I do not want the Mets in on the Roy Halladay derby. Not at all. Not unless the price in prospects is very low.
Because it makes NO sense to trade many promising prospects for the privilege of paying someone his market free agency rate.
Why would we trade a boatload of pre-arbitration prospects (read: minimum salary) for Halladay, and THEN pay Halladay a ton of money, when there are free agents available elsewhere?
I understand that John Lackey is not as good as Roy Halladay. But tell me which one of these scenarios you would rather have:
Mets Get: Roy Halladay
Mets Give: $23 million dollars per year in salary to Halladay and four top prospects to the Blue Jays -- let's say Fernando Martinez, Jennry Mejia, Jonathon Niese, and Brad Holt.
Mets Get: John Lackey, Randy Wolf
Mets Give: $25 million dollars per year in salary and no prospects.
Many, many writers much smarter than me have tackled the issue of putting a dollar value on the benefit of having young, home grown prospects who are not yet eligible for arbitration or free agency. By trading them away just for the right to pay Halladay an exorbitant amount of money would be a mistake.
I'll take one useful almost-star player as an example. His first four seasons in the show, Ian Kinsler was worth:
2006: $3.5 million
2007: $7.1 million
2008: $19.1 million
2009: $20.8 million
That's over $50 million dollars of value from a player who made only a couple million dollars in salary.
Josh Willingham, not a star, has been worth $41 million so far in his career and only earned over a million dollars this season.
Even Mike Pelfrey, who basically stinks, has been worth $23 million to the Mets and has only been paid a couple million dollars. Even this season, pitching to a 5.03 ERA, he was worth $7 million dollars.
Jon Niese was even valuable this season! He pitched only 28 innings, but they were good. He was worth $2.7 million.
Of course, Roy Halladay is excellent. He is amazing. I would LOVE IT if the Mets could sign him as a free agent. But they can't right now. For reference, the incredible Halladay has been worth $20, $23, $30, and $33 million dollars over the past few years. Paying him a humongous salary of over $20 million a year is definitely a defensible move.
However, when considering his acquisition, you have to consider the dollar value of what we are trading away. By trading young, cost-controlled prospects to acquire him, we are costing ourselves tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to what we'd pay Halladay.
Footnote: I'm not advocating the position that trading prospects for an ace is always a bad idea. Sometimes you need to make an in-season acquisition (see Sabathia and the Brewers in 2008. Sometimes you have the chance to make an extraordinarily good deal (see Santana to the Mets). Sometimes you are one player away -- and flags fly forever, baby.
But now is not one of those times. The Santana deal was great for the Mets because they were able to steal Santana away for prospects whose futures were unclear. For the record, Carlos Gomez has been worth $14.6 million dollars to the Twins while earning less than a million. But that was a perfect storm. Right now, I fear the asking cost for Halladay is too high -- and he is not as good a pitcher now as Santana was when we acquired him.