- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The man who could determine who wins the World Series this season doesn’t play for the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Boston Red Sox. He doesn’t lead either league in home runs, RBI, batting average or OPS.

He doesn’t even play for a winning team. Yet.

Roy Halladay could be the single most important player in the majors right now. If the Toronto Blue Jays ace is dealt before the July 31 trade deadline, he’ll instantly turn a borderline contender into guaranteed playoff material or a first-place club into a pennant favorite.

That’s how much difference the 32-year-old right-hander (11-3 with a 2.73 ERA for the Blue Jays) could make.

So how come every potentially interested team is so skeptical about acquiring him?

The blockbuster July 31 deal seems to have become passe for general managers who are hesitant to give up two or three top prospects in exchange for a rent-a-veteran. Their logic makes sense: You can’t win over the long term if you deal away all your top young talent.

But consider the debate this way instead: Would you rather have a great chance to win the World Series this season or have an outside chance at winning multiple Series down the road? There’s something to be said for taking your best crack at it right now, especially for ballclubs that have been trying to get over the hump for a while now.

Last year again showed big summer acquisitions usually make a big difference on a team’s fortunes. There were arguably seven major trades made last July:

1. CC Sabathia to the Brewers.

2. Rich Harden to the Cubs.

3. Joe Blanton to the Phillies.

4. Mark Teixeira to the Angels.

5. Ivan Rodriguez to the Yankees.

6. Ken Griffey Jr. to the White Sox.

7. Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers and Jason Bay to the Red Sox.

What do those deals have in common? With the exception of Rodriguez, all those traded players helped their new clubs reach the postseason. Sure, Griffey didn’t exactly set the world ablaze in Chicago. And Blanton amounted to a No. 4 starter for Philadelphia. But they did contribute, and they did get to play in October.

And in the cases of Ramirez, Bay, Sabathia, Teixeira and Harden, they really made a difference in their team’s fortunes.

Would the Dodgers have made the NLCS without Manny and his otherworldly 1.232 OPS? Would the Brewers have won the NL Central without Sabathia and his 11-2 record? Would the Red Sox have come within a game of the World Series without Bay and his 37 RBI (and lack of Manny drama)? Would the Cubs have held on without Harden and his 1.77 ERA down the stretch?

With as much parity as there is in the game right now, one big midseason acquisition can be the difference between a champagne clubhouse celebration and an October spent fishing or playing golf. And when a pitcher the likes of Halladay - possibly baseball’s best hurler of the last eight seasons even though he doesn’t get much attention for it - becomes available, GMs need to drop everything and make a run at him.

You mean to say Halladay wouldn’t turn the Phillies from shaky contenders into repeat favorites? That he wouldn’t do for the Brewers what Sabathia did last year? That he wouldn’t give the Rangers instant credibility?

GMs can talk all they want about protecting their top prospects and not mortgaging the future. It sounds like the right thing to say, and fans tend to agree with that line of thinking.

Until those same fans see someone else’s team dog-piling at the pitcher’s mound come late October.

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