THE DEAL is in place, the papers signed. The nine-player, four-team Roy Halladay trade likely will be announced officially some time today. The soon-to-be former Toronto ace has negotiated what is essentially his first and only free-agent contract but a year early, thanks to the Jays and the Office of the Commissioner that allowed the Phillies a 72-hour window of opportunity. The Phils took advantage, flying Doc and agent Greg Landry to Philadelphia, and they got it done.

Halladay deserved the consideration shown him by the Jays in allowing the face of the franchise to call all the shots. Sure, it cost them some final value in trade, what with their list of trade partners limited by a no-trade clause and the clock to a spring-training deadline ticking. He can earn more than $95 million for the next five seasons, given good health and a vesting fifth season based on innings.

The stoic Halladay will be smiling this morning. Halladay has landed with a team that can win it all and whose spring-training home base is just 10 minutes from his front door in Florida.

The Phils and Mariners (Cliff Lee) each get a former Cy Young Award winner for the present, while the Jays get the son of a former Cy Young winner. It's all about the future in Toronto. In terms of which team made out the best, it's the Phillies who now have the best pitcher in the NL for possibly the next five seasons, followed by the M's with a starting stud to go with Felix Hernandez.

The Jays did all right, but with the extension for Halladay, they deserved another player from the Phillies, maybe Mariners prospect Phillippe Aumont, given that a healthy Halladay is good for 1,100 innings and 100 wins through 2014. By the way, don't let him swing the bat, Charlie.

For some reason, the Phillies' front-office smarts are being cast in doubt by a segment of their fan base asking why they are simply switching Cy guys in a megaswap with the Jays and the M's, while giving up a trio of top prospects to the Jays and receiving three in return from Seattle.

The answer lies in the simple fact that Halladay is significantly better than Lee and will be with them for a significantly longer time. The $6 million toward Halladay's contract is a bonus.

Consider that against the big boys of the AL East, the Red Sox and the Yankees, Halladay is 32-20, with a 3.59 ERA in 516 2/3 innings. Lee is 6-8, with a 4.69 ERA in 107 1/3 innings.

Against the sad-sack Kansas City Royals, combined with the generally lighter-hitting lineups of the National League, Lee is 31-11, with a 3.65 ERA in 359 2/3 innings. Halladay is 26-11, with a 2.90 ERA in 322 1/3 innings.

Doc's had stiffer career competition and excelled.

In the World Series, Charlie Manuel was unwilling to use Lee on 3 days' rest because Lee had never done it before in his career. Halladay is 4-2, with a 2.79 ERA in six starts on short rest, averaging seven innings per outing.

Let's analyze the trade for the Jays and the impact or nonimpact each prospect from the Phillies will have in terms of arrival date with the major league club.

Righthander Kyle Drabek, 22, clearly has a bigger upside than J.A. Happ, but is still considered a year away. He is coming off Tommy John surgery in 2007. No help for the 2010 Jays' rotation.

Catcher Travis D'Arnaud, 20, is more of a defender than an offensive threat and is still a few years away. The Jays, with the re-signing of Raul Chavez, the signings of John Buck and Ramon Castro as free agents and the presence of highly regarded J.P. Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman, are already solid behind the plate.

As for the Jays sending outfielder Michael Taylor to Oakland for third baseman Brett Wallace? Well, Wallace is a corner infielder with a potent bat, not a corner outfielder with good speed as manager Cito Gaston said he needed.