Blue Jays weighing Halladay options
Phillies out of mix, but GM Ricciardi continuing trade talks
SEATTLE -- The chances of Roy Halladay being traded by the Blue Jays dropped significantly on Wednesday. The Phillies -- long the favorites to land Toronto's ace -- completed a blockbuster deal with the Indians for left-hander Cliff Lee.
In the age of instant news, it did not take long for word to spread to Safeco Field in Seattle, where Halladay took the mound for the Blue Jays on Wednesday. By acquiring Lee, the Phillies effectively pulled themselves out of the running for Halladay, leaving the Blue Jays with limited options as Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline looms.
With the Phillies out of the mix, removing the team that served as the best match in terms of what the Blue Jays wanted in return, Toronto may shift its focus to keeping Halladay in the fold and trying to make a run at the playoffs in 2010. With two days until the Deadline, though, the Jays are still weighing their options.
"I don't think it impacts us," said Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, referring to Philadelphia's acquisition of Lee. "Obviously, it impacts the Phillies. I would say we're probably out with the Phillies, but we're still talking to other teams."
The Phillies and Indians reached a pact that sent Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco to Philadelphia in exchange for Minor Leaguers Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Jason Knapp. It was a similar package to one that the Phillies had rejected by the Blue Jays, who were asking for J.A. Happ, Kyle Drabek and Dominic Brown.
Halladay, who has a full no-trade clause and has gone over a list of teams with the Blue Jays, was asked after his outing in Seattle if he would have approved a trade to the Phillies. Halladay did his best to sidestep the question.
"I can't answer that," said Halladay, who logged seven innings in a 3-2 loss to the Mariners. "It was never a real option, so it was something I didn't have to consider. I planned on being a Blue Jay until I was told otherwise."
Philadelphia felt Toronto's asking price was too steep -- Drabek and Brown represent the Phillies' top pitching and outfield prospects, respectively -- and the sides were not able to reach a middle ground. There were rumors that the trade discussions between the Blue Jays and Phillies even became heated -- something Ricciardi denied.
"I don't know where that came from," Ricciardi said. "That is absolutely, positively not true. I have a great relationship with [Phillies general manager] Ruben Amaro [Jr.]. I don't even know how animosity can even come out of something like this. Either you agree or you disagree. We have nothing but respect for the Phillies."
Toronto is still engaged in trade discussions with Boston, which may be willing to offer pitcher Clay Buchholz and prospects in order to acquire Halladay. The Blue Jays are reluctant to deal Halladay -- 11-4 with a 2.68 ERA this season -- within the American League East, though. Toronto has also been linked to the Angels, Dodgers, Yankees and Rangers.
The bottom line is that the Blue Jays do not feel an urgency to move Halladay, who is under contract for $14.25 million this season and $15.75 million in 2010. Halladay informed the club earlier this month that he might want to test free agency after next season, leading Toronto to see what type of offers were out there for the ace pitcher.
If Halladay remains with the Jays through 2010 and leaves via free agency, the club would receive two compensatory picks in the following First-Year Player Draft. Toronto could net a much larger return by dealing Halladay this month, but the organization is not going to pull the trigger on just any package of prospects.
Philadelphia represented the best fit.
"All the teams we've been talking to, we've looked at them as potential matches," Ricciardi said. "But, once again, we said from the beginning that we'd have to be moved to move the player. At this point, we haven't been moved."
Going into this season, the Blue Jays viewed 2009 as a kind of bridge to next season. The organization knew -- after right-hander A.J. Burnett left via free agency and the club trimmed its payroll -- that a lot of young pitchers would be forced to the Majors. Making matters worse, injuries have decimated the staff since the middle of last season.
Looking ahead to next year, Toronto will likely have injured pitchers Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen and possibly Dustin McGowan back in the mix. With Halladay, and a bevy of talented young arms in Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil, among others, the Jays believe they might be able to compete in the East in 2010.
If Halladay is dealt before Friday's Deadline, that all could change drastically.
"If you lose somebody like Doc, it's going to take some time to regroup," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "To me, he's probably the best pitcher in baseball right now."
Halladay has said that he doesn't believe he is going to be traded this month. Throughout the past three weeks, Ricciardi has voiced that same opinion. On Wednesday, after learning that Lee had been dealt to Philadelphia, Ricciardi again said that his gut feeling was that Halladay would remain with the Jays.
"Yeah," Ricciardi said. "Look, we said in the beginning we'd listen. We have listened. We said we'd have to be wowed to move Doc. We haven't been wowed."
Regardless of the final outcome, Halladay said the past three weeks have taken a toll on him.
"Of course, for me and my family, it's not fun to go through" Halladay said. That's why I'm trying to do the best I can to turn the page right now. There's not much I can control at this point. It comes to a point where you have to quit worrying about those things and do the best you can to move on."
Gaston said it will be nice when August arrives and the situation will have been resolved.
"It would be a relief for all of us and I imagine for him, too," Gaston said. "You guys are doing your job, asking Roy questions, but it's every day. It's every day and I think he's dealt with it great. But, I'm pretty sure if [he's not traded], he won't have to answer those questions any more and that might be a relief for him."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.