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12/10/09 1:50 PM EST

Doc talks ongoing, but no closer to deal

Halos, Phillies said to lead pack to acquire ace's services

INDIANAPOLIS -- Alex Anthopoulos loosened up a bit on Wednesday afternoon. The Blue Jays' general manager tiptoed carefully around questions about the future of ace Roy Halladay, but Anthopoulos did not decline comment at the mere mention of the pitcher's name.

Toronto is actively talking to a handful of teams about possible trade scenarios involving Halladay, but no deal was consummated before the end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday. In fact, with nothing new to report, Anthopoulos left town early in the morning without speaking to reporters.

Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava held firm to Anthopoulos' policy of not commenting on any Halladay trade discussions.

"I really wouldn't have any comments on what we've done to this point," LaCava said. "You know Alex, he's relentless. [He leaves] no stone unturned, as you guys know. I promise you, he's working really hard."

The Yankees and Red Sox continue to monitor the situation, but Major League sources have indicated that the Angels and Phillies may actually be leading the pack of Halladay's suitors. The Dodgers have contacted the Blue Jays about Halladay at the Meetings, and the Rays are believed to have some level of interest, as well.

According to a report in the Toronto Sun on Wednesday evening, the Angels have presented the Blue Jays with an offer that includes left-hander Joe Saunders, shortstop Erick Aybar and Minor League center fielder Peter Bourjos. In the event that the Jays agreed to the deal, Toronto would then attempt to trade recently signed shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

Angels GM Tony Reagins had "no reaction" to the report as he prepared to leave the Winter Meetings on Thursday.

"In this environment, a lot of things get thrown around," Reagins said. "It's somebody else's job to decipher. It's not worth commenting on. A lot of things get thrown around and aren't accurate."

Asked if he's engaged Toronto in talks, Reagins said: "We've talked about a lot of things. They have a lot of pieces over there that are attractive, and I'll leave it at that."

Shortly before reporters met with Anthopoulos on Wednesday, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston hardly stuck with his GM's no-comment policy when asked about Halladay. Gaston openly discussed the realistic possibility that Halladay will be traded this winter, noting that Anthopoulos has kept the manager informed on all offseason talks.

"I think he's probably going to leave, but I'm just not sure when," Gaston said of Halladay.

"We're hoping to get players that we feel have a chance to be premium players. It comes to the point that we would prefer to get as great a number of volume of above-average players as we can. I think the goal isn't to get a bunch of average players."

-- GM Alex Anthopoulos, on Roy Halladay trade situation

After being told about Gaston's comments, Anthopoulos was asked if it was any way a priority to resolve the Halladay situation before moving on to other issues this winter. Anthopoulos did not deny that the Blue Jays might be thinking along those lines.

"There's no question that certain trades can affect certain things and line things up," Anthopoulos replied. "Certain players, obviously, command more in trades, and, for lack of a better word, may fill more holes and things like that. There's definitely a domino effect to some of this stuff, certainly. Again, the goal with everything that we're doing is to get as many core pieces as we can, as many long-term pieces as we can.

"That's why we've been pretty aggressive exploring three-way [trades] and four-ways and things like that. I think it's helped us in the sense that it's been clear that we've been targeting players on certain teams. Though there's a lot of good players out there, it's easy to say what players fit for what we're trying to do.

"That's really what we've been doing the entire time, just continuing to talk to clubs, continuing to try to line things up with bigger trades."

The Jays targeted Aybar in trade talks with the Angels in July, when former Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi entertained offers for Halladay. At the time, the Halos did not want to part with the shortstop, but their stance has changed. That is one reason they appear to be the surprising front-runners to land Halladay.

One sticking point in a potential deal with the Angels could be Halladay's preference to pitch for a team that trains near his Florida home. Considering he is eligible for free agency next winter, though, one Major League source indicated that the star pitcher might consider waiving his no-trade clause, approving a move to the West Coast for the 2010 season.

The Angels might be on the verge of losing free-agent pitcher John Lackey to another club this winter, making Halladay an attractive replacement for the defending American League West champions. Reagins told reporters on Wednesday that the notion of landing two premium pitchers -- presumably meaning Lackey and Halladay -- was "not likely -- possible, but not likely."

The Phillies, who acquired ace left-hander Cliff Lee last July after talks with the Blue Jays broke down, remain very much in the mix for Halladay this offseason, according to another Major League source. Philadelphia has the talent to pull off a trade, but it is believed that it would likely have to trade pitcher Joe Blanton to clear salary space before seriously pursuing Halladay.

