Halladay back from injury for 2012, but will he be back in 2014?

Dude! What are my innings pitched so far? Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Let me join the chorus of people welcoming back Le Roi, king of pitchers. The Phillies, without Halladay, have gone 15 - 27 in his absence. Halladay isn't responsible for his injury or the team's struggles, but it is obvious that the Phillies could have benefitted from a healthy Roy Halladay during that stretch. No, really.

It remains to be seen what his velocity and movement will look like after the layoff. He will be pitch count-limited, likely limiting him to a 4 or 5 inning outing. There's no sense in rushing him back from the injury, especially with the Phillies mired in last place in the NL East and miles away from even wildcard contention.

With that out of the way, Halladay's return from the injury isn't the only thing that should be on the minds of Phillies fans when he faces the Dodgers Tuesday in Los Angeles. There is also the question of whether he will return in 2014. The Phillies, and all of baseball, are watching the Cole Hamels "sign or trade or trade and sign later" drama. But another pitcher may be on the move, not this season, but later.

Roy Halladay's contract with the Phillies is for an incredibly team-favorable $20 million dollars per year through 2013. There is a vesting option for 2014 at the same rate if Halladay pitches a combined 415 innings in 2012 and 2013. So what?

Halladay has pitched 72.1 innings in 2012 so far. If he makes 12 more starts by the end of the year at 6 innings per start, he'll be at about 144 innings on the year. Halladay is usually expected to make it through more than 6 innings per start, but it is reasonable to expect the Phillies to be cautious with his innings at first as he comes back to full strength. Maybe 6 innings per start is low, but even bumping it to an average of 7 doesn't change the math much.

Halladay, if he averages 6 innings per start for the balance of 2012 (and remains healthy and active the whole time, making all his starts) will need to pitch 271 innings in 2013 to make the option vest. He has never pitched more than 266 innings in a year. He has only touched 250 innings once since 2003, and that was in 2010 - his first season in Philadelphia. I am going to go out on a limb and tell you Roy Halladay isn't pitching 271 innings in 2013.

Will Halladay (or the Phillies) ignore that and simply continue the relationship by agreement, or will one (or the other) decide to pull the plug on the relationship? Per a Matt Gelb article on this earlier this year, there is no team or player option if the vesting provisions are not triggered. A 36 year old Halladay may figure that he can make more than $20 milllion a year and leave town. Especially if the Phillies are rebuilding, rather than retooling. It is hard to imagine him staying if the option doesn't vest and if the Phillies aren't solidly in contention.

One of the reasons Halladay came to town was to win a title. He hasn't and there isn't any reason to believe that his goals have changed. Being a hired gun for a team in contention in 2014 may be much more interesting to him (and lucrative) than sticking in Philadelphia for $20 million playing for a team that is a few years away.

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