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December 8, 2009

Baseball Therapy

A Halladay Ultimatum

by Russell A. Carleton

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Flash forward a few weeks, in Toronto, on a sports-talk radio show.

"Today in a blockbuster deal, the Toronto Blue Jays have parted ways with former Cy Young Award-winner Roy Halladay, trading him to the (insert team name here) for a package of prospects including (insert names of blue-chippers here). Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous said that it was a sad day for the franchise to lose a pitcher who had been the heart and soul of the Blue Jays' pitching staff for several years, but acknowledged that the Jays would not be able to meet Halladay's asking price on the free agent market and that it was better for the team to trade him now.

"Now, we're getting your reaction to the deal and on the line with us is Ed from Scarborough. Go ahead, Ed."

"Yeah, I can't believe that the Jays traded away Halladay for nothing, man…"


Let's play a game. Someone puts ten dollars on the table. I will propose to you how we will split the money. After I do that, you have a decision to make. You can accept my proposal, in which case you walk away with whatever my proposal was, or you can decline my proposal and we both get nothing. Would you accept if I proposed an even split, five dollars for you, and five for me? Probably. Now, would you accept if I proposed that I take $9.95 and left you with a lousy nickel? Probably not.

Why not accept though? The choice, from your perspective, is between nothing at all and a free nickel. It makes no sense to do something that's clearly irrational to cling to some stubborn idea of fariness. But surprisingly, if you responded irrationally by rejecting my hypothetical offer of a nickel, you're not alone; in fact, you're in the majority. What I've recounted is a classic framework in game theory called the Ultimatum Game. It's been studied experimentally, and what's shocking is that people routinely turn down offers that would make them better off because they "aren't fair." The idea that justice must prevail is apparently worth more than free money, and it's very ingrained into the human mind-it doesn't feel right to do.

The baseball equivalent of this game is exactly what's about the play out with the Blue Jays. See, the Jays have this guy named Roy Halladay and he's on the trading block right now; perhaps you've heard of him. The question now is how to establish fair value in return for a Cy Young winner and undoubtedly, one of the premier starting pitchers in the game today.

Or is it? In some sense, Roy Halladay is worthless-at least to the Blue Jays. A sober look at the Blue Jays' roster suggests that the chances of making the 2010 playoffs are minimal, even with Roy toeing the rubber every fifth day. Trading Halladay certainly doesn't make things better, but there isn't much further down to go. If the Blue Jays don't trade him, he likely walks away at the end of the season, and the Blue Jays will get a first-round draft pick in the bottom half of the round in return. Considering that Halladay will likely go to a "big market" team who is constantly in contention, it will likely be deep in the first round. (Yes, they'll also get a sandwich pick. I'd personally go for roast beef.) It's hardly fair compensation for a player of Halladay's caliber.

It's not likely that the Blue Jays will get back equal present value in a trade either. CC Sabathia-for-Halladay makes for a great debate-starter, but those types of trades are the domain of fantasy baseball. Of course, the Jays wouldn't walk away completely empty-handed from any Halladay deal. They'll get a package of "prospects" in return, but prospects are a risky business because their value is three years in the future, and a lot can happen between now and 2012. Like the world ending.

Enter the realities of the market. Revenues are down for a lot of teams, but agents are still politely requesting salaries in line with those given out when times were better. Increasingly, teams are reluctant to part with blue-chip minor leaguers, for the simple reason that they are a cheap source of talent. This leads teams to place a premium of value on a player not just for his talent, but also because he is young. The Blue Jays may be offered second-tier prospects where they would prefer the top-line guys, because as nice as Halladay would be for the other team, he's not as nice as having two or three guys who will put up good numbers for the MLB minimum for a few years.

You could make a pretty good argument that Roy Halladay is worth two or three high-grade prospects in a perfect world, but what happens if potential trading partners don't offer them? Teams don't have to match the value of the player for whom they are trading. They need only to make the best offer among the other teams bidding and out-do the default option (the two compensatory Type-A picks). While the Blue Jays would do well to get two or three (or more) teams bidding against each other to get the value of the package up, that process only works when at least two of the teams are willing to bid high. If market forces clamp down that bidding process, the Blue Jays might be faced with a best offer that is better than two low first-round draft picks, but doesn't come close to equaling the value on the field that Roy Halladay brings, even after you factor in what the prospects might become in three years.

