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Why Roy Halladay is a priority

11.25.09 at 8:52 am ET
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Blue Jays Halladay BaseballThe New York Daily News reported late Tuesday night that the Red Sox were going “hard” after Toronto ace Roy Halladay.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Let’s piece together the reasons why Halladay has become a priority — and can be a reality —  for the Red Sox:

1. The Red Sox already went down that road and have a baseline for what they are willing to give, and what it might take to finish the deal. Toronto general manager Alex Anthopolous said at the General Managers Meetings:  ”If it’s apples and apples and I get two deals that are exactly the same, certainly I would not prefer to trade within the division. But if I have a stronger deal within the division and it makes this club stronger, that would certainly be the one that I would want to lean to.”

That said, the Sox value Halladay enough that they might just be willing to give that “stronger deal” Anthopolous talked about. Of course, you have to start with some semblance of major-league value (which would presumably be Clay Buchholz, and/or Daniel Bard), and then dig deep into your farm system (see Casey Kelly). The Sox understand that, because if they didn’t they wouldn’t have gotten their feet in the door the first time around.

2. There is a willingness on the player’s part. Halladay has told the Blue Jays he isn’t inclined to sign an extension with the team, and has the preference of moving on. The Red Sox are on his list of teams to which he would accept a deal. When you have those two pieces in place, momentum can start be gained.

3. Halladay is a not only a short-term solution to competing with the Yankees, but (assuming a contract extension is part of any trade) covers the Red Sox beyond this season as well. The 32-year-old (who turns 33 next May) would presumably be the insurance for the Sox if they choose to part ways with Josh Beckett after next season. Beckett’s contract is up after ’10 and if there is no extension agreed upon before the hurler hits free agency, there is a very real possibility that some team swoops in and presents the kind of commitment the Sox aren’t willing to go to.

Interestingly enough, Halladay is the pitcher Beckett tries to emulate in regards to how he approaches the game, from mound presence to commitment in between starts. This is what Beckett told WEEI.com last July regarding Halladay: “I like to watch him pitch, although I don’t like to watch him pitch against us because he does so well against everybody. I just like the way he approaches his craft. Every one of his pitches are meant for him to swing at, get out and get to the next guy. As far as the mental aspect of the game goes, he’s so far ahead of everybody. That’s what I like to watch, his competitiveness, how he goes pitch to pitch. He does all the things we’re all striving to do. It’s just his craft, that’s what I like to watch.”

It is Halladay’s name who Sox strength and conditioning coach Dave Page consistently shouts at Beckett during the Sox’ pitcher’s workouts, insinuating that the Blue Jays’ hurler is outworking everybody else.

Beckett has become the leader of the staff by example, a role nobody knows better than Halladay. He is legendary in baseball circles in terms of the way he, as Beckett explained, “approaches his craft.” It is just another drawing card when it comes to the impetus behind eyeing the Toronto hurler.

4. Because of the circumstances previously mentioned, Halladay is seemingly more attainable than the other pitcher for whom the Sox might unload their farm system, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. The Mariners don’t have the kind of motivation to trade King Felix that the Jays have in regard to Halladay. And while the Toronto pitcher is appreciably older than Hernandez, the kind of production a team like the Red Sox would be looking for throughout any four- or five-year extension doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. Even with a lingering groin injury in the second half of ’09, Halladay still finished with 17 wins, a 2.79 ERA and 239 innings.

Since 2006, nobody has thrown more innings than Halladay (930 1/3), but interestingly enough he is ninth overall in terms of pitches thrown during that span (13,331). He is almost always economical with his pitches, not having averaged as many as 15 pitches per inning since 2004. (As a point of reference, Beckett has never been below 15.4 as a full-time major leaguer.)

5. If the Red Sox don’t get Halladay somebody else will, and that somebody might be the Yankees. And as damaging as losing out out on Mark Teixeira to New York was, the American League pendulum swing with any Halladay acquisition might be even greater.

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