Well, you probably know by now that the three-way Roy Halladay-Cliff Lee-prospects-galore deal is utterly unique. It has never happened before that two Cy Young Award winners were in the same trade. When you throw in the odd fact that the SON of a Cy Young Award winner -- Kyle Drabek, son of 1990 Cy Young winner Doug Drabek -- was also part of the deal (according to sources), well, it's really quite a remarkable thing. This is finally the chance for headline writers to go with that that Cy-Onara headline they've been waiting forever to use.*
*Or in the case of the Toronto Blue Jays: "Cy-Onide."
Before getting into the ramifications of the deal, it might be worth pointing out that now four of the last seven Cy Young winners have been traded.
2008 NL: Cliff LeeTraded from Cleveland to Philadelphia, and again from Philadelphia to Seattle.
2007 AL: C.C. SabathiaTraded from Cleveland to Milwaukee. Signed with New York Yankees for record deal.
2007 NL: Jake PeavyTraded from San Diego to the Chicago White Sox.
2006 AL: Johan SantanaTraded by Minnesota and signed with New York Mets for huge deal.
The only Cy Young winners since 2006 who are still with their teams are 2009 winners Zack Greinke* and Tim Lincecum and the 2006 NL winner, Arizona's Brandon Webb, who made just one start in 2009 because of injury. I don't know what this means except that great pitching is extremely expensive... money played the dominant role in the movement of all four of the above Cy Young pitchers. Lee was traded from Cleveland because of money, and then from Philadelphia apparently because he was not willing to give the Phillies a discount on a long-term deal. Sabathia was traded from Cleveland because of money, and then he signed the mega-Yankees deal. Peavy was traded from San Diego because of money -- the Padres had tried to deal him earlier. Santana was traded by the Twins because of money.
You can throw 2003 AL Cy Young winner Halladay and the 2002 AL Cy Young winner, Barry Zito, into the conversation.
*Another thing worth mentioning: Zack Greinke signed a four-year $38 million extension with the Kansas City Royals before the 2009 season. That will keep him from being a free agent after the 2010 season -- the Royals have him under control through the 2012 season, when he will make $13.5 million per year. But, seriously, how much money could Greinke have made on the open market after his ridiculously great 2009 season? If you assume that Greinke will have a good season in 2010 -- and I think that's a fair assumption -- he would have hit the open market as a 26-year-old pitcher with incredible stuff who had one of the more remarkable pitching seasons in memory.
It sounds off-key to spend a lot of time celebrating a player who did, after all, sign for $38 million. But Greinke left tens of millions of dollars on the table in order to stay with the team that stuck with him through hard times.
Of course, money infiltrates every part of baseball -- every part of sports. But this is especially true for the Cy Young winners. Great pitching is SO expensive.
But here's the other thing that goes along with it: Great pitching is so difficult for a starter to sustain. If you had wanted to pick the best young pitchers in baseball (young being, say, 28 and younger) after the 2003 season, the list might have looked something like this:
1. Roy Halladay, 26, Cy Young winner, led league in eight categories in 2003.
2. Barry Zito, 25, Cy Young winner in '02.
3. Roy Oswalt, 26, 43-17 with 2.92 ERA through first three seasons.
4. Tim Hudson, 28, former 20-game winner, led league in shutouts in '03.
5. Mark Mulder, 26, 64-34, former 20-game winner, led league in complete games and, for the second time in three years, shutouts.
6. Mark Prior, 23, can't-miss pitcher won 18 games with 2.43 ERA, 245 strikeouts and 50 walks in '03.
7. Kerry Wood, 26, led league in strikeouts in '03.
8. Freddy Garcia, 28, 72-43 record and led league in ERA in 2001.
9. Javier Vazquez, 27, coming off spectacular year with 3.24 ERA and 241 Ks in 230 2/3 innings.
10. Joel Pineiro, 25, 37-20 with 3.38 ERA lifetime.
You can play around with the list if you like, but the point is... that's a real mixed bag up there. Zito has lived a soap opera, Hudson and Mulder have had injuries and inconsistencies (did you realize that Mulder has not won a big league game since June 15, 2006?). Prior and Wood are now part of the Cubs curse. Vazquez and Pineiro, in addition to sounding like 16th Century explorers, have been up and down and over and out.
There are a couple of pitchers on that list, though, who have been good pretty much every year. One is Oswalt, who won 20 games in 2004 and 2005 and led the league in ERA in 2006. The other, of course, is Halladay. What a remarkably consistent force Roy Halladay has been. Look, just look, at his last two years:
• He made 33 starts in 2008, 32 starts in 2009.
• His ERA was 2.78 in 2008, 2.79 in 2009.
• He threw nine complete games each year -- twice leading the league.
• He led the league both years in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
• His walk rates, strikeout rates and home run rates were almost identical.
This sort of consistency is really quite remarkable. He finished Top 5 in the Cy Young voting for four straight years.
Halladay is really like the starting pitcher version of Mariano Rivera -- he basically throws the same thing to everybody (93 mph fastballs that cut, or cutters that sink or sinkers that are fast) and he has eerily good control and hits his spot time after time. Hitters cannot hit the ball in the air against him. Halladay has learned how to strike out hitters, especially when he needs a big strikeout (his K-rate has jumped the last two years). He's a force of nature.
And so, sure, Philadelphia got the prize in the trade. Cliff Lee was ridiculously good in 2008 and really good in 2009... he and Felix Hernandez make a spectacular 1-2 punch. The Mariners look like contenders next year. The Blue Jays -- well, things are still sorting out on the prospects they will get, but it looks like they are getting a couple of good ones and can hope for things to turn out well. The Indians, after all, got young prospects Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips when they traded future Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon to Montreal in 2002. The hope is to get some of that prospect magic.
But the Phillies got the most consistent pitching force in the game... and it appears that they have signed him for three more years after this. The thing most people in the game say with pitching is: You never know. And it's true. Pitchers get hurt. They lose their confidence. They lose their stuff. You never know.
But with Halladay, you pretty much do know.