Roy Halladay began the year battling diminished velocity and has struggled to pitch at a Halladay-esque level on a consistent basis. On Sunday, he left his start after just two innings, and after being evaluated today, the Phillies placed him on the disabled list with a strained latissimus dorsi muscle.
On the one hand, at least it’s not an elbow or shoulder injury that sidelines him for the entire season. On the other hand, the Phillies just lost their ace for the next couple of months, and were already attempting to dig themselves out of a four game deficit in the NL East. Losing Halladay for two months is a significant blow, as he’s been a steady +6 to +8 win pitcher over the last six years. In reality, replacing Halladay with anything close to a replacement level arm will cost the Phillies about a win per month, and if the injury lingers and effects him even after his return, it could be as much as a +3 win swing off their expected win total.
This doesn’t doom the Phillies chances, and they shouldn’t overreact to this news by throwing in the towel on the 2012 season, but their playoff odds just took a very real hit today. This was already a flawed team that needed to make a couple of upgrades in order to put on a strong finish in the second half, and now they’re going to be without their best player until after the All-Star break. The eventual return of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will help, but the Phillies are going to need more help than that now, especially with Vance Worley battling arm problems of his own. The Phillies are too good to punt the season, but they need another starting pitcher, and they need another starter sooner than later.
The teams that are likely to be sellers in the near future include Minnesota, Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, Kansas City, and Colorado. The Padres, Twins, Rockies, and Royals have their own pitching issues, and probably don’t have anyone who would appeal to the Phillies as a trade target. The Cubs could certainly dangle Ryan Dempster, but might prefer to wait for the trade deadline to market a guy who will probably be the best arm to switch teams this summer. That might leave the Mariners, who have a bevy of pitching prospects on the way and could part with a low-cost veteran like Kevin Millwood or ship Jason Vargas off if they wanted a more significant prospect in return. Given Halladay’s expected summer return, a guy like Millwood might make more sense, as he’d provide some rotation insurance without costing them any kind of top prospect to bring him aboard.
Whether it’s Millwood or some other type of emergency fill-in, I’d imagine the Phillies are already making phone calls to try and find another arm to help keep the rotation stabilized. It’s the strength of the Phillies team, and it just took a big blow.