By Tom Verducci
July 28, 2009

The Philadelphia Phillies have a shot at getting the best pitcher in baseball for not just one but two Octobers. Yes, it should hurt to acquire a pitcher as good as Roy Halladay for this year and next. But there are no guarantees prospect Kyle Drabek, 21, will be fronting a World Series-quality rotation by the time he is big-league ready, or that the core of the Philadelphia team still will be in its prime. Forget the Phillies "rejecting" the Blue Jays' asking price for Halladay. That's part of negotiating. The bottom line is Philadelphia still makes the most sense to acquire the best pitcher in baseball.

"They're clearly the best fit," said one GM. "It reminds me of when [Pat] Gillick was running those Toronto teams in the 1990s. He kept adding to the core with guys like Jack Morris and Paul Molitor. The Phillies have a chance to put together a run like that. They have the resources to do it without the loss of prospects setting back the organization."

Said another veteran scout, "There's a little bit of a tug of war in Philadelphia. Gillick and [manager Charlie] Manuel are basically saying, 'C'mon. Let's go get him. We don't know if Drabek and [J.A.] Happ can help us get to another World Series. We know that Halladay can.' The player development guys and Ruben [Amaro] are more tied to the guys who have been in their system for years."

Carlos Carrasco? Sorry, he's not interesting the Blue Jays. The Phillies have used nine starting pitchers this year and Carrasco has not been among them. J.A. Happ? Nice pitcher, but not a dealmaker for Halladay. "He's a No. 4 or 5 starter in the AL East," the scout said. "The National League stinks. It's terrible."

Today is Toronto's self-imposed "deadline" to trade Halladay, but what are the Jays going to do if Philadelphia agrees to their price on Thursday? Say, "Sorry, you missed the deadline?"

The Jays will take Happ, but the Phillies will have to include a young pitcher at least as talented as Chris Tillman, the pitcher Baltimore got from Seattle in the Erik Bedard trade. (Remember, the Orioles also obtained center fielder Adam Jones and closer George Sherrill in that deal.) That means either Drabek or Jason Knapp would have to be in the deal. "He might turn out to be the best of all of them," the scout said of Knapp. "He's a beast. A lot of people think he could be another Josh Johnson."

The Phillies tried to make a deal without including their best pitching prospect, Drabek, and their best position prospect, Dominic Brown. The Blue Jays want both. A deal might hinge on whether they can compromise with other players to do the deal with at least one of them in it. Meanwhile, the Angels and Dodgers remain interested in Halladay, but are trying to find a way to get a deal done without including a major league starter.

"The Angels don't want to take away from the team they have right now, which means no [Joe] Saunders or [Jered] Weaver," one league source said. "But they are a serious player. There's no doubt about that."

Likewise, the Dodgers won't part with either Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw, but they are willing to open wide their minor-league cabinet for the Jays to raid. The Rangers have kicked the tires on Halladay, but after the Jays asked for their best prospects, and after the Rangers needed Toronto to kick in money to help pay Halladay's salary, the likelihood of a match was remote. As for the Yankees and Red Sox, the asking price for them is even higher than what it is for Philadelphia, which is exactly what the Padres told the Dodgers when Jake Peavy was on the market. You don't trade an impact player within your division unless you are getting a clear overpayment.

So will Halladay be traded? The answer is yes, but we just don't know when it's coming. The Jays are too far down the road of dangling Halladay, just as the Twins were with Johan Santana, to keep him until he is eligible for free agency after next season. Trading him now makes the most sense because his value is highest. A team gets Halladay for about 44 starts and two Octobers now, but only 33 starts and one October if they wait until the next shopping period in November. Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi can always wait for November if he doesn't like what he is offered now, but he should expect a lesser return then.

Recent trade history of top starting pitchers suggests the Phillies shouldn't miss this opportunity. Yes, the Orioles clearly fleeced the Mariners in the Bedard trade last year. Said one AL GM, noting the trend of increased value on young players, "You might never see a deal like that again." But really, the Twins' take from the Mets on the Santana deal was poor (Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey and Philip Humber), and the Indians, though they were selling a rental, did OK on the CC Sabathia deal with Cleveland (Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson and Zach Johnson).

And then there are the Oakland Athletics, who in a little more than four years traded or lost Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Dan Haren and Rich Harden without a single clear victory. Zito was lost to free agency. The other four trades netted them eight pitchers, including Haren, who combined for a 76-92 record with Oakland. Brett Anderson, 21, acquired in the Haren deal with Arizona, has a chance to be special. A chance.

(Oakland flips properties so quickly it is hard to evaluate its trades without considering the trades that come subsequently, but the 16 players they obtained in the four trades of top pitchers have not moved the organization forward much.)

The Phillies instantly become World Series favorites if they trade for Halladay, not just this year, but also next year, too. "They have a chance to extend this run out to four or five years," the scout said. "Their core is still young and athletic." They can do it by losing only one piece from their 25-man roster, Happ, who might be a No. 4 starter in the postseason, a slot that is not even guaranteed a start. It is why the Phillies remain the best fit for Halladay.

Arizona director of scouting and player personnel Jerry DiPoto has emerged as a frontrunner for the Washington Nationals general manager job, according to a baseball source ... Only the Reds and Padres have a worse hitting team than Arizona in the NL, but you would not have known that by the way the Diamondbacks smacked around the Pirates. The Diamondbacks scored 30 runs with 25 extra-base hits in four games while hitting .346 in a weekend series against Pittsburgh. Said one scout, "That was one of the least prepared teams I've seen all year. They pitched at Arizona's hitters' strengths, not their weaknesses." ... Look out Lincecum and Cain: Aaron Cook and Jorge de la Rosa have been an unbeatable 1-2 punch for more than a month. Since June 17, Cook and de la Rosa are a combined 11-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 15 games. The Rockies are 13-2 in those games ... The Rockies continue to be one of the top grinding teams in baseball. Other clubs that have established a fierce every-day mentality: the Angels, Phillies, Red Sox and Rays ... Nice move by the Giants to pick up first baseman Ryan Garko. Now if they can land Freddy Sanchez or Dan Uggla to play second base, their lineup will be good enough to carry them to October.

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