The Jays are serious about looking for a trade for superstar pitcher Roy Halladay, but they probably prefer to deal him out of the American League East, will want a premium bat back and likely have particular interest in a shortstop because breakout performer Marco Scutaro will be a free agent after this year, according to one person familiar with the team's inner workings.
The Jays will want one MLB-ready position player, one top pitching prospect who'll be ready by next year and at least a third top-of-the-line prospect, one competing executive said he heard. Whatever the requirements, the package will have to be huge in terms of talent, everyone agrees.
"On a scale of one to 10, this guy's a 500," one competing executive said.
But while some people are painting the chances for a deal as something of a long shot, the Jays-connected source believes general manager J.P. Ricciardi's public reversal of his previous off-limits stance is an indicator Toronto would definitely do it, provided the right offer materializes. Now at 43-42, the talented Jays have fallen victim to injuries and a difficult schedule to drop seven games behind the Yankees in the wild-card race.
The talk is real enough that Ricciardi sought and received the go-ahead from Halladay, who has full trade veto power, before saying anything publicly about his intention to cast the net. Halladay told Ricciardi he would be open to the right team and situation, a Jays source said.
The pitcher loves Toronto and being a Blue Jay but is "such an intense competitor'' he would probably welcome a move to a team with a better shot at winning, according to an acquaintance of Halladay's. That person also said Halladay wouldn't necessarily approve every potential trade brought to him, naming Texas -- with its great hitters' park that holds bad memories for Halladay -- as one contending spot Halladay might not OK.
Ricciardi, who said by phone that "we wouldn't be doing our job if we weren't willing to listen,'' didn't get nearly that specific, beyond suggesting that it would take quite a haul to move such a great player. According to Ricciardi, any interested team will have to be "highly motivated,'' code for: Ricciardi had better be overwhelmed.
One early favorite could be the Phillies, who have the wherewithal and need, and also reside in the right league. Plus they possess a decent group of prospects and young players, including outfielders Dominic Brown, Michael Taylor and John Mayberry Jr., pitchers J.A. Happ, Carlos Carrasco, Antonio Bastardo and Kyle Drabek, catcher Lou Marson and shortstop Jason Donald. While Donald doesn't rank as the best shortstop prospect in the game, the Jays did seek him in a trade last year, dangling pitcher Brian Tallet and slugger Matt Stairs.
Philly is a much more intense place than Toronto, but the acquaintance said he thought that Halladay, who hails from Colorado and lives in quiet Dunedin on the West Coast of Florida, wouldn't shy away from big East Coast markets such as Philly, Boston and New York. "He's shy and reserved and doesn't love the limelight, but he might accept for a chance to win,'' that person said.
Ricciardi, who first mentioned that he might "listen'' to offers in a story by Danny Knobler of cbssports.com, wisely won't rule out anything publicly and will indeed weigh all offers, but Philadelphia is presumably a much more palatable landing spot than Boston or the Bronx from Toronto's perspective. According to the Jays-connected source, "The Yankees and Red Sox might be tough for Toronto to do in terms of publicity. They'd have to face him for the next year and a half.''
Just about every contending team will check in, and MLB.com suggested that at least 12 already have, identifying the "most serious'' as the Cardinals, Yankees, Mets, Brewers, Dodgers, Angels and Red Sox. Whoever gets him, it'll take a haul, as Halladay, 10-2 with a 2.79 ERA, is considered by many to be baseball's top pitcher. In fact, one executive with an interested team didn't hide that opinion Tuesday: "He's the best.''
Though Halladay is to make $14.25 million this year and $15.75 million next, those are seen as very reasonable salaries for him and might not deter many suitors, even in tough times. The bigger questions will be about who has the prospects, and who is willing to part with them. Let the bidding begin.
Here's a closer look at the potential trading partners:
1. Phillies: Halladay would make the perfect righty complement for ace lefty Cole Hamels, and Philly is the only contender that has come out publicly to say that they would seek a top-of-the-rotation starter. The Phillies have been reluctant to trade their best prospects, but for Halladay, they would have to. One talent evaluator said that Halladay would be "sick'' in the National League, and he meant it in a good way.
2. Angels: This perennial contender would probably appeal to Halladay, and the Angels have pitching concerns, with star starters John Lackey and Ervin Santana slowed by arm trouble this year. They have infield prospects Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez and a couple decent pitching prospects, as well.
3. Giants: They have several young pitching studs who might interest Toronto, including highly regarded Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, and may be willing to expand the payroll considering their surprising early success. Don't count them out.
