The playoffs have begun in Major League Baseball and once again, the Toronto Blue Jays are on the outside looking in. After posting a 75-87 win/loss record, the Jays finished fourth in the AL East, 28 games behind the first place Yankees. As the season began to unravel, the fans demonstrated their dissatisfaction by staying away from the Rogers Centre and flooding call-in shows with doomsday predictions and demanding change.
It has been well documented, after a surprising 27-14 start, the wheels fell off the bandwagon and a long, slow, slide to the bottom of the standings began. Injuries to the pitching staff, a bad season for Vernon Wells and the now departed Alex Rios and grumbling from the locker room regarding Cito Gaston’s managerial style led to a season to forget in Toronto. A year that started with surprise and optimism, ended with a thud, as General Manager JP Ricciardi was fired with one year left on his contract while the Jays lost their final three games in Baltimore.
With the recent promotion of Alex Anthopoulos as the new General Manager and a good crop of young talent, drafted by JP Ricciardi, there are better days ahead for the Blue Jays - if they make some important roster decisions. While there are some signs that the Blue Jays may follow the Montreal Expos into the abyss, the situation is very different in Toronto from what Montreal fans went through - for now. However, the signs of a failing franchise are beginning to reveal themselves and in five years time, the Montreal - Toronto situations could become very similar indeed.
First on the list for Anthopoulos has to be the Roy Halladay situation. After Ricciardi fumbled around at the trade deadline, making the Halladay trade rumours a very public affair in a situation where discretion was necessary, the Jays need Halladay to stay in Toronto. The big off-season question facing the Toronto management and their pitching ace is this, does Doc want to stay with the organization.
A free agent after the 2010 season, Halladay will have the choice to leave Toronto during the off-season via a trade if he lets the new GM know he wants out. The 2003 AL Cy Young winner has earned the right to compete for a championship and if he feels his best opportunity will come in another city, the Jays must make the move and trade one of the best pitchers in baseball. However, if Halladay wishes to finish his career in Toronto, the Jays must open the vault at the Rogers Headquarters and sign the future Hall of Fame member to a new multi-year deal.
Halladay’s career record is 148-76 with a 3.43 ERA, while striking out 1,495 batters. In an era when major league pitchers have difficulty making it through five innings, Halladay has pitched 49 complete games in his career; including nine in each of the last two seasons. If the Blue Jays truly believe they will be rebuilding for a season or two before they can compete against the Yankees and Red Sox, what is the one thing they will need to be on par with these two powerhouses? Well, they will need an ace on their pitching staff, a franchise player that can shut the door on opponents at will. A pitcher that can win twenty games a season while pitching over 200 innings each year. Sound familiar - they already have that pitcher - his name is Doc Halladay. What will it cost to acquire a pitcher of Halladay’s calibre when the Jays earn their way to the top of the division?
The most important off-season roster move by Anthopoulos may be the one he does not make - not trading Halladay. Interim CEO Paul Beeston has stated in interviews this summer that money would not be a problem when it comes time to get Halladay’s signature on a new contract. In a recent interview on the Fan 590, former Blue Jay and three-time World Series champion Jack Morris called a possible Halladay trade “foolish”. I have to agree with Morris, if the Jays become competitive in the next few seasons with players like Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Travis Snider at the heart of the batting order, everyone - including fans and management, will be saying - if only we still had Roy Halladay... Have a great sports day everyone.