Bill Conlin: Phillies should make prospect Taylor untouchable

Phillies are interested in Roy Halladay.
Phillies are interested in Roy Halladay.
Posted: July 09, 2009

ROY HALLADAY.

Say it soft and it's almost like praying . . .

Roy Halladay.

Say it loud and it's almost like champagne-spraying . . .

All Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi needed to say the other day was "Roy . . . "

The knee-jerk reaction went off like a 21-gun salute. The contenders in six pitching-starved division races went into full squadron scramble. Media seamheads were working the phones faster than the Royal Air Force once reacted to Focke-Wulf squadrons over the English Channel.

Ricciardi didn't say a lot. But his few sentences resulted in overflowing mailboxes and overloaded sports-talk-show phone queues.

A baseball exec who is one unsheathed sword from being prodded onto a plank over a tank filled with hungry crocodiles, Ricciardi is about as popular in Toronto as a heat wave during the winter carnival. The immediate reaction to J.P.'s admission that the Blue Jays might run Halladay's possible availability at some indeterminate time up their recently pennantless flagpole to see who salutes goes something like this: (A background of tinkling Molson and Labatt's bottles would be appropriate.)

"If this guy even considers trading Halladay, he should be fired on the spot . . . "

But Ken Rosenthal, CEO of the Fox/Comcast Department of Things Guaranteed to Happen (Providing You Throw Enough Rumors Against the Wall) gave the Ricciardi trial balloon Hindenburg status. All but a done deal. If not sooner, then later.

The humanity . . .

Despite the $15.75 million his Blue Jays contract calls for next season - the final year on his current deal - this year's CC Sabathia could be the best pitcher on the block since Tom Seaver forced his trade from the Mets to the Reds at the 1977 deadline.

Whether signing a one-plus season lease or investing in an $80 million or so long-term deal for a pitcher who is 32, the here and now aspects are certain to seduce some GM who feels he is an ace away from a late-October parade.

The Phillies are said by many to have been inquiring about Halladay for several seasons. That makes sense because it is no secret that Pat Gillick, architect of the Blue Jays' two World Series titles and one here, has insider's knowledge of the organization he built to greatness. He enjoys returning to crime scenes, snipping the yellow tape and making off with a Jayson Werth or Greg Dobbs. And may the almighty forgive Pat for also making off with Freddy Garcia and Rod Barajas.

Halladay has reeled off a 141-68 record in 12 seasons, including a Cy Young Award, two seasons with 20-plus victories and a trip to next Tuesday's All-Star Game with a 10-2 record.

The righthander is every inch an ace. And his anvil-heavy sinker - he has a current 164-78 groundout to flyout ratio - would thrive in a ballpark that punishes fly-ball pitchers.

If Ruben Amaro can elbow his way through the GMs scrimmaging around the Halladay table and come away with what will be the prize of the midsummer swapfest, more power to him. Just as long as that power is not represented by the 6-6, 250-pound frame of Reading Phillies five-tool outfielder Michael Taylor, I say go for it. But I fear the deep-thinking committeemen who participate on Phillies decisions of great pith and moment will place more value on the rebuilt right elbow of righthander Kyle Drabek. They will establish equal untouchability for Dom Brown, a long, lean, swift and very raw outfielder currently on the DL in Clearwater.

My hope is that the Blue Jays, who have a potent current outfield and some prime outfield prospects at Triple and Double A, will lean more toward middle infielders, catching and pitching depth. Or can be overwhelmed by a Red Sox package that includes perennial pitching prospect Taylor Buchholz. That Taylor they can have. This is, after all, an economic decision by a GM who has strapped the Blue Jays with future expenditures that will include $140 million owed to outfielders Jose Rios and Vernon Wells. But it's not unreasonable to foresee either or both of those stars being moved for the prearbitration savings a Michael Taylor could represent.

Taylor had his deep tool kit on display Tuesday night in Akron. He raised his average to .345 by going 3-for-4 with two doubles. Two RBI left him with 64. What had the scouts buzzing, however, were three stolen bases by the smooth Stanford man, raising the bag of bags for Reading's No. 3 hole hitter to 17 in 21 attempts.

Later in the night, I got an e-mail from a major league scout who has been tracking prospects for 30 years. I won't name him or his organization for obvious reasons. But I will share his assessment of Taylor and his reaction to the outfielder being snubbed by the Futures Game next week.

Bill - After scouting Taylor this year I would have to completely agree that this kid has all the tools/by far the best minor lge position player I have seen all year/I am not one to get involved with this type of debate or making comments/ however, in this case, I feel very strongly about both his ability and performance this year. He has done it all for me, hit, hit for power, run well for a big guy and displays a plus throwing arm with accuracy, instincts, intangibles, etc, etc/he has made tremendous strides from last year and, simply put, is fun to watch play. It is scary to think that there are that many more qualified minor lge players with equal or better ability/I rest my case!!!!

My sentiments, exactly. I went to bed after the game last night hoping the nightmare does not recur, that I will not see the smiling faces of GM John Quinn and manager Gene Mauch gloating once again over how they stole veteran righthanders Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl from the Cubs for first baseman John Herrnstein, outfielder Adolfo Phillips and a lightly used young relief pitcher named Ferguson Jenkins.

The horror . . . The horror . . . Still, after all these years. *

Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/conlin.

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