And so we have all the elements of the Ultimatum Game. In Halladay, the Jays functionally have nothing. Someone is willing to come along and give them an offer which will make them better off for saying yes than for saying no (and taking the two draft picks). The problem is that it's not an "equal" trade in terms of talent. Here's where Alex Anthopolous just can't win. If he's thinking rationally, then he has to say yes (assuming he doesn't think a better offer from another team is waiting). A team should say yes to any trade which makes them better off compared to the other options available. However, he's going to have to fight what appears to be a very normal human inclination to say, "That's not fair! No deal!" Even if he makes the deal, he's going to have guys like Ed from Scarborough angry at him for "not getting enough" or "getting nothing" for his star pitcher.

To say that the Roy Halladay situation is the first big test for the new Blue Jays regime is a little cliché. It is, but not for the reason you might think. It's shaping up to be a test of how Alex Anthopolous makes decisions. Does he make decisions based on rationality or on emotion? Deciding based on emotion feels better for you and makes the fans happier. Deciding rationally will make the team better in the long run, but will probably feel awful. How he makes that decision will say a lot about the new man running the show in Toronto.

Russell A. Carleton, the writer formerly known as 'Pizza Cutter,' is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus. He can be reached here.

Russell A. Carleton is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Russell's other articles. You can contact Russell by clicking here

53 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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The article presents a unique way of looking at the Blue Jay's dilemma. However, I feel you significantly under-value the two first round draft picks. Any package of talent received has to be worth more than two first round picks. Then you need to account for the revenue gained from Halladay pitched home games, which could increase if Halladay contends for the Cy. That's not nothing. Top that with the negative PR that would result from making what appears to be a bad trade (and thus cast a shadow on what might be the quite brief carreer of GM Anthopolous), and you can see what a difficult process this is. I respect the attempt to simplify the logic involved, but any decision made will be the result of countless factors.

Dec 08, 2009 09:43 AM
rating: 4

Part of the problem though is that the general public often overvalues the idea of "two first round picks", thinking that these are surefire awesome players the team will be getting (similarly to how people often equate 95% with 'always'). You're not getting a pair of top 10 draft picks. You're getting one in the back half of the first round and one in the Sandwich round. Given the bust-rate of draft picks, there's a LOT of risk there even compared to a pair of low-upside league-average players in AA/AAA that people would villify you for accepting.

Dec 08, 2009 10:00 AM
rating: 0
John Douglass

If Halladay contends for the Cy, I don't think the marginal revenues will be any kind of windfall. Especially compared to future potential revenue increases that could be gained with a better all-around team. The gate Halladay draws is not nothing, but it's not that much and it doesn't add a great deal of value to the franchise. He would only have, tops, 7-10 home starts after the All-Star break in his Cy run.

A pack of prospects that helps make the Blue Jays an 85-90 win team for a couple years in the early-to-mid-'10s would generate far greater attendance at the gates, increased season ticket revenues, and higher ad revenues that I think would outweigh any gains made by having Halladay pitch 17 or so home games this year. I doubt a lot of Toronto residents are paying for season tickets based on seeing just Roy Halladay.

Both competitively and keeping in mind the value of the franchise, dealing Halladay now seems to make nothing but sense for the Jays.

Dec 08, 2009 10:16 AM
rating: 2

In all honesty, the Jays would probably have been best off burning it to the ground two years ago and trading Halladay then (around the time CC Sabathia was traded) for a boatload of prospects.

When you play in the AL East, you don't have the luxury of building a very good team (as the Jays have done the past few years) but instead must construct the Best Team In Baseball since you're directly competing against 2-3 of the best teams in baseball just to get a chance at the playoffs.

Dec 08, 2009 09:53 AM
rating: 1
J Scott

OK, here's my eternal quibble with the line of reasoning presented here. As things stand now, if the Jays don't trade Halladay at any point this season, they'll likely get the 2 draft picks AND...AND...they'll have received the benefit of an additional year of service from one of the short handful of best pitchers in baseball. I don't know how to value that alongside the value of unnamed, presumably, high quality prospects but it's got to be worth SOMETHING, right? I mean, doesn't the value of having Roy Halladay on your team for the 2010 season have to be factored into this equation? Is there an obvious flaw in this reasoning? Tell me.

