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Holliday or Halladay? It's a tough call

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Bob Klapisch

Bob Klapisch covers baseball for The Record in New Jersey and worked at the New York Post and New York Daily News. The author of five books, he was recently voted a top-five columnist in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

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So you're a general manager, flummoxed by the impossibility of this offseason's killer shopping list: Matt Holliday or Roy Halladay? The auction is still young and considering Holliday is tethered to Scott Boras and that Halladay has to approve any trade initiated by the Blue Jays, don't expect a resolution during next week's winter meetings.

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In fact, there's plenty of time to study the pros and cons of the highest-impact players who will (likely) be moved this winter. We say likely because the Jays have given every indication they're ready to trade Halladay before spring training. That is, unless president Paul Beeston can somehow convince his ace to remain in Toronto. But that's a low probability. Sooner or later, someone will inherit Holliday's prime-years batting skills. And some lucky rotation will add Halladay's elite four-pitch arsenal. Neither will come cheaply, so here's a breakdown of the cost-benefit ratio.

AGE

Holliday turns 30 next month and appears to be in the middle of his prime, having averaged 151 games a season in the last three years. He's durable and strong (6-4, 235 pounds) and barring any unforeseen injuries, projects a clean bill of health to any team signing him. Halladay, on the other hand, will pitch at 33 for most of next year, and although he, too, has been durable, the wear and tear will be of far greater concern to his new team. One talent evaluator said, "It's a lot easier to predict the health of a position player than a pitcher, especially if the position player is a couple of years younger." Halladay has thrown 710.1 innings over the last three seasons. The only pitcher who has more is CC Sabathia, who's totaled 779.1, including the postseason. The mitigating factor is Halladay has a deep arsenal and could continue to dominate even after his fastball recedes.
Advantage: Holliday

COST

The obvious advantage is Holliday's since his cost is limited to cash only. Acquiring Halladay means surrendering multiple prospects and then negotiating a multiyear deal. That alone is enough to limit the field to the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. Holliday is being shopped at around $23 million per, and it appears as though the Cardinals are out of the running. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, GM John Mozeliak is dropping hints that he can't afford both Holliday and Albert Pujols (who's a free agent after 2011) and still keep the team's payroll around $100 million. The Cardinals gambled heavily on Holliday, hoping his partial-season rental would've been enough for a championship. Instead, they shipped several prospects to the A's, including blue chipper Brett Wallace, a third baseman. That failed swap has heightened the interest in Holliday, notably in Boston, where GM Theo Epstein is said to favor him over Jason Bay. But the Sox are in no hurry to make an offer to Boras, lest he take that to the Yankees.
In the meantime, the Bombers are intrigued by Halladay, although they're split internally over the idea of trading catching prospect Jesus Montero and either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. GM Brian Cashman is against peeling off young talent, just as he was two years ago when Johan Santana was available. If Cashman is overruled by the Steinbrenner family, there's certainly enough money in the Yankees' universe to pay Halladay as much as Sabathia, $23 million per. But would they? The Red Sox are lasering in on Halladay as well, but they're hesitating for the same reason as their Eastern Division rivals: they are uncomfortable with trading prospects, especially Clay Buchholz.
ADVANTAGE: Holliday

IMPACT

There's no easy choice, as both players figure to vastly improve whatever team they join. Holliday's power numbers dropped predictably after leaving Colorado, going deep just once every 33 at-bats with the A's. But one talent evaluator said, "It's too small of a sample size" to say Holliday failed in the American League. "He would've come around (for the A's), he's just too good of a hitter not to," said the scout. Holliday redeemed himself with a second-half surge in St. Louis, batting .353 while cutting that HR ratio to one every 18 at-bats. His postseason mistakes aside, Holliday is considered a very good defender with a strong, accurate arm. Halladay's résumé speaks for itself, particularly in how he could help the Red Sox: according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Halladay's .750 winning percentage against the Yankees ranks third all-time among pitchers with at least 20 decisions against them. Overall, he's won more games than any pitcher in baseball since 2006 (69). One executive, however, is wary of Halladay for precisely that extensive body of work. "How many pitchers stay at a Cy Young level into their mid to late 30s?" he asked.
Advantage: Even

INTANGIBLES

Holliday is a hard worker and a positive force in the clubhouse. That counts for plenty in the Mannywood era. Holliday is also a devoted family man, which as one friend put it, "Is more than just show. Matt doesn't just give lip service to putting his family first. He walks the walk." Halladay is a similar beacon of light, low-key and unassuming. He's confident enough to handle the noise in New York or Boston but not arrogant enough to be off-putting. One other thing: he's been loyal to the Blue Jays for 12 seasons, many of them miserable, and has never complained about the losing culture. The Jays themselves feel like they owe Halladay a chance to finish his career on a winning team. Not without cost, of course, but it says plenty that if Halladay leaves Toronto, he'll do so without hard feelings from either side.
Tagged: Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mets, Cardinals, CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, Albert Pujols, Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain

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