Phillies close to finalizing deal for Halladay

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Would you trade a man who pitched your team to a division title with a sparkling second half, produced one of the most dominant postseasons of any pitcher in history -- and still has another year left on his contract at a relative bargain of a price? If you are Ruben Amaro, general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, it appears you would.

In what would be one of the boldest moves in recent baseball history, the Phillies reportedly were close Monday to finalizing a three-way trade -- or possibly two separate trades -- that would send lefty Cliff Lee, the hero of their 2009 NL pennant-winning campaign, to the Seattle Mariners and bring in ace right-hander Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays, who have been shopping Halladay all winter, are expected to get mostly prospects in the deal.

The blockbuster deal, first reported by SI.com, highlighted the wildest day of dealings yet in baseball's Hot Stove League, which also saw the Boston Red Sox reportedly reaching a preliminary agreement with right-hander John Lackey, the top free agent pitcher on the market, and the Los Angeles Angels reportedly reaching a preliminary agreement on a one-year deal with designated hitter and reigning World Series MVP Hideki Matsui.

Why would the Phillies willingly part with Lee, who went 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA for them after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Cleveland Indians, then capped it with a near-perfect (4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts) performance in the postseason -- including the Phillies' only two wins in their six-game World Series loss to the Yankees?

Because Halladay has been a better pitcher for a longer time, because the Phillies coveted him last summer (but refused to part with the young pitchers the Blue Jays asked for) -- and especially because Halladay, who like Lee is entering the final year of his contract, was willing to sign a long-term contract extension with the Phillies, while Lee appeared determined to test the free agent market next winter.

The Phillies would do well with their ace-for-ace swap, and the Mariners, with the addition of Lee, would take another step toward ending the Angels' reign in the AL West. (Last week, the Mariners stole away the Angels' third baseman and leadoff man, Chone Figgins.)

But the day's biggest winner may have been the Red Sox. The impending Lackey deal, for a contract reportedly valued at about $88 million over five years, would give them a starting rotation (Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka/Tim Wakefield, not necessarily in that order) as deep and potent as any in the game. Boston reportedly also reached a tentative agreement on a two-year contract with outfielder Mike Cameron.

More significantly, the Red Sox apparently don't have to worry about Halladay landing with the hated Yankees, who many in the industry believed would wind up with him. In fact, they would get him out of their league entirely, a victory if ever there were one.


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