Dec 08, 2009 10:08 AM
rating: 6
Greg Ioannou

I was trying to figure out exactly how to express that idea. Yes, you get several tangible and intangible benefits. You one year of presumably great pitching. You get another year of him being a role model for some pretty talented but very green pitchers. You don't piss off the baseball fans in Scarborough. You presumably sell a few extra tickets, especially if AJ Burnett is the opposing pitcher.

Dec 08, 2009 10:16 AM
rating: 0

Minus the cost of paying Halladay for another year and the cost of signing the 2 draft picks. Prospects are more valuable than draft picks because they come already signed with their bonuses paid.

Dec 08, 2009 11:11 AM
rating: 3

There certainly is value having Halladay in your rotation for 2010, but NOT if you're the Blue Jays. If Halladay isn't traded, he probably accounts for about 7-10 wins that the Jays otherwise wouldn't get, which means their own first round pick will be that much lower. He must be traded, for whatever Anthopoulous can get. I think it's quite likely that he will get one very good, ready or near-ready prospect, likely at short or catcher, for Halladay, esp. if the pitcher signs an extension with the new team. But they won't get a package of a decent mid-rotation starter, 2 very good prospects, and one younger controllable MLB player as they seemed to want in the summer. As a long time Jays fan, and great fan of Halladay, I'd be happy with one bona fide prospect, and a savings of 15 million that could be used to further beef up scouting and minor league resources, buy a couple of cheap free agents to get us over the hump for the next couple of years, and sign ALL of our draftees.

Dec 08, 2009 13:23 PM
rating: 0

Thoroughly enjoyed the article, but must slightly disagree. I believe you're saying that even if the best offer the Jays get for halladay only puts them minimally better off than 2 low round compensation picks, they should take it because it's better than nothing. But it largely depends on the goals of the Blue Jays.

If they don't feel they'll be competitive for the playoffs with the prospects netted for halladay, then maybe their goal for the next few years is just to win as many games as possible. there is no reason to accept the trade then unless the prospects provide more wins than halladay will provide in 2010, which as you say, isn't likely going to happen.

There might also be an interest for a small interest team to devalue prospects and overvalue veterans. If the blue jays hang on to halladay and some contender misses the playoffs by a game or two, I'm sure the jays will gloat, "probably should have made a better offer for halladay, huh?" there is no tangible value in doing this, but may work to their advantage in the future, an aspect missing in the otherwise apt ultimatum game analogy.

This also only represents baseball interests. There are various economic interests that, while you may disagree with, are factors when running a baseball team. Sure the Jays might be better off getting something rather than nothing for halladay, but if that something discourages enough Ed's from Scarborough, then maybe it's not worth doing.

Dec 08, 2009 10:16 AM
rating: 3

Baseball is played to entertain fans over the course of a summer. Should fans of every team with a sober assessment that "the chances of making the 2010 playoffs are minimal" decide the games are not worth watching? At least one in five was last year in Toronto, playoffs or not.

Dec 08, 2009 10:20 AM
rating: 2
John Douglass

It's a fair assessment that one in five Toronto games was 'worth' watching, but ownership needs to consider not how BP readers assign that value, but how Toronto-area fans assign that value by how they behave in spending their money on tickets.

The following shows:

Day of Week/ Avg Home Attendance in Doc Starts/ Avg Home Attendance in Non-Doc Starts

Mon / 26,959 / 16,063
Tue / 31,302 / 19,009
Wed / 18,542 / 18,734
Thu / N/A / 20,436
Fri / 21,026 / 23,002
Sat / N/A / 26,126
Sun / 30,554 / 28,324

Note that Monday is skewed by Opening Day, which drew 48,000+ and was started by Doc. Take that out and his Monday average is 16,425. Tuesday, half of Doc's 4 home starts were vs. NYY. Otherwise, the #s are fairly flat. He doesn't draw as well as other starters on Wed and Fri, does a bit better on Sunday. He's not drawing a significant number of fans to the seats in Toronto, relative to what a more competitive overall club would in the near future.

What does draw fans to the Rogers Centre is competitive baseball. Home games with 35000+ in attendance:
8 total
4 started by Halladay/4 by other
1 Opening Day
3 vs. Red Sox
1 vs. Yankees
1 vs. Phillies
1 vs. Mariners
1 vs. a losing team (White Sox)

Note Halladay is no more or less likely to bring in a big crowd than are the Red Sox--in fact, as a % of total appearances in the Rogers Centre, Halladay is less a draw to the home fans than the Red Sox.

