Jays would entertain Halladay offers
Veteran ace stresses his desire to win soon
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Blue Jays are not shopping Roy Halladay. That is one thing general manager J.P. Ricciardi wanted to make clear on Tuesday afternoon. What Ricciardi is willing to do is answer his phone and entertain any trade proposals for Toronto's ace.
That being said, it would take a significant package to pry Halladay -- the face of the Blue Jays' franchise -- away from the only organization he's known.
"We're not going to give the guy away," Ricciardi said in a phone interview. "We'd be willing to listen. That doesn't mean we'd be willing to trade."
Halladay's name has been floated in trader rumors in the past, but this is the first time Ricciardi has openly admitted that he's willing to consider dealing the right-hander. Halladay is signed through 2010 and Ricciardi has maintained that the Jays plan on discussing a contract extension with the pitcher this coming offseason.
That much remains true, but with the Blue Jays sliding into fourth place in the American League East, and the team's payroll slashed to around $80 million heading into the season, Toronto might see the benefit in at least analyzing what kind of offers come in for Halladay. Pulling the trigger on a trade is another story.
Ricciardi's comments don't necessarily mean the Jays are waving the white flag and preparing to unload players, especially Halladay.
"That's exactly right," Ricciardi said. "All we're willing to do is listen to anybody who is willing to talk to us about Doc. That's all."
Ricciardi added that he doesn't feel his latest remarks differ from anything he's said in the past.
"I don't think anything's changed," Ricciardi said. "It's not like we're moving him."
After learning about Ricciardi's comments, Halladay met with the media prior to Tuesday's game against the Rays at Tropicana Field. Halladay wanted to address the issue once, getting it out of the way with the hope that the development would not become a distraction.
Asked if he was more open to potentially being traded now than in the past, Halladay grimaced and hesitated before answering.
"That's tough. That's a tough question to answer, honestly," Halladay said. "I want to stay here, but I think when an organization is kind of thinking that maybe we kind of want to go this direction, and it's a situation that suits the team and yourself, then you have to evaluate that and say, 'Maybe this is the best thing.' I'm really not in that situation yet."
Considering the club's current situation, and given the fact that the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is only a few weeks away, Halladay said he was not surprised by Ricciardi's statements. Halladay just doesn't want the situation to affect his focus on the task at hand, which is leading a Toronto rotation that is in shambles.
"For me, the best I can do is try to avoid letting it become a distraction and go from there," Halladay said. "I understand, obviously, the economics of the game and how the game works. It's a situation where I think if it's best for the team, if it's best for me, then you go from there. At this point, it's too hard to tell. Basically, he's just saying this is an option we have and maybe we'll look at it. That's really the extent of it at this point."
Halladay -- owner of the 2003 American League Cy Young Award -- is pitching in his 12th season and has said he ultimately wants to pitch for a team that has a chance to reach the World Series. In an increasingly tough AL East, the Blue Jays' chance of achieving that goal in the near future appears slim.
Halladay reiterated that desire on Tuesday. He would love nothing more than to lead the Jays to the postseason, but if he feels the organization isn't close to reaching that point, the pitcher isn't ruling out a new home.
"My goals have always been the same," Halladay said. "I love Toronto. I want to stay here, but I want to win as well. That's becoming more and more of a goal for me. Obviously, my first choice would be to do it here. Like I've said in the past, whether or not our organization and my goals line up, it's never always going to be that way. Sometimes teams have to take steps back, and I understand that.
Given the Blue Jays' current financial situation, it's unclear if the organization can afford to sign Halladay to an extension that would approach the type of deal the ace could receive as a free agent. Halladay has shown loyalty to Toronto over the years, signing a three-year, $40 million extension in the spring of 2006 -- a pact that fell below his market value.
Halladay and Ricciardi both have said they don't want to talk about a possible extension during this season. On Tuesday, Ricciardi indicated that the club hasn't outlined a financial plan within its budget to account for an extension, meaning the Blue Jays don't know how much they could afford to offer him at this point.
"I don't even think we've thought that far ahead," Ricciardi said. "I don't think that we could even answer that right now."
Halladay is under contract this season for $14.25 million and is scheduled to make $15.75 million next year in the final season of his current contract. His deal also includes a full no-trade clause.
If the Blue Jays decide to keep Halladay in the fold -- and approach him about an extension -- the pitcher might prefer to wait to see how the 2010 season plays out before signing. He said his concerns don't involve contract length or value.
"For me, my decisions are going to be based on having a chance to win, and that's it," Halladay said. "I don't know if you were to talk about something like [an extension] what it would entail. I think my biggest decision would be, 'Do I feel like this is going to go in a direction where we have a chance to win, and quickly?' And that's it.
"It's hard to tell, but it's not going to be a decision based on whether it's a certain years or certain number. It's going to be based on winning."
This season, the 32-year-old Halladay has started to piece together yet another impressive campaign as the horse of Toronto's rotation. Through 16 starts, he has posted a 10-2 record with a 2.79 ERA, completing three games and compiling 98 strikeouts against 17 walks over 116 innings. On Sunday, Halladay was named to his sixth All-Star team.
Suitors for Halladay could be plentiful. In the Blue Jays' division, the Yankees again are without Chien-Ming Wang and dealing with Joba Chamberlain's struggles, and the Red Sox have not gotten what they expected from John Smoltz. The Phillies, Mets, Brewers and Angels are other contenders in need of pitching.
The question is whether any team can, or will, step up with an offer of the type that in 2002 pried Bartolo Colon away from Cleveland. In that deal with the Montreal Expos, the Indians landed Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips.
If that type of blockbuster offer is dangled, Ricciardi is at least willing to listen. Halladay believes by admitting that much that Ricciardi also may be looking out for the pitcher's interests.
"J.P. and I have always got along well," Halladay said. "From Day 1, I think we've understood each other. And he knows that I want to win. That's really all it comes down to. A lot of the conversations that we've had about different things come down to that point. He knows where I'm coming from. I really believe, even in situations like this, that maybe he's looking out for my best interest, too."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.