Last July, Toronto expressed interest in Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ, as well as pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, and outfield prospects Michael Taylor and Domonic Brown. Each of those players remain with Philadelphia, but the club might balk at parting with top prospects so soon after sending five players to Cleveland in the Lee trade.

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. would not address Halladay specifically Wednesday, but when asked about the Philadelphia's chances to land a big-time starting pitcher in a trade, Amaro said, "Is there any way possible? I guess there is. Is there a likelihood of us getting involved in something that's that big? Probably not."

He repeated that theme on Thursday. "There's nothing likely. How about that?" Amaro said.

Philadelphia trains in Clearwater, Fla., which is only a short drive from Halladay's home. The Yankees (Tampa) and Red Sox (Ft. Myers) also have spring homes in Florida, but the AL East rivals will likely wait to see if the Jays will lower their asking price before seriously getting involved in talks. Toronto wants a strong package of Major League-ready talent or high-ceiling players who can help strengthen the club's core down the road.

"I think he's probably going to leave, but I'm just not sure when."

-- Manager Cito Gaston, on Halladay

"We're hoping to get players that we feel have a chance to be premium players," said Anthopoulos, referring to trades in general. "It comes to the point that we would prefer to get as great a number of volume of above-average players as we can. I think the goal isn't to get a bunch of average players."

Gaston said Anthopoulos is doing what he can to strengthen the team's foundation, while keeping Halladay's desires in mind. Last winter, pitcher A.J. Burnett -- Halladay's teammate in Toronto from 2006-08 -- signed with the Yankees and won a World Series in his first season in the Bronx. That could have only added to Halladay's wish to pitch on baseball's biggest stage as soon as possible.

"I know Alex wants to certainly make sure that we get something in return for Doc," Gaston said, "and make sure Doc goes where he wants to go, too. I don't hold anything against Doc. I'm a Doc fan, and I understand that he wants to go and get a ring probably as quick as A.J. did last year. I understand that, and I think he deserves to go somewhere and hopefully get that.

"Just not in our league," Gaston added with a laugh. "We don't want to face him."

Maybe not, but the Blue Jays are not opposed to trading one of their players within the AL East, and the Yankees remain in the hunt. New York pulled the trigger on a blockbuster three-team trade with Detroit and Arizona on Tuesday -- announced officially on Wednesday -- to land star center fielder Curtis Granderson, sending outfield prospect Austin Jackson to the Tigers as part of the deal.

The Jays had expressed interest in Jackson, but Anthopoulos noted on Tuesday that the Yankees' trade did not affect any of his talks with other teams. In a potential Halladay deal with New York, Toronto is believed to be seeking one of two pitchers -- Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain -- as well as catching prospect Jesus Montero, who could be moved to first base, and perhaps a third prospect.

New York might be reluctant to make another major offseason trade that would weaken its farm system, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman did not rule out the possibility of another deal.

"It's obviously dependent on the player I'd be getting," Cashman said. "I would [do it] in the right circumstance. I don't like to, and for good reason. It was tough to give those guys up. Having depth is nice."

According to a report in the New York Post, the Yankees might try to acquire Halladay without discussing an extension with the pitcher. Under that scenario, New York could wind up with two high picks in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft if Halladay signed with another team next offseason. That could help replace some of the prospects lost in trades.

As for the Red Sox, they're more likely to want to discuss an extension in any talks about Halladay, and the Jays are not against considering granting such a window. That being said, Anthopoulos has said that he prefers not to go down that road in any trade discussions, because it would only complicate matters.

In discussions with the Red Sox, it is believed that the Jays have asked for Boston pitcher Clay Buchholz and pitching prospect Casey Kelly as part of any deal for Halladay. The Sox do not want to part with Kelly, making them an unlikely match with the Jays at this point.

One way or the other, Halladay's representatives have made it known that the pitcher prefers to have the situation resolved before he reports to Spring Training. Last July, the constant trade talks wore on Halladay, and he does not want to go through a similar experience during the upcoming season.

That was another thing Gaston understood.

"I think it affected him more than it affected anybody else, I really do," Gaston said. "Doc is strong enough to handle it, but certainly, he's doing things that he's not really used to doing every day, and that's talking to the media every day, as opposed to every four days or every five days."

Gaston was then asked if it would be beneficial for Halladay to have a trade happen before the spring, if one is going to occur.

"Absolutely," Gaston said.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.