A healthy and productive Roy Halladay could lead to some tough decisions for the front office this year. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

If Roy Halladay Kicks Butt This Year, Can The Phillies Afford Him?


Roy Halladay seems pretty confident his arm isn’t going to fall off this year. So, he’s got that going for him.

After struggling for most of the 2012 season with what was recently learned was an upper-back issue that led to bad mechanics and a sore shoulder, Halladay said on Wednesday that he’s ready to be awesome once again, even if he doesn’t have the same velocity on his fastball that he once did.

Yeah, he’s thinking about going all Jamie Moyer on everybody.

And although Halladay tempered that optimism with a little bit of caution, he also wanted everyone to know that he’s going to try and be the terrifying cyborg that everyone has come to know and love over the last few years.

“There is no such thing as a crystal ball,” Halladay told reporters on Wednesday. “But I’m confident that if I can maintain the way I feel right now that I’m going to be effective.”

Halladay’s importance to the team cannot be understated.

Well, it could, but you’d be wrong to do it.

Even with Roy’s struggles last year, his absence was still felt by the team. Before Halladay went on the disabled list, the Phils were 26-24. While he was on the DL, they went 15-27. After his return, the team finished the season 40-30.

They did all that with Halladay posting a 4.49 ERA in only 156.1 innings, clearly his worst numbers since 2000.

So it’s obvious what Roy Halladay means to the team. A healthy, effective Roy could portend great things for the Phils in 2013.

But suppose Halladay comes back and has a Cy Young-caliber season this year. Suppose he puts up a sub-3.00 ERA, wins 17-20 games, throws 250 innings and helps lead the Phillies to a playoff spot. The 36-year-old is entering the final year of a contract (unless he pitches 258 2/3 innings this year which would trigger an option that keeps him in Philly through 2014) that pays him $20 million.

Would the Phillies re-sign Halladay to another contract as he turns 37 in 2014? If so, for how much? And for how long?

Does it make any sense to sign a 37-year-old pitcher to another $20 million deal for multiple years, no matter how well he does at age 36?

For his part, Halladay said he doesn’t want to go anywhere.

“If I had my druthers I would be here until I’m done,” Halladay said. “As good as they’ve been to me, I think they realize I’d be as good to them as I could be. Going forward, I really don’t see myself playing anywhere else. And I don’t want to play anywhere else.”

Unfortunately, “druthers” are usually not the property of the one who wants to have them. They are usually other people’s “druthers.”

And therein lies the issue.

There’s no question it would be wonderful to have a productive Halladay remain in the fold. But given the age of the team, the other payroll commitments (Howard, Rollins, Papelbon, Lee, Hamels, etc.), and other potential free agents who could leave (Utley and Ruiz), can the Phils afford to give Halladay another $20 million a year and still field the best team possible?

It normally doesn’t make a lot of sense to sign pitchers in their late 30s to multi-year contracts in upwards of $20 million a year. That typically is not done, even if their name is Roy Halladay.

But as everyone knows, Roy is a special case. He’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer and, if 2013 is a typical Halladay-esque season, the pressure will certainly be on for Ruben Amaro and the front office to re-sign him to a deal.

And if Halladay is willing to take a home-town discount, much like he did when he agreed to the trade that brought him here in the first place, if he is willing to take a salary that is less than the one he is making now, perhaps an extension or a new contract after the season would make sense.

The big question is, what’s the right number? Unfortunately, that question can’t really be answered until everyone sees just how much Roy Halladay has left in the tank.

Roy’s good friend Chris Carpenter is a reminder that as pitchers age, they break down. Carpenter was still one of the best pitchers in the league in 2011, where at age 36 he posted an ERA 3.45 and made a league-leading 34 starts. He then did even better in the playoffs, leading the Cardinals to a World Series title.

Then, at age 37, he made just four starts (including the postseason) and will now miss the entire 2013 season at age 38.

The Phils certainly don’t want to be paying someone $10-20 million to spend it on the sidelines.

And therein lies the danger. Halladay, the walking-talking human machine killer that he is, has shown he is capable of leaking oil.

Determining his value, and whether or not the Phillies could and should make a longer-term commitment, will not be an easy question for Amaro to make if Halladay comes out firing in April.

Of course, we’re all hoping for this…

 

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