Rich Hofmann: Phillies should start building for next year, starting with acquiring Halladay

Posted: November 06, 2009

AFTER THE STING wears off and everybody gets a couple of nights' sleep, the quiet pride in the accomplishment of making it to a second consecutive World Series will envelop Phillies' general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., and all of them. They should be given some time to enjoy it, too - especially the general manager who is just finishing his first season. Because it was Amaro who brought Raul Ibanez here and it was Amaro who brought Cliff Lee here. They were huge moves, winning moves, and the general manager deserves an opportunity to bask in the whole thing for a good little while.

OK, time's up.

What to do to this roster for the 2010 season is the subject that will consume Phillies fans for the next 3 months - and you can spin it any number of ways. Retooling the bullpen is an annual adventure for most teams and it is for this team. Fortifying the bench, especially with a reliable righthanded bat and possibly with somebody whom manager Charlie Manuel can trust enough to give middle infielders Jimmy Rollins and especially Chase Utley an occasional rest, is also a priority.

But if you watched this World Series . . . if you watched this streaky Phillies lineup go cold against the Yankees . . . if you watched it and weighted it all, it is not hard to come up with a different priority list.

And so, you wonder if it isn't time to reopen the Roy Halladay conversation.

We all remember how it went down in July. Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi very publicly shopped Halladay, his ace, whose contract expires after the 2010 season and who wants to win a championship, something likely to elude the Blue Jays for a while. Halladay turned into a municipal obsession in Philadelphia, but Amaro would not part with the wagon-load of talent that Ricciardi demanded. Instead, he made the Cliff Lee deal and was celebrated as hitting the perfect balance between present and future, fortifying his team without gutting his farm system.

A couple of things have happened since then. First, Ricciardi has been fired, replaced by Alex Anthopoulos. Second, the Phillies have just lost a World Series because the other team revealed itself to have the better pitching.

It all just makes you wonder. Could Halladay be on their radar again?

Nobody is saying for sure that the Blue Jays are going to trade him this winter, and reports have indicated that Anthopoulos will be a little less public with his moves than Ricciardi was, but it just makes too much sense. Teams have time now to think it through and arrange their finances to make a deal. And as for the Jays, well, they cannot afford to risk losing Halladay for nothing but compensatory draft choices after his contract expires.

"My gut is that I think 'Doc' wants to be on a winning team," Toronto manager Cito Gaston told MLB.com. "He's probably sitting there looking at A.J. [Burnett] out there pitching [for the Yankees in the World Series], knowing that that's where he'd like to be. It's not about money with Doc. It's about him being on a winning team.

"I can't speak for Doc, but my gut feeling is if he's here next year with us, then he'll probably leave after next year. Hopefully, if that's the case, then we can get something for him before he leaves."

But why the Phillies? Don't they have other needs?

Yes, they do. At the same time, though, this World Series really shined a light on what we already knew: that their potent offense is also a streaky offense and probably always will be. It is just the nature of their personnel. Amaro worked to take some strikeouts out of the lineup and smooth out the ups-and-down when he signed Ibanez to replace Pat Burrell last winter. He could maybe try something similar this year if he decides not to keep third baseman Pedro Feliz.

But there is only so much he can do with that as long as the core hitters remain the same. Which turns you back to fortifying the starting pitching instead.

Same time, next year, this could be the Phillies' playoff rotation: Lee, Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton. You have to ask yourself if that will be good enough, especially given Hamels' current status as a wild card. Even if Hamels is better than he was in 2009, will he be all the way back? And as for Happ, his 2009 season was a great summer revelation - but one of the hardest things in the sport is for a young pitcher to duplicate his first successful season.

And so you wonder. Why not Halladay?

Maybe the new Toronto general manager values the Phillies' prospects differently. Maybe the imperatives within the Phillies' organization have changed, too. Maybe the sting of getting close and losing is worse than they imagined. I don't know. But if you asked what was the one single move the Phillies could make that would give them the best chance of beating the Yankees, that's it.

Send e-mail to

hofmanr@phillynews.com,

or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at

http://go.philly.com/theidlerich.

For recent columns go to

http://go.philly.com/hofmann.

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