Halladay not interested in extension
Blue Jays ace plans to test open market after 2010 season
TORONTO -- Before this season began, general manager J.P. Ricciardi made it known that the Blue Jays had no plans to trade Roy Halladay. If anything, the team was going to try to work on signing its ace to a contract extension to keep him in the fold beyond 2010.
With eight days remaining until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Halladay is now the biggest name available. Ricciardi has been asked repeatedly what changed the organization's thinking over the past few months. During a radio interview in Toronto on Thursday, the GM finally revealed that Halladay has indicated that he's not interested in signing an extension.
Following the Blue Jays' 5-4 loss to the Indians, Ricciardi acted surprised that such a revelation was news. According to the GM, Halladay intends to test the free-agent market after the 2010 season, and that's why Toronto has been exploring trade offers for the pitcher. Ricciardi said the issue was discussed earlier this season and Halladay even gave the club a list of teams to which he'd approve a trade.
"I think I made this clear real early that Doc wanted to test the free-agent market," Ricciardi said. "I think we said that all along. That's the whole reason we're going down this avenue."
Halladay, who is scheduled to start against the Rays on Friday night, declined comment after the game.
"I'm not addressing it," Halladay said. "I don't even know what he said. I'll do it after I pitch."
Halladay, who has spent parts of the past 12 seasons with the Blue Jays, opted against becoming a free agent by signing extensions with the Blue Jays in 2004 and again in '06. If Halladay leaves via the open market two winters from now, Toronto would likely receive a pair of compensatory picks in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
While Ricciardi said the Blue Jays are more than willing to keep Halladay in the fold, giving the club a better chance of competing next season, the general manager said it might make the most sense to at least explore what trade offers are out there for the right-hander. Ricciardi doesn't believe that approach means Toronto has thrown in the towel on 2010.
"I don't think we've given up on anything," Ricciardi said. "We're exploring the fact that the player has told us that he wants to try to become a free agent. So if he wants to try to become a free agent, we're doing our due diligence in finding out what we could possibly get in the way of a trade. If a trade doesn't make sense for us, Roy stays here in 2010.
"That's why I've said this has been a joint venture. This hasn't been like we're out there talking and Doc's not included in the process. He's obviously expressed an interest that when free agency comes up next time, that he's going to at least be attracted to try to see what it is."
While speaking with reporters earlier in the morning, Ricciardi said talks with interested clubs were "a little bit more heated up" and he expected to be much deeper in trade discussions this weekend. If the Blue Jays are going to trade Halladay, who is under contract for $14.25 million this season and $15.75 million next year, Ricciardi wants the matter settled early next week.
Halladay is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays on Wednesday in Seattle, and Ricciardi doesn't want the pitcher taking the mound with the thought that he might be traded in the following three days leading up to the Deadline. Ricciardi said Toronto's internal deadline of Tuesday is flexible, depending on how close the club might be to a deal.
"If we're down the road with something, obviously the deadline can fluctuate," Ricciardi said. "If we're not down the road by [Tuesday], nothing's going to happen."
The team considered to be the front-runner to land Halladay continues to be the Phillies. Athough Philadelphia is believed to be opposed to including top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek in a possible deal, the Blue Jays sent assistant general manager Tony LaCava to scout Drabek's latest start on Wednesday.
The Brewers are also considered to have serious interest in trading for Halladay. Other teams that have been tied to Halladay in various reports include the Dodgers, Cardinals, White Sox, Rangers, Red Sox and Yankees. Ricciardi said only a few teams have approached him with serious interest.
"Some are serious and some, I would say, are delirious," Ricciardi said during a radio interview with The FAN590.
Asked if he was modeling a potential Halladay deal after the blockbuster trades for pitchers Erik Bedard (2008) and Bartolo Colon ('02), Ricciardi said the Blue Jays were seeking a package "similar or better" in return. Ricciardi's reasoning was that Toronto feels Halladay is a better pitcher than Bedard and Colon at the time they were dealt.
Baltimore traded Bedard to Seattle prior to last season in exchange for Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Tony Butler and Kameron Mickolio. In 2002, Colon was sent to the Expos with Tim Drew by the Indians in exchange for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens.
Given the type of return Toronto wants for Halladay, who is 11-3 with a 2.73 ERA this season, Ricciardi doesn't believe a deal will come to fruition.
"We have to be moved to make this trade," Ricciardi said. "If we're not moved, then Roy is going to be a Blue Jay. ... If we're wowed, we'll think about it. My gut is that we won't get wowed."
Ricciardi said he doesn't believe that revealing that Halladay plans on testsing free-agent waters will affect the type of packages teams are willing to offer.
"No, because if they want him, I mean, you either want him or you don't," Ricciardi said. "No, I don't see it that way at all."
If Halladay is not traded prior to this year's Deadline, the Blue Jays will likely continue to see what offers might be out there for the right-hander over the offseason and into next season. Toronto planned on discussing an extension with Halladay this coming winter, but his desire to test the free-agent waters after 2010 changes that approach.
"When he has a chance to be a free agent," Ricciardi said, "if we went to him with an extension, he'd probably say, 'I'd rather take a chance to see what free agency is.'"
Entering this season, the Blue Jays viewed 2010 as more of an opportune time than this season to contend for a playoff spot. Behind Halladay, the team could see the return of injured starters Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen and Dustin McGowan. Dealing Halladay might represent a shift in the organization's thinking.
"It could be, if [Halladay] goes," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "But we don't know if he's going. I would think it's going to be a more difficult task if we don't have him here. You're talking about somebody who's going to perhaps win you 20 games. If he's gone, it's going to be a little difficult to do things that we were planning on doing.
"We're talking about 'if,' right? We're not talking about, 'It's going to happen.' Until it happens, I know you've got to write about it, but I don't worry about it. If it happens, then we have to come up with another starter here. If it happens, who knows what you might get for him?
"You might get somebody who might win you 15 games or might win you more. Who knows? It's kind of hard to say, 'No, you're not going in the right direction' until you find out who you're trading him for."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.