4. Dodgers: They would love another top starter to round out a rotation that's already thriving. But most of their best young players are already in the majors (Clayton Kershaw is one youngster who has to be truly untouchable). Might be tough to pull off.
5. Yankees:Phil Hughes has regained his luster with some great bullpen work, plus one scout who recently saw catcher Jesus Montero and outfielder Austin Jackson said both are very impressive. The Yankees wouldn't blink at Halladay's salary, but it's hard to imagine Toronto dealing him to a division foe.
6. Red Sox: They certainly have the prospects (pitchers Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden and slugger Lars Anderson). Wouldn't that be scary if Boston got him?
7. White Sox: They are as aggressive and unpredictable as anyone, but GM Ken Williams said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that he wasn't sure he would want to surrender the prospects that it would take. While the Clayton Richard-Aaron Poreda combo that was going for Jake Peavy wouldn't come close to getting this done, they also have top shortstop prospect Gordon Beckham, plus current starter Alexei Ramirez. Beckham has been cited as their one untouchable (one White Sox person said they wouldn't have traded him straight up for Peavy), but Halladay might make them think about it.
8. Brewers: They made the big trade-deadline pitching deal last summer when they got CC Sabathia, and if it were up to star slugger Ryan Braun they might already have a deal done by now. While they have inquired about Arizona's Doug Davis, the sides report "little progress.'' Milwaukee is short on young pitching but does have top shortstop prospect Alcides Escobar and fine hitter Mat Gamel.
9. Cardinals: They've shown a willingness to improve (Mark DeRosa) and could use another starter. A rotation with Halladay, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse would be deadly. The Jays-connected person was uncertain whether they'd have the prospects to do it, however.
10. Mets: They'll definitely look into it, but what they need most (after their health) is a hitter. They already have an ace but have seemed intent on holding on to pitching prospects Jenrry Mejia and Brad Holt and outfield prospect Fernando Martinez. Beyond that it's hard to classify the Mets as serious contenders at the moment.
11. Rangers: Their prospects (Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz) match up with anyone's, but they do not want to trade either pitcher, who are just the sort of inexpensive arms they need because they are flat out of money. Plus, the Jays-connected source thought that Halladay might not love their park, where he has bad memories of suffering a broken leg on a line drive off Kevin Mench's bat.
• Mariners people told inquiring teams they would use their difficult trip to Los Angeles, Boston and the Bronx to gauge whether they will buy or sell. And after going 5-4 on that excursion they certainly don't look like a seller yet.
• A Mets person suggested that he sees little hope for a Matt Holliday trade. "We can't match up with Billy Beane.'' (I'm starting to think that Beane could hold onto Holliday and take the draft choices instead.) And another Mets' person said there isn't much Adam Dunn talk, either. (Nationals interim GM Mike Rizzo said on the radio Tuesday that he isn't trading Dunn, anyway.) As for the Mets, hey, we're running out of options here.
• Moneyball was a great book (though apparently won't be a movie) to explain the mind of Beane. But I'd like to see a sequel explaining why the A's needed Scott Hairston now.
• Are there any more frequent trading partners than the White Sox and Diamondbacks? Tony Pena adds to a solid White Sox bullpen. And Arizona people believe that lefty slugger Brandon Allen could be its first baseman next year. Previous trades include the Javier Vazquez and Carlos Quentin deals.
• Diamondbacks people think they aren't getting true value for Doug Davis, who wins but doesn't light up a radar gun or particularly impress scouts. They could still wind up extending him.
• Pedro Martinez is said to want to sign this week, so he can be ready for the stretch run. Philly and Tampa look like possibilities. A Brewers person said he didn't think that Martinez would come to them.
• Felix Pie, once an untouchable with the Cubs, appears to be on the trading block again with Baltimore.
• Too bad Braun had to take back his soliloquy about how the Brewers need pitching. After he stated the obvious, Brewers GM Doug Melvin had Braun apologize. "Me and Doug are cool,'' is how Braun concluded his apology.
• Nomar Garciaparra was quoted in the Providence Journal saying he never turned down a $60 million Red Sox offer. This comes under the heading: Great athletes never like to admit a mistake. "I remember Nomar didn't want to get much less than Jeter and A-Rod,'' one confidant recalled. That person said that Garciaparra told him he felt that the $60 million offer was light and got the impression that Garciaparra might have taken $85 million for five years at that time.
• I don't want to hear how Manny Ramirez isn't in playing shape. There's no excuse. Manny had more than 50 days to get in shape, and he had 10 games to play in the minors (though he only played five).
• When I'm not here, I'm tweeting. Follow me at http://twitter.com/SI_JonHeyman.