The other thing that draws the fans is a weekend afternoon. Outside Opening Day, those 8 games w/ 35,000+ in attendance were the first home game vs. the Yankees on a weeknight and six Saturday or Sunday 1pm starts.

Residents of Toronto will go to see competitive baseball. They did it to the tune of 4 million in home attendance three times in a row, dropped off following the strike the next year and never got their home fans back to the park by finishing above 3rd place only once in 15 years. If dealing Roy Hallady for prospects that will get you more competitive quickly is a possibility, you gotta do it.

Dec 09, 2009 10:19 AM
rating: 5

I'm a big fan of behavioral modeling and the Ultimatum Game in particular, but isn't the Blue Jays situation a little different than the Ultimatum Game due to the closed environment that MLB teams function in?

In the Ultimatum Game, I don't really care how much money my deal-proposing partner gets, because I know I'm going to win something. My partner getting more money than me never hurts me. In MLB, if the Blue Jays send Halladay away for a tiny prize, it might improve one of their competitors in the long-term.

While an "unfair" deal might benefit the Blue Jays even if it's tiny returns, it does make one of their competitors better, and especially an in-division trade might screw the Blue Jays down the road. If they get any offer from the NL, it might make sense to get Halladay as far away as possible, but I'm not sure if it's always best to unload him for anything no matter how small the best offer might be.

Dec 08, 2009 10:31 AM
rating: 4

However, given the deep hole the AL East puts them in, Roy Hallday is likely to be in decline by the time the Jays are well and truly ready to compete for the playoffs. He'll still be good, but he probably won't be Perennial Cy Young Contender Roy Halladay. If you're receiving the core of your future playoff contender in return for Halladay, that's a probably you're willing to deal with when you get there.

Dec 08, 2009 10:42 AM
rating: 0

I studied rational decision theory at university, and your description of the Ultimatum Game is accurate. Unfortunately, anyone who understands the Ultimatum Game immediately loses faith in humanity, because the way humans behave is fundamentally irrational.

Dec 08, 2009 10:44 AM
rating: 2

You lost faith in humanity because people hold some sense of fairness? One can argue that by not letting yourself accept an unfair deal is rational, because by punishing people for trying to offer what is perceived an unfair deal they reduce, a tiny amount, the chance they'll be cheated again. Also, there's the non-monetary benefit of knowing you screwed someone out of 9.95 since they only offered you .05.

Dec 08, 2009 11:43 AM
rating: 7
Dr. Dave

There's nothing irrational about rejecting an unequal offer in The Ultimatum Game, because it's not the only social interaction you or your partner will ever have. Everyone benefits in the long run if unfairness is punished. (Which is why we have evolved a separate area of our brains that processes questions of 'fairness' and 'cheating', distinct from where we do the cool logical calculation.)

Pretending that the one-time monetary outcomes of the game are the only outcomes is a mistake that probably not even Kenneth Arrow would make.

Dec 08, 2009 11:52 AM
rating: 6

Exactly. If this is the only move Alex Greek Last Name will ever make, then you can make a case that he should behave -- in this one shot scenario -- in the most rational way possible. But Alex GLN will have to deal with every other GM over the course of his presumably long and fruitful career, and he has every personal incentive to appear competent and capable in his Halladay negotiations, lest other GMs take him for 'that guy' at the poker table, who can get snowed by everyone else. It probably doesn't do him any good for his career if his first impression move is to take 5 cents on the dollar for game changing talent, even if other GMs understand the bind that he's in.

Dec 09, 2009 12:17 PM
rating: 0

Data shows that who starts has very little impact on how many people show up for the game. We've had that data for years and years now.

Giving up on a season, however. That certainly does affect how many season tickets you'll sell. Even granting that first paragraph, it probably makes financial sense to hang on to Halladay unless you do get full value for him. At least until the trading deadline, maybe then you take the best you can get for him.

Dec 08, 2009 10:51 AM
rating: 2

I agree. Let's also remember that Rogers owns both the radio and tv networks that carry the vast majority of the Jays' games and they need to sell advertising dollars there. A team in total rebuild mode who gets killed PR-wise for "giving their best player away for nothing" may have a hard time on the marketing side.

Dec 08, 2009 11:30 AM
rating: 1

Can't reply to posts, so this has got to go here. Why would acting in accord with 'fairness' rather than maximizing your utility cause you to lose faith in humanity? Not that I'm counseling you have all that much of it, mind you. Just strikes me as a pretty different perspective.

