Sources: Angels intensify bid in Halladay chase

The Phillies are still thought of as the favorite to acquire Roy Halladay. But major league sources told throughout Saturday that the Angels have intensified their own efforts to get the Toronto ace.

“They are not the only game in town,” one executive said in reference to the Phillies.

Halladay has a no-trade clause but would approve a deal to either team, according to people familiar with his thinking.

Emboldened by Halladay’s performance over his last two starts — 18 innings, two earned runs — the Jays are more convinced than ever in the justifiability of their high asking price.

The Angels, very involved in the market for pitching, caught the Jays’ attention with an increased offer on Friday, according to multiple executives with knowledge of the Halladay market. But as of Saturday night, they didn’t appear to be close on a deal for Halladay.

One major league source told on Saturday that Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi countered by asking for a four-player package: left-handed starter Joe Saunders, third baseman/shortstop Brandon Wood, shortstop Erick Aybar and a high-ceiling prospect from among the group of outfielder Peter Bourjos, left-hander Trevor Reckling and right-hander Sean O’Sullivan.

It’s highly doubtful that Angels GM Tony Reagins would surrender that much talent, particularly since three players (Saunders, Wood and Aybar) are currently on the team’s 25-man roster.

Of that group, it would be most difficult for the Angels to surrender Aybar, their everyday shortstop. But the Jays likely view Aybar as an essential component, as he could be the young shortstop that their farm system lacks.

“There’s no doubt that the Angels have players that would be competitive,” said one source with good knowledge of the Los Angeles farm system. “But it’s a matter of what they want to give up.”

Meantime, one senior Jays official indicated Saturday morning that the team believes it would be reasonable to request right-hander Kyle Drabek, left-hander J.A. Happ and outfielder Dominic Brown from the Phillies.

Yet, it’s unclear what the Jays’ most recent proposal has been. Sources have said that the Phillies are willing to include Drabek or Happ in the deal — but not both.

Multiple officials with other major league clubs have predicted that Drabek and either Brown or Triple-A outfielder Michael Taylor would be included in any four- or five-player package deemed acceptable by the Blue Jays.

At least five teams have spoken with the Jays about Halladay within the last several days. The Phillies, Angels and Rangers are in that group, and the White Sox have not been ruled out.

Similarly, the Phillies are keeping their options open as they attempt to add a starting pitcher for the stretch drive.

Philadelphia officials have maintained contact with the Indians about left-hander Cliff Lee and could move aggressively on Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn, whom they scouted on Thursday afternoon in Detroit.

Seattle has absorbed back-to-back lopsided losses at home to fall 7½ games back, making it more likely that Washburn will be available in a deal.

The Jays don’t expect to deal Halladay by the end of the weekend, according to one person with close knowledge of the negotiations. But it’s possible that a resolution could come before the purported Tuesday deadline set by Ricciardi.

If the Jays succeed in dealing Halladay, a cascade of deals could follow. They have discussed moving third baseman Scott Rolen to the Cincinnati Reds, but that deal is contingent on the Reds reallocating money in order to fit Rolen’s $11 million salary into next year’s payroll.