The Phillies remain nearly everyone's favorite to land star Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay, and the teams are believed to have advanced to the point where they have discussed several of Philadelphia's top prospects -- including outfielder Michael Taylor, shortstop Jason Donald and pitcher Carlos Carrasco -- although, there's no evidence yet that the Phillies are relenting on top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek.
If Philly agrees to surrender Drabek, one competing executive said, "they might get [Halladay] real quick.''
But two more competing execs warned that they believe the Phillies would have to include Drabek -- a dynamic talent who impressed in the Futures Game -- to have any chance to land Halladay. If they're going to trade Halladay, "they've got to get the Phillies' best prospect,'' one American League exec insisted.
Beyond that, a package of Taylor (recently promoted to Triple A in what looks like an obvious showcase), Donald and Carrasco is, according to another AL executive, woefully short. Plus, other baseball people seem to view outfielder Dominic Brown as Philly's second-best prospect after Drabek. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro suggested 10 days ago Drabek may be untouchable, though more recently he's tempered that remark slightly to say he won't publicly disclose which prospects they might consider trading.
As a team with the publicly stated desire for a front-of-the-rotation starter, the wherewithal to acquire a star and a decent batch of prospects, the Phillies still appear to be the most logical landing spot, especially after Halladay himself talked about the National League in his remarks at the All-Star Game. Though some still question whether longtime club president David Montgomery will ultimately want to surrender prime prospects plus spend the money, which amounts to about $23 million through 2010, especially with the club threatening to run away with the NL East, as is.
Jays G.M. J.P. Ricciardi, while suggesting no prospects have been ruled off limits by interested teams so far, told SI.com in a phone interview, "I understand each team has certain restrictions. If a team doesn't want to move a player, I understand that. But it probably lessens the opportunity to [make a deal] with that team.''
The Giants, who already have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to front a strong rotation, are said by one person in the know to be "kicking the tires,'' while the Angels, an early favorite, appear characteristically reluctant to trade their prospects, hurting their chances. The Yankees remain an outside threat despite being told early the Jays would prefer to trade Halladay out of the American League East. The Dodgers, Rangers, Red Sox and Brewers are other teams said to have inquired about Halladay, while the Cardinals, White Sox and Tigers are seen as possible interested parties for Halladay, who beat the Red Sox 3-1 with a complete game Sunday to improve to 11-3.
The Yankees and Red Sox were both informed early the Jays would look elsewhere first, and the Jays have stuck to that by not yet following up on an original call with the Yankees. For the first time, Ricciardi explained his stance on dealing the superstar inside the division. "We're not averse to doing it,'' Ricciardi said by phone. "[But] it's something that would obviously have to be a good return back.''
The Yankees understand they'd have to surrender one of two top young pitchers, Joba Chamberlain or new eighth-inning star Phil Hughes, plus some names from a high-end prospect list that would likely include outfielder Austin Jackson and one of two catchers, Jesus Montero or Francisco Cervelli. There is a belief that, while the Yankees have to pay a premium -- one person familiar with their thinking said they badly don't want to "gut their system'' -- they still have requested of Toronto a right to match (or in this case beat) the best offer when the deal's about to go down.
The Giants are an intriguing entry. Their first priority has to be their sagging offensive production. Although they've shown past interest in Jays outfielder Alex Rios, who has about $63 million remaining on his contract through 2014, (the sides seriously discussed a Rios-for-Lincecum swap a year ago), Rios' name hasn't come up yet, a person familiar with their talks said.
Additionally, there is no evidence the Jays are trying to attach Vernon Wells' big $126-million contract (and the $90 million remaining) to this deal, and Ricciardi didn't say anything to suggest they would. That shows how serious they are about this.
Ricciardi declined to mention teams or prospects being discussed, saying, "A lot of teams have serious interest. We're just trying to weigh things.'' Ricciardi on Sunday pegged the chances for a deal at "50-50,'' which seems to be a slight upgrade over where things stood when the process began nearly two weeks ago. Executives around the league believe Halladay's comments suggesting he is intrigued to go elsewhere tilt the scales slightly toward a trade. And Ricciardi made clear they're putting as lot of work into this. "We've got scouts all over the place, '' he said.
Ricciardi also said they hadn't exchanged names yet with a number of teams and he'd have a much better idea where things stood later in the week. The Jays' GM also didn't rule out keeping Halladay, mentioning how they have had five rookies start and win games this year, and how Shaun Marcum is coming back next year. Ricciardi said, "'Keeping [Halladay] offers us a chance to be very good next year.''
But if they make the right deal, they may have a chance to be even better in subsequent seasons.
• The only surprise with Felipe Lopez (.301 with Arizona) going to the Brewers was that ex-Brewer Doug Davis didn't accompany him. For pitching, could the Brew Crew be aiming higher?
• The Dodgers say Orlando Hudson's injury to his left wrist is not in the same spot as his surgery. Still, it is worrisome to re-injure the same wrist. It was concerns over the wrist that led Hudson to become one of baseball's best bargains at $3.38 million this winter.
• Troy Glaus playing the outfield well after such a short apprenticeship seems like a long shot. At least Skip Schumaker had the spring to transition to second base.
• Two of the Branch Rickey Award nominees are no longer with the teams that nominated them, Manny Acta of the Nationals and Tom Glavine of the Braves. Oops.
• It would have been nice if longtime running mate Glavine could have made the ceremony to retire Greg Maddux's No. 31 in Atlanta. The Braves didn't handle Glavine's situation right, but for the sake of the fans, it would be nice if Glavine eventually could get over this issue.
• Magglio Ordonez, who is now being platooned with Clete Thomas, probably won't get the number of plate appearances needed (1,080 over last year and this one) to trigger the $18-million 2010 option if he continues to share at-bats. Ordonez is hitting .260 with a .346 slugging percentage. The original intention of the two option years was to be about Ordonez's health. But it's possible he doesn't make it because of his newly limited role.
• The Tigers, incidentally, look like they could use a hitter more than a pitcher, after being swept by the Yankees.
• The tweeting never stops at: http://twitter.com/SI_JonHeyman.