Dec 08, 2009 10:55 AM
rating: 1

The problem with the analysis is that it assumes the Jays have no ption, but they do -- they have the opportunity of playing the Ultimatum Game again at the July trading deadline.

The question to ask is, will the Jays get more trading Halliday now for a team that wants him for the whole year or will they be able to ignite a bidding war among contending teams -- like Cliff Lee or C.C. Sabathia -- during the year?

Dec 08, 2009 11:10 AM
rating: 0

This is not a one period Ultimatum Game, so the current line of reasoning ignores the option value of being able to add information (new offers) until the July trading deadline. This assumes that Anthopolous does not expect any potential future trading possibilities to be any better than the offers he receives in the current period, which might not be correct. An injury to a contender's ace during the season might change that team's valuation of Halladay, even as a partial-season rental (which would have to be a lower bound).

Dec 08, 2009 11:28 AM
rating: 0

Not only future periods with this particular case, but with other trades in the future. Anthopolous has to think of his reputation as well; if he acts rationally and accepts a lesser package than Halladay is worth, then prospective trading partners may attempt to low-ball their offers to the Blue Jays going forward, expecting him to make the rational decision.

Dec 08, 2009 11:31 AM
rating: 3

You also should include the new information that the other GM's have. As the season moves forward, GM's get a better idea about their own team's chances to make the playoffs and can feel more confident in adding that one player who pushes them over the top.

Dec 08, 2009 18:54 PM
rating: 0

In the ultimatum game as described, the Jays have no power. This is not a true model of the "game". For more accurate model imagine 29 people are handed $10. Each of the 29 people (offerers) make an offer to the one "decider". Each offerer can change their offer based on knowledge of other offers. The decider then picks one offer, and the rest of the money vanishes.

In this case, the decider should come out with a pretty sweet deal. Certainly, the decider will have more than 0.05. Even if the offerers were not allowed to change their offers, the decided will have a significant amount of power. Maybe more accurate models will contain offerers with varying amounts of money, but in most cases, the decider should come out with the lions share of surplus.

Dec 08, 2009 13:00 PM
rating: 3

In the Ultimatum game the arbiter of fairness is the single person tasked with dividing up the money. The rational response is to accept any offer that is in excess of your starting point, which is zero money.

In the Halladay example, fairness is arbitrated by a number of participants making offers, where the rational response is to accept the value-maximizing offer. To say that the Blue Jays should accept any offer because it is greater than zero assumes that the game is being played by the Blue Jays and one other team which, if Anthopolous is doing his job correctly, shouldn't be the case.

Dec 08, 2009 11:37 AM
rating: 1
Brian Oakchunas

I like the ultimatum game and I am of course familiar with how his extra wins won't translate to bucks for the Jays if they don't contend, but I think the picks are worth something; I think the PR hit on a bad trade would be substantial; and I think there is always a chance that the team ends up contending--maybe it's not likely but a lot of baseball is luck. Then you need those extra wins.

Beyond that, there are other concerns with taking "a nickel" for him. One is that the team is setting up a bad precedent for future deals, where other teams think you'll do bad business just to unload a player. Think about it this way: if the new administration already had a reputation for unloading just to do it, would they get good or bad offers for Halladay? Yes, the potential trade partners have to compete against one another, but you don't want to make it any easier for them.

Furthermore, there is some value to a game of chicken here. If you don't get a deal and you aren't in a rush to get whatever you can, you can wait until another team decides they want him bad enough to pay handsomely. Could be now, in March or at the trade deadline, but it is pretty senseless to take your nickel when you might get a couple of Franklins down the road.

Dec 08, 2009 11:50 AM
rating: 2

Hey BP, how about doing an article about just how badly the Blue Jays would be hurt in terms of season ticket sales, PR, etc., if they trade Halladay now? It would help inform this debate.

Dec 09, 2009 02:23 AM
rating: 0

This is a very good point. The Twins sure could have used Santana for the final year of his contract, as they were a competitive team, surprisngly.

Dec 09, 2009 12:22 PM
rating: 0
John Douglass

The Twins, though, to be fair, play in a division frequently decided by who folds in the last 10 days of the season, a division which is competitive mostly because of the top-to-bottom mediocrity of the teams that compose it. The Blue Jays have an entirely different reality to consider.

