The latest word from a source familiar with Philadelphia's thinking is that the front-running Phillies have decided they will not include top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek in a four-player package for superstar pitcher Roy Halladay, perhaps raising the chances that Halladay will be dealt elsewhere or maybe even stay with the Jays. The Phillies are believed to have told Toronto of their Drabek decision, but if they haven't yet they will inform the Jays very soon.
Philadelphia has a bevy of respectable prospects, but opinions around baseball vary as to how decent the deal might be for Toronto without the inclusion of Drabek. The two teams have been discussing prospects, including outfielder Michael Taylor, shortstop Jason Donald and pitcher Carlos Carrasco. One AL exec flatteringly referred to Taylor as "a beast," but another competing executive opined that Toronto would be unwise to deal with Philly and fail to come away without either Drabek or Jason Knapp, another pitching prospect. Yet another exec says they absolutely have to receive outfielder Dominic Brown if they can't get Drabek. In any case, the Phillies appear to be drawing a line below Drabek, and with them starting to run away in the NL East thanks to nine straight victories, it's almost understandable. Their need doesn't appear to be quite so urgent now.
Meanwhile, the Jays were getting nowhere with the Mets, whose interest in Halladay may be tempered by the fact that they aren't exactly in the thick of the race. Sources indicate that the Mets rebuffed a request of top outfield prospect Fernando Martinez, young pitchers Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell plus talented young shortstop prospect Ruben Tejada. A Mets person said several days ago that they are intent on doing anything to avoid "mortgaging our future," although two competing executives suggested the Mets should either do that deal or try to rework it slightly. In any case, it appears that the Mets' prospect list isn't as thin as some suggest, as even in that proposal they'd be keeping top young pitchers Jenrry Mejia and Brad Holt and shortstop prodigy Wilmer Flores.
The point may be moot since Halladay, who has suggested it's time for him to try to win, might not be eager to accept a trade to a team such as the Mets that is nine games out in its division while also trailing eight other teams in the wild-card race. Mets execs understand that, considering their dreadful injury situation, their team isn't just one player away this year. However, one important thing Halladay could do for the Mets is help them change the season's dreary story of pain and suffering, if only for a while.
The Giants, Brewers, Dodgers, Angels, Rangers, Red Sox, White Sox and Tigers are among Halladay pursuers with a better chance at the playoffs than the Mets. As is the case with the Mets, the Angels are yet another team that is said to be reluctant to trade their best prospects, which has been their way for a long time. The same appears to be the case for the Red Sox, who are absolutely stacked with pitching prospects. All teams are starting to put an extreme premium on their better prospects, as well, so moving Halladay, who is arguably baseball's best pitcher (it's either him or Johan Santana), for fair value may not be easy as one might think.
Halladay seems ready to go judging by his remarks at the All-Star Game in St. Louis, making the situation somewhat stickier. As an acquaintance of Halladay said, "For him to be so forthright (in St. Louis), he's emotionally gone. He's a very guarded person. If he wasn't going in his mind, he'd just say, let's talk about the All-Star Game."
That acquaintance said he believed Halladay favors winning first but would also prefer to train in Florida (he lives in Dunedin, Fla., the Jays' spring home, so the Phillies and Yankees would be most convenient). He also said that while Halladay prefers quiet, the acquaintance doesn't see how he'd rebuff an attempt to go to the Phillies, Red Sox or Yankees if given the chance. That person also saw the Cardinals, with Halladay's great friend Chris Carpenter, as a team Halladay would approve. Halladay, who makes $14.25 million this year and is to make $15.75 million in 2010, has full no-trade veto power.
But if the trade offers don't improve, Halladay might not have a chance to make the call. One person with the Jays suggested he believes the chances for a deal are now "less than 50-50," which is the numerical assessment they've been saying publicly.
And according to one competing executive, "(Blue Jays president) Paul Beeston doesn't want to do it unless he's overwhelmed."
There are still 10 days to go before the deadline, but so far it doesn't look like anyone's jumping forward to overwhelm them.
The Indians appear to be more seriously considering the possibility of trading star pitcher Cliff Lee in recent days, according to an Indians-connected person. Indians people have been very reluctant to deal Lee all along since they have a reasonable $9 million option on him for next year and no obvious, certain top-of-the-rotation replacement.
