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The Case for Passing on Roy Halladay

You’re either rebuilding for something special, or you’re on the verge of something special. To be in between is foolish. 

 -- Billy Beane, on building a franchise. 

"It was too soon," Grieve said Monday as he leaned against the Rangers’ batting cage before the Rangers and Red Sox opened a three-game series. "We were almost exactly where this organization is right now."

Of course, Grieve now has hindsight at his disposal, but he cuts himself no slack.

"We should have known we weren’t as good a team as the A’s were," Grieve said. "They were four or five games ahead of us and we weren’t going to catch them, even if Harold Baines had been what we thought he would be. We should have done a better job of evaluating the situation."

-- Tom Grieve, talking about the 1989 Harold Baines trade and the 2009 Rangers' pursuit of Roy Halladay.



Let's get one thing out of the way.

I really want Roy Halladay here. 

I really want Roy Halladay to be a Texas Ranger.

Roy Halladay is the one thing the Rangers have lacked forever...a legit top-of-the-rotation horse, an ace, a #1 starter, the guy you want out there for Games 1, 4 and 7. 

I would love to see him in a Ranger uniform.  I would love to see him taking the ball every fifth day down the stretch this season.

But here's the thing...I just bought a car this week.  I would have loved to have gotten a Mercedes 500 SL.  It would have made me very happy to get one.  And I probably could have figured out a way to do it, if push came to shove.  But for where I am in life, and my situation, the price was way, way too high.  It wasn't practical.

That's where I see the Rangers and Roy Halladay right now.  The timing is off.  If this were 2010, and Halladay were a free agent after 2011, and we were one year farther along in the development of everyone in the system and in the growth process of the young players currently on the team, I'd probably think differently.  I'd probably say, go for it.

But now?  This year?  With this team, with where we are on the development curve?

Giving up Justin Smoak, Neftali Feliz, Julio Borbon, and Kasey Kiker or Blake Beavan for Halladay?

Like Tom Grieve's 1989 Rangers, it is too soon...too soon, for a team that is 3 1/2 games back in the A.L. West, a game and a half back in the Wild Card.

It is too soon for a team that has been rebuilding for something special, a team that is getting closer to being on the verge of something special but that isn't there yet.

I think the players believe Halladay can change the race and the playoffs. I believe they think Halladay makes them the favorites for the division. I’d hate to see the reaction if Halladay gets traded and it’s to the Angels instead of the Rangers.

 -- Evan Grant today, at Inside Corner

As I mentioned this morning, vis-a-vis this quote, I hope the Rangers do think that they'd be the favorites in the A.L. West.  It shows confidence and a belief in themselves that you want a team to have.

But I also don't think it reflects reality.

Roy Halladay replaces Derek Holland in the rotation the rest of the way.  Defining Holland as replacement-level, Halladay probably represents a 2, maybe 3, win upgrade.

BP currently projects the Rangers to finish at 87 wins and the Angels to finish at 93 wins.*

And before you ask, this is not PECOTA-adjusted -- it assumes that everyone is playing at their true current level of performance. 

Add Halladay, and the Rangers figure to finish at 89 or 90 wins, still behind Anaheim.  Adding Halladay doesn't make the Rangers the favorites in the division.

The Wild Card?

BP has the Rays at 89 wins, the BoSox at 91 wins.  Add Halladay, and the Rangers are in the mix, but probably still don't have better than a 1 in 4 shot at the Wild Card.

This is a team in a pennant race.  No question, they've got a chance to make the playoffs.  But with or without Halladay, they aren't going to be the favorites, no matter what the guys in the locker room think.

That said, Evan has a point...if the Rangers don't land Halladay, I think there will be fallout in the locker room.  I think there will be bitching about why the organization didn't use the farm system the front office is always bragging about to get some help.  I wouldn't be surprised if Mikey Baseball expresses his unhappiness to the press on August 1 or August 2, about the organization's refusal to do what they needed to do to support the players in the playoff drive.

But I don't think that trumps reality.  And quite honestly, if the offense hadn't curled up and died the last couple of months, the Rangers would be in a position where it would make a lot more sense to go get a Roy Halladay.  But when everyone other than Michael Young and David Murphy stops hitting for a two month period, resulting in the team spitting up the A.L. West lead, it becomes a lot harder to justify getting a 1-4-7 guy for the playoffs.

And the Angels?  The Angels might want Halladay, but they don't seem to have the pieces necessary to get him, not without eviscerating their system and opening holes at the major league level.  Feeling like you have to make a move to get Halladay because you want to keep him from landing in Anaheim is counter-productive.

The analogy that I think best fits the current state of the Texas major league roster is the Return of the Jedi version of the Death Star. Let the construction near a conclusion, then start worrying about short term finishing touches. This franchise could pull an Indians and not be able to get its act together, sure, but it has so many quality talents who haven't even approached their prime, so few quality players who will leave, and such quality still in AAA that it's just not an appropriate move.

 -- Brett Perryman, at the DMN blog earlier this week.

What folks seem to be ignoring is that going all-in for Halladay requires giving up multiple guys you presumably expect to be contributors by the end of 2010.

The plan for 2010 seems to be Julio Borbon in centerfield, flanked by Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, with David Murphy as the Roberto Kelly-esque 4th outfielder who will get 350-400 PAs, and Chris Davis and Justin Smoak sharing the 1B/DH roles, and Neftali Feliz pitching out of the bullpen, transitioning to the rotation at some point in 2010.

Making the above-described Halladay trade means:

1.  No Borbon in center next season.  That means Hamilton going back to center in 2010, and possibly Marlon Byrd being given that multi-year deal at $4-5 million per we've scoffed at to share time out there.

2.  No DH next season, and Chris Davis manning first base, with Max Ramirez as the primary backup plan.  Unless you want to re-sign Hank Blalock and/or Andruw Jones.

3.  No Feliz next season, which weakens your rotation situation.

4.  No money to spend in 2010, since Halladay is going to eat up most of the available budget.

And then, after 2010, Halladay and Kevin Millwood are both free agents.  You've got two gaping holes in your rotation heading into 2011, with one of the guys expecting to step in by then in Toronto.

You still don't have a true centerfielder.

You've got a hole at DH/1B (potentially two holes, if the Davis doubters -- which I'm not one of -- are correct).

And you've just cashed in a big part of your future for a two year window of opportunity, when the original plan was to build towards 2010 and forward.

I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.

-- Mae West

The Rangers have been killed -- rightly -- for being unable to stick to a plan ever since Tom Hicks bought the team over 10 years ago.

The plan they've stuck to for the last couple of years has been to build up a talent base to make it possible for them to have a sustained run of greatness in the next 4-5 years.

Roy Halladay is tempting.  Very tempting.

But they need to stick with the plan.