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Halladay deal has hefty price

July 26, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN

Next time you go to Dodger Stadium, listen up for these two words: "presented by." You won't have to wait long.

As in: Matt Kemp bobblehead dolls, presented by Bank of America. As in: Bleacher Beach, presented by Bud Light.

We've got one too: Roy Halladay, presented by Manny Ramirez and Jason Schmidt.

Bear with us. What we're trying to find out is whether the Dodgers can afford Halladay.

General Manager Ned Colletti did a terrific job getting Ramirez, Casey Blake and Angel Berroa for free last summer. That's not about to happen with Halladay.

The Angels would love Halladay too, and they're not alone.

"We have no financial constraints," Angels owner Arte Moreno told us the other day.

Frank McCourt, the Dodgers' owner, would not discuss whether his team could afford Halladay. He directed us to speak with Dennis Mannion, the team president.

The Angels' attendance is up from last season, by less than 1% before the weekend. The Dodgers' attendance is down 2.3%, and Mannion said overall revenues also are down "within that range."

He wouldn't say whether the Dodgers could take on the $20.5 million owed to Halladay for the rest of this season and next season.

"Every general manager would probably want to know that," Mannion said.

Mannion, speaking generally, said the Dodgers' management team -- including himself, Colletti, McCourt, Chief Officer Jamie McCourt and chief financial officer Peter Wilhelm -- would work in "collaborative" fashion to determine whether the team could pick up a big salary.

"We have the ability to create the flexibility to do the things we need to do," Mannion said. "If something makes sense, we're in a position to find a way to make it work."

Halladay makes sense. If Colletti, with the input of assistants Kim Ng, Logan White and De Jon Watson and the Dodgers' scouts, says a trade makes baseball sense, there shouldn't be anything left to say except yes.

The Dodgers began the weekend with a 10-game lead in the race for a National League playoff berth. In the wild-card era, 22 teams were at least eight games up on a playoff spot as of Aug. 1, according to the research of Mark Rogoff of the Dodgers' public relations staff.

Only one of those 22 teams -- the 1995 Angels -- has failed to qualify for the playoffs.

The Dodgers say they won't trade Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley. We say they ought to swallow hard and consider trading Billingsley to the Toronto Blue Jays if needed to get the Halladay deal done.

If the Dodgers are in a pennant race, then including Billingsley in a package for Halladay does not address the very real issue of depth in the starting rotation.

But if the Dodgers are bound for October -- as history suggests -- then depth is not as much of a concern as lining up Halladay to face Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday during the playoffs in St. Louis, or Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in Philadelphia.

And Halladay would come with a contract that expires in 2010. McCourt loves short-term contracts, particularly for pitchers. What could be better than an elite pitcher on a 14-month contract?

An elite pitcher on a three-year contract is pretty good, and that's what the Dodgers thought they would get when they signed Schmidt.

Schmidt starts today, in the third year of that $47-million contract, in search of his third victory over the life of the contract. He sat out two years after shoulder surgery, and the Dodgers have sued the company that insured the contract.

The Dodgers have received $11.1 million from the insurance company already, with another $9.3 million under dispute, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

Let's say the Dodgers do not collect another dollar in insurance. Let's remember the Dodgers saved $7.7 million when Manny Ramirez forfeited 50 days of pay during his suspension for violating baseball's drug policy.

Granted, some of that money is deferred. But add the payments from the insurance company to the savings from the suspension, for a grand total of $18.8 million.

That all but covers the salary for Halladay, for this season and next. But that would presume all that money would be available for player salaries, and Mannion said that would not necessarily be true.

McCourt would re-invest that money in the Dodgers rather than pocket it, Mannion said.

"It could find itself in player development," Mannion said. "It could find itself in player acquisition. It could find itself in our medical and training systems. It could be re-invested in the development of more fan services."

There is no better fan service than presenting the World Series to your fans. There is no better way for the Dodgers to enhance their chances of bringing the World Series back to Dodger Stadium after 21 years than by trading for Halladay.

And they're playing with house money, with what are essentially the refunds from the times when Ramirez and Schmidt could not perform.

Never mind the bobblehead doll: Roy Halladay, presented live, by Manny Ramirez and Jason Schmidt.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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