Something apparently happened in recent days to change their thinking and make them slightly more receptive to a trade, though it's unclear exactly what. The Indians have already traded Mark DeRosa and are talking to teams about some of their other players, including reliever Rafael Betancourt. They'd probably like to trade closer Kerry Wood and starter Carl Pavano, but it's doubtful any team would take either of those two contracts.
Former Indians star CC Sabathia said that he could more easily see Cleveland trade Lee than Victor Martinez. Sabathia remarked that GM Mark Shapiro loves Martinez in particular. But as one Indians person pointed out, "(Shapiro) loves Martinez almost as much as he loved Sabathia." Implicit in that remark is that Shapiro dealt Sabathia last summer.
One Indians person said that while he still envisions both Martinez and Lee staying with the Tribe, that person still believes Martinez is more likely to be dealt than Lee since they do have an excellent crop of young hitters, including a switch-hitting standout catching prospect in Carlos Santana. Whereas their best pitching prospect, Hector Rondon, has only pitched 15 games above A-ball (he's 7-5 with a 2.75 ERA at Double-A Akron). They do have hopes for a return to form for the fallen Fausto Carmona and a return to health for Jake Westbrook, and for that matter, several others.
It isn't known why the Indians would suddenly consider trade options for Lee more seriously, but his value could not be much higher. He provides an excellent fallback option for teams that fail to land Halladay. While he's predictably slipped a bit from his otherworldly 2008 Cy Young performance, he's still a superb starter.
The Phillies and Dodgers are among teams that have interest in Lee, especially if those teams deem Halladay unattainable. The Rangers are another logical spot in that they have the pitching prospects to tempt the Indians, starting with Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz but not limited to those two (Michael Main, Martin Perez, Kasey Kiker and Blake Beavan are some others). The Rangers are in an unusual situation, though, with steep financial issues, so it's uncertain whether they could afford Halladay or even Lee.
If Lee is frustrated by the losing in Cleveland (he's only 5-9 despite a 3.31 ERA), he hasn't said anything publicly to that effect. But his own feelings in this case don't matter, anyway, since he does not have a no-trade clause. For that reason, Lee would be a "cleaner" trade than Halladay.
• Mets GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel were told their jobs are not in jeopardy by Mets COO Jeff Wilpon. Bobby Valentine once received a similar vote of confidence from Fred Wilpon before Fred Wilpon fired him. But in this case, the Mets have been undone by injuries. So it's hard to make a case that Minaya and Manuel are to blame. Minaya's three-year contract extension, which pays him in excess of $1 million annually, also doesn't begin until 2010. Manuel, though, will enter 2010 with lame-duck status, as his contract expires after the year.
• Gary Sheffield's explanation that his vacation to the Bahamas was to blame for his hamstring injury was priceless. Maybe we should call him Dr. Sheffield. He certainly has exceeded all expectations on the field (including mine), and he's surprised many by not asking for a new multiyear deal yet. That's got to be coming, no?
• Matt Holliday showed some big signs of regaining his form with two home runs, two doubles and six RBIs in Oakland's 14-13 victory Monday night. Holliday's trade value could be regenerated if he hits like that. "I still believe he's a very good player," one AL executive said.
• The red-hot Rockies, now leading the NL Wild Card race, are looking for relief. They called about Betancourt (one of many Indians up for grabs) and also have talked about Chad Qualls, George Sherrill, Danys Baez and Takashi Saito.
• Sherrill would be a "real overpay," one GM said, and you can't blame Baltimore for that in this barren relief market. Both the Angels and Dodgers make sense for him.
• Some believe the Diamondbacks will hold onto Qualls now that Tony Pena is gone.
• Some GMs believe a few more players will be available after the July 31 trade deadline this year since more players will clear waivers due to teams not wanting to pick up big contracts in this economy. (Of course, that doesn't apply to stars with reasonable or good contracts like Halladay, Lee or Martinez).
• The Padres appear to have hit a wall.
• Condolences to the entire San Francisco Giants family for losing majority owner Sue Burns, by all reports a spirited owner and fan who died of cancer only a week after learning she had the disease. It's been an especially tough year for the Giants, having lost the fine scouts Pat Dobson and Joe DiCarlo earlier.
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