During a radio interview on The FAN590 prior to Thursday’s Blue Jays-Indians tilt at Rogers Centre, general manager J.P. Ricciardi shed a little more light on why Toronto is suddenly willing to shop ace Roy Halladay.
“What’s changed is Roy has told us that he’s going to test the free-agent market,” Ricciardi said.
Halladay is under contract for $14.25 million this season and $15.75 million in 2010, which is the final year under his current deal. The Blue Jays originally planned on discussing an extension with Halladay this coming offseason, but Ricciardi’s comments make it clear that’s not going to happen.
The chances of Toronto retaining Halladay seemed slim already, considering the fact that the club has trimmed its payroll and the pitcher has expressed that he wants to have a chance to play October baseball. With the Jays in fourth place in the AL East, and a rotation filled with injuries and young arms, contending soon doesn’t seem realistic.
Halladay is scheduled to start for the Jays on Tuesday 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 July 31 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 told reporters earlier Thursday morning. “If we’re not down the road by the 28th, nothing’s going to happen.”
The team considered to be the front-runner to land Halladay continues to be the Phillies. Even though 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 who 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 the radio interview.
The Indians, staying true to company form, are mum on whether or not Cliff Lee is on the block. But if what Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said today is true, and Roy Halladay is, indeed, “unlikely” to be traded, that would only serve to make Lee all the more valuable to contending clubs.
Several of those clubs, including the Phillies and Dodgers, had scouts at tonight’s game at the Rogers Centre to watch Lee, and they saw the reigning AL Cy Young winner turn in a complete-game gem against Halladay’s Jays. Lee improved to 6-9 with a 3.17 ERA in a season in which his record is no indication of how well he’s pitched.
The contenders know this, and the Indians have to know their odds of keeping Lee beyond his 2010 option year, in which he’d make $9 million, are slim to none. Of course, trading Lee in advance of that option year, with no top-of-the-rotation starters in the system or on the horizon, would surely be a major blow to any hopes of the Tribe contending next season. But trading Lee with a little less than a year and a half left on his contract would allow the Indians to pull in maximum value for the left-hander.
Teams get desperate for starting help this time of year, and it’s not every day that a club can land a bona fide No. 1 of Lee’s ilk. If Halladay is pulled from the block, as Ricciardi hints, then the desperation to land Lee only rises — and with it rises the temptation for the Tribe to pull the trigger on a trade.
— Anthony Castrovince
Many on hand at Rogers Centre on Sunday afternoon wondered if they were watching Roy Halladay’s last outing as the ace of the Blue Jays. If so, Doc did not disappoint, spinning a complete-game gem en route to a 3-1 win over the Red Sox.
“I was hoping he’d have an unbelievable performance, something I could remember when I look back at my time here in Toronto,” Jays catcher Rod Barajas said. “It definitely goes through your head. I hope it’s not the last time. Everybody in this clubhouse hopes it’s not the last time.”
Multiple reports indicated that representatives from the Dodgers, Phillies, Brewers, Tigers, Red Sox, Rangers and Twins were in attendance for Halladay’s latest start, which netted his 11th win and lowered his ERA to 2.73. Former Jays GMs Pat Gillick (Phillies) and Gord Ash (Brewers) were in Toronto for the entire weekend series against Boston.
Philadelphia is still believed to be the front-runner to land Halladay, and the Jays and Phils have reportedly already discussed a few of the Phillies’ top prospects, including outfielder Michael Taylor, shortstop Jason Donald and pitcher Carlos Carrasco. Top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek likely needs to be included to convince the Jays to pull the trigger on any deal with the Phils.
As far as the other clubs in attendance for Halladay’s start, it’s possible some were there to take a look at Boston’s players, or Toronto’s relievers — Doc’s fourth complete game of the year robbed scouts of that chance — and position players. The Red Sox don’t have serious interest in Halladay and the Rangers and Twins appear to be long shots.
It’s worth noting that Ash was at the helm in Toronto when the Blue Jays drafted Halladay. According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, “Rival teams say the Brewers have enough prospects to make a Halladay deal.”
Prior to previous Trade Deadlines, Halladay’s name has been tossed around in rumors and reports. This year, though, the speculation is real and Halladay’s recent comments indicate that he’s more open to the idea of being dealt than he was in the past. On Saturday, Halladay’s wife, Brandy, stepped into the radio booth during the Jays’ game and the talk eventually turned to the wave of rumors.
“This very well could be our last homestand,” Brandy Halladay said on The FAN590. “If something happens before the Trade Deadline, I won’t be back. That’s difficult. That’s more than difficult. I just broke into tears four minutes ago. … It’s very difficult for everybody. … You’re making me cry now.”