The Blue Jays have finished second once and never better in the NLE the last 16 seasons. And although that second place team was a pretty darn good one--good front end, lights-out closer, production in all the right places--second place was still a bit of an overachievement in a year that only four Boston players appeared in more than 130 games and only two of their starters were healthy enough to start more than 23 games.

Dec 09, 2009 13:59 PM
rating: 0
John Douglass

erm, "...in the ALE the last 16 seasons."

Dec 09, 2009 14:00 PM
rating: 0

ddrezner, Halladay came out and stated that he will not accept a trade during the season. The no-trade is big since it increases the possibility of fewer teams able to trade for Halladay.

Dec 08, 2009 12:04 PM
rating: 0

July, 2010: "Roy, there's a contending team that keeps calling to see if they can use your services to help get them into the playoffs during the stretch drive. As you know, it's not looking like we'll get there this year. You want to phone it in the rest of the season with us? Or, are you interested in this chance for post-season glory, which in turn can bring you some well-deserved high-profile attention going into your contract negotiations?"

Dec 08, 2009 12:49 PM
rating: 4

It is a bluff. It is to Halladay's advantage to minimize the Blue Jays' return and creating a sense of urgency may do that (like with Santana). If he started the year a Blue Jay and he had the opportunity to go to the Yankees at the all star break, I am sure he will accept.

Dec 08, 2009 12:52 PM
rating: 1

I'd even go back one step further...who has decided that "the chances of making the 2010 playoffs are minimal"? Let's go all the way back to 2009, where BP's staff correctly picked 3 of the 8 playoff teams, with the Rockies picked for 4th place in their own division. Or further back to 2008, where BP decides the Marlins have no chance to even pass the Nationals, and yet they fall just 5.5 games back of the wild card AFTER losing Miguel Cabrera (what was his WARP that year?) Even at mid-year, teams consistently surprise us with a late-year explosion (2007 Rockies) that prove demolishing a team in January based on some predictive model does nothing but de-moralize the fan base. Hell, assuming you have one year of Halladay, break the bank and give somebody a massively front-loaded contract to provide some offense with an opt-out clause after one year. The error margins on preseason predictions are so wide that making just one incorrect assumption can actually be the difference between success and failure. But throwing in the towel now is almost guaranteed failure.

Dec 08, 2009 12:37 PM
rating: 1

That's all very true. Mind you none of those scenarios occurred in the AL East, not that I agree with the author's premise.

Dec 08, 2009 12:41 PM
rating: 1

It's not an ultimatum game, it's an auction. It could only be an ultimatum game if there were two teams in MLB. Since their are multiple suitors, the offer the Jays are likely to accept should be based on the demand for Halladay which will almost certainly be above the level of the draft pick compensation.

Dec 08, 2009 12:42 PM
rating: 0
Russell A. Carleton

Thanks all so far for the comments. My 'reply to' button is also malfunctioning, so I'll have to do one big round-up here.

Several of you have brought up good points about other variables which will no doubt play into the Blue Jays' thought process. Of course, nothing in baseball is simple enough that it can fit into a few thousand words.

A couple people have brought up whether this is a true analog to the Ultimatum Game more properly. It's true that a year of Halladay and his compensatory draft picks aren't worthless, but there's probably a better offer out there. True, there are multiple teams (I assume) making offers, but eventually, they will all bid up to their highest point. One of them will be the best. That's when it becomes a two player game. What if that offer isn't "equal value" to Halladay? So long as it beats the two draft picks, then the Blue Jays should take it. The idea of taking things to the trading deadline is a rational idea, but eventually, you have to make a decision. It's possible that you get a better deal in July, but at that point, you might still find yourself not getting equal value.

I think some people misunderstand here. It's not that the Jays should take the first offer that comes along that's better than the two draft picks. They should build a market, encourage teams to bid up, etc. When everyone says "... and that really is my final offer" they should take that one.

The other issue is whether there is some value in not cooperating, whether in the form of "hey you know you screwed the other guy over" (which, added to $3.00, will get you a cup of coffee), or whether building a reputation for further trades is worth it. (Something like: "Anthopolous is soft and will take less than full value.") I don't think that holds up in this case for a couple reasons. One, Halladay is a major stakes game. How often do you trade a guy like him? You need to make sure that you get something for him. If that means you get a little less when you trade some random middle infielder next year, so be it. Second, I don't know that it really is "giving in" here as much as bowing to the reality of the situation. Structurally, the Jays are screwed. They have no leverage other than "make a better offer or we'll send him to Team B," but even that has its upper limit. When they make another deal where they have some leverage, they can hold out all they want. They can spin this one (correctly) as "what were our other options?"

