the Mariners kids, but we’ll see how that shakes out over time.

I can guarantee you that there didn’t need to be a three-way trade and the Blue Jays would have taken some great prospects like outfielder Michael Taylor and pitcher Kyle Drabek. Last season, we were told that the reason the Halladay trade fell through was the Phillies’ refusal to part with the second-generation pitcher. If he gets dealt now, then that means one year later, and one unfulfilled World Series later, the Phillies now find themselves in a desperate arms race against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Now are the Red Sox crazy for signing John Lackey to a deal that will pay him $16-17 million a season for five years? Lackey hasn’t thrown his usual 33 games since 2007. The league got a hit an inning against him, but he doesn’t walk too many players and he doesn’t give up the long ball. Well, that was in Anaheim, this could change in Fenway. I would say the Red Sox took the biggest risk so far, they landed their big fish, but we’ll see if that gets them back to the Fall Classic.

The Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox are certainly the favorites to win it all this year. Let’s see how this will shake out.

Look for my first baseball book, Strike Three, which will be released in the coming days.

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