For his sake, Ricciardi better be bluffing

BY foxsports • July 27, 2009

J.P. Ricciardi, the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, is known mostly for talking too much. Actually, that's not fair. He is also known for saying the wrong things. And for saying them at inappropriate times. There are better things to be known for — like, just for example, winning — but we take what we can get in this world.

We can only hope that Ricciardi is taking one of his own (in)famous quotes to heart this week. After lying about a player's injury, Ricciardi explained, "They're not lies if we know the truth."

Please, J.P., tell me you're lying. Tell me you really ARE going to trade ace Roy Halladay, despite what you told's Ken Rosenthal Sunday. Tell me you have thought this through, and you know the best move is to deal Halladay now, while he is as valuable as he'll ever be, and while it can help the Blue Jays the most.

I can only hope, for his sake, that Ricciardi is bluffing. I hope he is smoking out offers with the full intention of taking the best one. In fact, by this point, I hope he already has an offer that he is willing to take, and is simply trying to get an even better one.

And I really hope he has asked this question:

What happens if the trade deadline passes and Roy Halladay is still a Blue Jay?

If that happens, then Ricciardi will have announced to the world that he might trade Halladay, then turned down several very nice offers in the hope that the stars align for Toronto in 2010. He will have surrendered his chips.

This is what you need to know about Halladay: right now, he has more value to the teams that are trying to trade for him than he does to the Blue Jays. Significantly more.

Consider: the Blue Jays owe Halladay roughly $20.45 million between now and the end of the 2010 season. But since they are sure to miss the playoffs this year, they are basically paying him for one potential pennant race, next year, in a division with the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays. That is a huge chunk of money for one starting pitcher in one pennant race.

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And if the Blue Jays don't contend next year, then what? Halladay won't come out and say it, but he'll be out of there. He will have pitched 12 seasons in Toronto without throwing a postseason pitch. Why would he sign on for any more? Halladay's reluctance to sign an extension is presumably what fueled these trade talks in the first place.

The Blue Jays could then try to deal him by next summer's deadline, but the haul would be significantly smaller than it would be now, because he would be a two-month rental instead of a season-and-two-months rental.

The teams that are pursuing Halladay, on the other hand, are all contenders. They believe they will have him for two pennant races, minimum. And unlike Toronto, those teams are in prime position to sign Halladay to an extension, because they are contenders.

Ricciardi should realize this, too: Halladay is, at this point in his career, slightly overrated. And before I get 9,000 angry comments from the Roy Halladay Is Not Overrated You Jackass Club, please allow me to explain.

Halladay is a great, great pitcher. One of the best in the game, no question. He has a chance to make the Hall of Fame. But through no fault of his own, the trade-deadline hype machine has turned him into the best pitcher in the game, bar none — I must have read a half-dozen stories in the last month that referred to him as the best, period.

A few months ago, before the hype mushroomed, most knowledgeable people would have put Halladay in the conversation as one of the best. Halladay, Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum ... now you can throw in Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, maybe a few others. And if you think Halladay is the best, I totally understand. I just don't see how he is definitively the best. I don't see how anybody is definitively the best.

But right now, with Halladay in the middle of the best season of his career, coming off two straight dominant starts ... well, right now there is a perception that he is hands-down the best pitcher in the game. And that is the right time to trade him. It is the definition of peak value. (Even Halladay's birthday slightly inflates his current value — he is 31, but he turns 32 next month).

So what else is new?

Roy Halladay

It might seem like Roy Halladay is the only trade candidate in baseball, but there are plenty more. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi have the latest news.

I don't want to belabor that point, because any mention of the word "overrated" implies some sort of criticism, and I'm not criticizing him. Halladay is obviously a fabulous pitcher. I'm just saying the iron is hot.

Teams have gotten a lot smarter about trade-deadline deals in recent years. Even the Yankees understand the value of having prospects under club control for six big-league seasons. But Halladay, with a year and change left on his contract, should still fetch an impressive package — undoubtedly better than the draft-pick compensation the Jays would get if he leaves as a free agent in 2010.

Could a trade be a disaster? Of course. Halladay could win another 170 games and a pair of World Series for another team. But he is unlikely to win that many for Toronto, because he'll probably walk after next season.

And the players that end up in Toronto could turn into busts. But this is why you have scouts, why you crunch the numbers, and why you pay a general manager big money to make big, tough decisions.

One great thing about trading Halladay now is that several teams appear to be seriously interested. This competition means teams have to put together an enticing package to get him, but it also means Ricciardi should have his choice of packages. Toronto should be able to get one elite prospect and at least two other very good prospects; having several teams in the mix means the Jays can find the very good prospects that they think will be great.

This is a chance to reshape the Blue Jays for true contention. It is a chance for Ricciardi to be known for more than just talking and producing pretty good but not great teams. Ricciardi said last week, when somebody asked him about a trade with the Phillies, that the ball was in their court. But it isn't, not really. It's in his court. Let's see if he knows what to do with it.

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