Yes, the fans are going to be mad. Trading Halladay is an admission that the Jays don't think they have a chance for the next few years, and that's discouraging, because Americans... oh right... want a winner and want it now, and most of the time, you can only have one of those.

Dec 08, 2009 13:20 PM
rating: 0

You are wrong in saying that you can reduce the game down to two players.

Also, I think a very strong argument can be made that "screwing over" a person is in a teams best interest. The Red Sox losing Halladay to the Yankees or Rays is entirely different than losing him to the Pirates. The Red Sox's utility gained (or lost) from this trade is dependent on where Halladay goes. If the alternative is the Pirates, maybe Halladay is worth $10 to the Red Sox. If the alternative is the Yankees, he may be worth $12 (since, the Red Sox are less likely to make the playoffs if they don't win, dropping their expected revenue).

Dec 08, 2009 13:34 PM
rating: 0

Yes, the Jays should negotiate to get the most that they can in return. And, yes, the best offer may be one that includes the offerer's downside risk of losing Halladay to a direct competitor. But if it is the best offer when the haggling is done, then it is the best offer.

At the end of the day/week/month/trade-deadline/haggling, the Jays have a choice of accepting their best offer - yes or no. The best offer may still seem unfair, but 'no' means they get his services for the remainder of the season and nothing else.

Dec 08, 2009 13:44 PM
rating: 0

Yes... They have to choose the best of a collection of choices, and if they are all bad, they they have to make a bad choice. My argument is that it is unlikely that there will be no good choices.

Dec 08, 2009 14:17 PM
rating: 0

Yes, there may be doubt about which is the best offer, or whether the team "coulda done better." Mets/Twins Santana deal comes to mind.

Dec 08, 2009 14:26 PM
rating: 0
Russell A. Carleton

I think there is some merit to this argument, especially given that "that team from the Bronx" has been mentioned in connection with Halladay. Trade him there and you have to see him 5-6 times per year pitching against you. Maybe that plays into the calculations, especially since you hope to rebuild the Jays in 3-4 years and Halladay might still be in pinstripes at that point. However, I think that's just something that you build into the "cost" of the offer. Maybe the Yankees or Red Sox have to pay a premium because of the division issue, but to outright refuse to deal with them seems silly.

Dec 08, 2009 17:51 PM
rating: 0
J Scott

An additional complication is that Halladay, with his full no-trade, has it within his power to pretty much reduce it to a "one-suitor" negotiation. I think the no-trade complicates the Blue Jays' position a big bunch.

Dec 08, 2009 14:59 PM
rating: 0
Jeff Evans

It reminds me of the Santana deal from two years ago. I didn't like the trade at all back then. (Could some of these GMs accept just two better prospects in a trade than the four or so they think they need in total number of nobody-yets to justify these things). My argument at the time was that if you couldn't make a good and worthwhile trade, keep Santana for the last year and just take the draft picks. The Twins lost a tie-breaker in the 163rd game to the White Sox during the following season. We all just might know what sort of difference Johan may have made in that pennant race, don't we?
But the only very large difference in this year's conundrum concerning Halladay is the fact that if the Jays kept him for another season, they themselves speak as if they see no chance to contend whatsoever.

Dec 08, 2009 17:21 PM
rating: 0

The point here is the Jays will get nothing if they dont trade Halladay, but what is lost in that logic is, that when the Jays signed Halladay for 4 years, they would get 4 years of service from him. The fact they will not be in the playoff hunt in 2010, doesnt negate the fact he will make the Jays better than they would be if he didnt pitch for them. Someone will have to take the hill 34 times and log 250 innings for them. Why not Roy? In a sense he is bought and paid for...well they have to pay 16 mil to him, but when ARE the Jays going to be competitive? The Mets package for J.Santana wasnt a difference maker, nor was Montreal's pkg for P. Martinez. If your not going to get a 'goodd deal, why not let the player stay, and take the picks when he walks.

