As the season winds down, there are a lot of questions that the Phillies need to answer, as it pertains to pending free agents and roster spots for next season. On Monday night, we spoke about Carlos Ruiz's value to the team in 2014, we'll do the same with Roy Halladay.
At the end of the 2011 season, if you would have asked if Halladay returning to the Phillies in 2014 was a sure thing, the answer would have likely resulted in a resounding “yes.” The Ace had just put together his second dominant season in as many years with the Phillies, where he had a 2.40 ERA and 8.2 K/9 in 484 innings of work. He was as good as anyone in the game, and there appeared to be no end in sight, so his vesting option for 2014 (based on innings pitched) was all but a formality.
But then, 2012 happened, and Halladay appeared – for the first time in over a decade – to be human. A series of injuries, perhaps brought on by too much wear and tear over the course of his career, had resulted in a suddenly ineffective Doc, who lost his stamina along with his velocity and pinpoint control.
Those struggles carried over into 2013, where he looked every bit like a nervous rookie, and not at all like the veteran pitcher who only two years earlier was at the top of his game. His struggles were explained, at least in part, to a shoulder injury that required mid-season surgery. That offered some explanation – and perhaps more consolation – to those wondering where the Ace had gone, but his return to the Phillies has, sadly, not offered the same comfort. Since returning near the end of August, Halladay has a 4.55 ERA in 27.2 innings over six starts, including an outing on Monday night, where he faced all of three batters due to arm fatigue. In the same city where he was perfect in 2010, Halladay potentially threw the last pitch of his career.
I say “potentially” of course, because no one really knows if Doc is hanging up the cleats after a Hall of Fame career of 16 years. If his last two seasons are any indication, then it appears that he is cooked, but allowing for recovery time from shoulder surgery, it's possible that Halladay might still have something in the tank.
The question, then, is whether or not the Phillies want to bring the 36-year-old starter back for another season. If healthy, then he's certainly a valuable asset, but that's also a very big “if.” There is no telling whether or not he can rebound from this season, or if he will be able to provide quality innings in 2014. He's at times looked indestructible during his career, but it very well may be the end of his career.
If his option would have kicked in, he'd have been owed $20 million in 2014. Thanks to his injuries and the fact that he barely broke 200 innings between this and last season, Halladay will become a free agent at the end of the season. And as a result, will cost far, far less than the salary he would have earned had he been healthy.
Aside from Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, the 2014 rotation still has plenty of questions. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is pretty much guaranteed a spot, leaving the final two spots for some combination of Kyle Kendrick (if he is re-signed), Tyler Cloyd, Jonathan Pettibone, and whatever free agent arms they can add to the roster. A healthy Halladay will go a long way in solidifying the pitching staff, but his performance cannot be guaranteed, and you have to wonder if he is even worth considering, even at a discounted rate.
If it sounds bleak, that's because it is. The truth is that Halladay, who was once as reliable as anyone, can no longer be counted upon. While I suspect most fans would be open to the notion of bringing him back, the honest truth is that it just might not be worth it.