Friday, December 11, 2009

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Frontline Aces

Everywhere you turn these days, up pops another story about Roy Halladay and the Phillies being potential front-runners to acquire the 32-year-old Toronto ace. Equally as prominent are stories of Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. proclaiming that no big trades are likely, especially pertaining to the Cy Young winner north of the border. Whether it's posturing on Ruben's part or the god-honest truth remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: The Phillies have the pieces to acquire Roy Halladay if they so choose.

If you somehow do wind up in Philadelphia, Doc, please, don't bring Rod back with you.

I'm not getting my hopes up that the Phils get him. There are other players out there in the form of the Angels, Red Sox and maybe even the Yankees, the Phillies are closing in on their self-imposed budget ,and it's still probably more likely that Halladay doesn't go anywhere until he becomes a free agent after the upcoming season, as little sense as that makes for the Blue Jays.

But shit, a guy can dream, right? And we all know I'm a dreamer. Last season, even after the Phillies acquired Cliff Lee (and Ben Francisco) in what can only be regarded as a brilliant heist by Amaro, I still urged the Phils to go get Halladay too, getting giddy over a potential rotation top three of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. Well, the Phillies, after already trading four of their minor leaguers, decided the asking price of Kyle Drabek, J.A. Happ and Domonic Brown and/or Michael Taylor was simply too much, even for two playoff runs with Halladay. I didn't necessarily agree with that decision, given the fact that I don't think Happ's stock will ever be higher, and as highly touted as Drabek and those two outfielders are, they are still nothing but unknown commodities. Sure, they are regarded as the future of the franchise, but truth be told, when you have a core as good and as talented in the Phillies all in or approaching their primes — and a window of about three years to realistically be able to keep that core together — your future is now. Back-to-back World Series appearances raise the expectations that this team should be going for broke at all cost, for better or worse.

Well, now the Phillies have a chance once again to form that dream top of the rotation. Reportedly, Toronto has lowered their demands to an extent, meaning a package of Happ and Brown/Taylor along with perhaps another player or prospect could possibly get this deal done. And I want nothing more than for this to happen. This team is at its peak, and adding a piece like Halladay doesn't just bolster the rotation, it bolsters the bullpen by default.

It's no secret that Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are innings-eaters. They tear through their starts, just about always going 7 innings, many times finishing 8 or even going the distance. This alleviates a lot of pressure on that bullpen and lets the arms get more rest, stay fresh. That becomes a vital asset come the end of the season and especially in the playoffs, especially considering the Phillies aren't as deep in the pen as they'd like to be as of right now.

And honestly, just image what a trio of Lee, Halladay and Hamels could accomplish in the playoffs. It's a frighteningly awesome thing to picture. I'm 100 percent convinced that had the Phillies added Halladay as well last season, they would have beaten the Yankees in the World Series. And I find it hard to believe that anyone, when combined with the potent lineup that has been bolstered even further by replacing Pedro Feliz with Placido Polanco — not to mention a more talented, deeper bench — could beat the Phillies in a playoff series. Even the mighty Yankees and their murderers row. In October/November, pitching reigns supreme, and if Cole Hamels can regain his form, not even CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte could match Lee, Halladay and Hamels.

Now I understand the hesitancy, gutting the farm system even further and taking the risk that one season of Halladay might not be worth it. Ideally, the Phils would get permission to negotiate an extension with Halladay, but even then, the likelihood of then extending Lee too would be low. And that may mean the Phillies, for some stupid reason, would have to cut some payroll, presumably by moving Joe Blanton. I love Joe Blanton and would love to see him back, but if he has to go to add Halladay, well, then so long, Joe. It was nice knowing you. Though truthfully, I don't think the Phillies should limit themselves to this $140 million payroll. I know it's a lot easier to spend someone else's money, and I'm not proposing the Phils become the Yankees all the way, but considering this team sells out just about every damn game, not to mention the money rolling in from the playoffs and all the merchandise that fans purchase thanks to the long-awaited string of success, something tells me these guys could afford to add another $10 million to $20 million if need be.

Either way, the Phils have the chance to put together the most lethal starting rotation as far as the top three are concerned, and considering where this team is at, it's something that you should do if you can. You play to win championships. Yes, the Yankees can afford to spend like wild because of all the money the Steinbrenners have and the revenue the team generates. But they make all that money because they're a team that has more World Series than anyone. With this current core in place, the Phillies have a chance to rise to a level just short of that of the Yankees. And the best chance to continue this run to the playoffs and the World Series is to acquire another ace to add to the one you already have.

All I want for Christmas is my two frontline aces. You can make that happen, Ruben. Now go out and do it.

BallHype: hype it up!

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