Jays' Halladay all but gone in Toronto
Let the Roy Halladay sweepstakes begin.
"We have to see what's out there," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi says. "I'm not saying we're going to shop him. But if something makes sense, we at least have to listen. We're (leaning) more toward listening than we've ever been."
Ricciardi first made similar comments to CBS Sportsline, prompting immediate skepticism from one rival executive, who speculated that Halladay was either hurt or that the Jays were being forced to dump the pitcher's salary.
Actually, the Jays' motives are far less sinister.
They're falling out of contention. They probably cannot afford to keep Halladay when they owe outfielders Vernon Wells and Alex Rios approximately $160 million combined from 2010 to '14. And they know that Halladay would prefer to pitch for a winner anyway when he becomes a free agent after next season.
Oh, and one other thing: The trade market is barren of quality starting pitchers, much less one who is a true difference-maker, one of the top five starters in the game.
The Jays' goal is obvious: To make the same type of deal that the Indians did when they traded right-hander Bartolo Colon in 2002, acquiring outfielder Grady Sizemore, left-hander Cliff Lee and second baseman Brandon Phillips.
Money is tighter now. Prospects are considered gold. But this is not three months of CC Sabathia we're talking about. This is Halladay for the rest of the season and all of 2010, at salaries of $14.25 million (pro-rated) and $15.75 million.
Of course, it is not quite that simple: Halladay, 32, has a full no-trade clause, giving him the right to pick his next team. He also would have the right to demand a trade at the end of the season if he is moved in the middle of a multi-year contract — a right that players rarely invoke.
He twice took less money to stay with the Jays, and would not necessarily require a contract extension to approve a deal. His geographic preferences, if any, are not known. Playing for a perennial contender probably matters to him most.
Ricciardi says the Jays will not trade Halladay if they do not receive the right offer, knowing that the team's best chance of competing next season is with the pitcher at the top of the rotation.
Once this process starts, it's almost impossible to stop. Rest assured, the Jays are assembling prospect lists and preparing to assign their scouts to investigate rival farm systems. Halladay is a goner. It's just a matter of when and where.
Here's an early handicap of the Halladay sweepstakes. Warning! While I'm basing this list on some initial conversations with major-league executives, it is largely speculative. To my knowledge, none of the names mentioned below have even been discussed yet.
The Yankees invested a combined $243.5 million on Sabathia and A.J. Burnett last offseason, and Halladay might be better than both of them. Right-hander Phil Hughes could top the team's package, and one GM who recently examined the Yankees' system says, "There are more intriguing guys down low than I anticipated."
Among them: Catchers Jesus Montero, 19 and Austin Romine, 20.
Then again, the Red Sox could determine that their greater need is a hitter, and Indians catcher Victor Martinez still looms as an ideal option. The Indians would want Buchholz plus other prospects, but their price for Martinez would not be as steep as the Jays' price for Halladay.
Martinez, under club control through 2010, could play first base if the Red Sox needed Kevin Youkilis at third to replace Mike Lowell. He also could catch if Jason Varitek dropped off in the second half and spell David Ortiz at DH.
The Phillies' farm system has improved significantly. At least one of their supposedly untouchables (outfielder Dominic Brown, right-hander Kyle Drabek, et al) presumably would be in play for Halladay.
The greater issue for the Phils would be taking on Halladay's salary when their payroll already is more than $130 million.
Williams' offer for Peavy, centered around left-handers Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richard, probably would not be enough. But if the White Sox were willing to move superstar-in-waiting Gordon Beckham, look out.
Still, it's difficult to imagine the Dodgers constructing an attractive enough package unless they included right-hander Chad Billingsley or lefty Clayton Kershaw, both of whom are part of their current rotation.
Problem is, the Rangers' payroll flexibility is extremely limited because of the financial troubles of owner Tom Hicks. And pitchers do not waive no-trade clauses to work at the hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington.
Still, the Cubs could not satisfy the Padres even after they tried to involve a third club, and their best chip — third baseman Josh Vitters — is still at Class A.
But while the Angels are deep in catchers and middle infielders, they probably lack the sure-fire premium pieces that the Jays would require for Halladay.
Melvin might have made an exception for Halladay if he had not traded for Sabathia last summer. But it would be reckless of a mid-revenue team to part with so many prospects in back-to-back years.
To get Halladay, the Mets would need to empty their farm system of their top remaining prospects — outfielder Fernando Martinez, shortstop Wilmer Flores, right-hander Brad Holt.
Not a bright idea.
Plenty of young talent remains, and the Jays surely would perk up if the Braves were willing to move right-hander Tommy Hanson or outfielder Jason Heyward.