Dec 09, 2009 04:44 AM
rating: 0

I think by being willing to walk away from the trading table and allowing Halladay to become a free agent (or at least appearing to be willing), the Jays still hold some power over other clubs. Other clubs know what Halladay is worth, so in a sense it's the Ultimatum Game for other clubs as well. Do other clubs give up some top prospects and still come out ahead with Halladay, or do they try to screw Toronto and risk getting nothing out of the opportunity because they think Toronto should act rationally?

Dec 09, 2009 09:35 AM
rating: 0

Did the Jays win the deal to let Rios go to the Sox? If he returns to a near All-Star caliber CF, then they lose a bit, but there is just as good a chance he never reclaims his past flirtation with glory. I'm a Sox fan and am glad they have Rios. Was it fair the Jays got no one in return? They received relief from the contract and in that sense the reward was well worth the risk.

Why does a GM have to win each and every deal? They don't. I thought Ken Williams gave up too much for Peavy but as I read more about it the deal appears more solid. I wish the Jays would give up Wells to the Cubs or Sox too. The Cubs can give them Bradley for an almost even switch of bad recent memories. Please leave Rios in CF too.

Dec 09, 2009 20:54 PM
rating: 0

As a Dodgers fan, I just find it interesting that Chad Billingsley has to be in the discussion or there is no deal but all the rest of the teams "in the hunt" have their unproven prospects that they can march out there. Just stick with Halladay if you can't reach a deal for him say last year's trading deadline. He's breached his value point and no one is going to give poo for him because good young quality baseball players are worth more than hired guns and because I am censored for wanting to say shti

Dec 09, 2009 22:41 PM
rating: -1
Eric M. Van

There is a further complication or two that makes it even more challenging for Anthopolous and an even closer parallel to the Ultimatum Game.

There is a sound argument that he should do whatever he can to guarantee that Halladay does not end up with either the Red Sox or Yankees. His goal, after all, is to finish ahead of one of them sometime soon. He's only going to trade Halladay within the division if he gets overwhelmed relative to the value of the two picks, and it's unlikely that either the Sox or Yankees will make that kind of offer; they will both be content to let him go elsewhere, as they were with Santana.

That leaves the Phillies and Angels, and Halladay is very unlikely to sign an extension with the latter because he wants to play on the East Coast. In fact, he's stated that the Phillies are his ideal destination.

So it's basically the Phillies (who are reportedly trying to deal Blanton's last arb year to create salary space) or bust. Trading Halladay for Michael Taylor and Travis D'Arnaud would be a huge win -- you'd save Halladay's 2010 salary, save the signing bonuses on the two picks, improve your 2011 draft position, end up with two better players more quickly, and guarantee that Halladay does not pitch the next five years for a team you're trying to catch. (The Phillies would then let Cliff Lee walk a year from now and recover some of the value they gave up with those two draft picks.)

Getting two picks for Doc and having him sign with the Phillies would be clearly less desirable; getting just the two picks and having him sign with the Yankees or Sox would be a disaster.

Of course, as good as it is when examined rationally, this trade would give Ed from Scarborough an aneurysm.

Hell of a dilemma. But if I can explain the logic so succinctly here, why can't Anthopolpus explain it to Ed? (You'd leave out the "we're trying to get worse" part, of course.)

Dec 10, 2009 10:10 AM
rating: 2
John Douglass

While Ed exists, and will certainly be calling Toronto talk radio the day the deal is made, is it possible we are overestimating the concentration of Eds in the whole of Blue Jays fandom? Toronto fans have had a half a year of listening to Roy Halladay trade talks, intensely so around the trade deadline last season and during the offseason thus far, to adjust to the notion that Doc will be dealt for the sake of minimizing the damage done when he hits the free agency market in just under a year. Toronto fans aren't all knee-jerk dummies.

Dec 10, 2009 10:40 AM
rating: 0
Mr. Cthulhu

That's true, if they were there would be no more leafs fans (one can only dream...).

Dec 12, 2009 11:28 AM
rating: 0

Appreciated this and all the comments. Very thought-provoking.

When I saw the title of the article, I thought it was going to be about trading Halladay and Wells together to someone for nothing in return. Would getting out from under Wells's contract be worth more than a late first round pick and a sandwich pick?

Just found the following link when trying to find the remaining value of Wells's contract ($107 million), and I think I had seen the idea somewhere else too (maybe another BP column?):


Dec 12, 2009 17:05 PM
rating: 0
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