The Phillies and Blue Jays have been locked in what one league source called "intense'' negotiations regarding star Jays pitcher Roy Halladay over the past few days, and officials believe there's still a very good chance a deal will eventually be struck – though perhaps not until close to the July 31 deadline.
Although the Jays requested a high-end package that included both top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, fine young lefthanded pitcher J.A. Happ and well-regarded outfield prospect Dominic Brown (as first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer), and the Phillies apparently didn't appreciate the request, the sides are still believed to be discussing alternative packages. The Phillies are still almost universally seen as the favorite, thanks to their deep reserve of prospects, the wherewithal to pay Halladay and a resolve to repeat as World Champions.
It is believed the Phillies strongly object to the idea of including both Drabek and Happ. If an agreement can be reached eventually, the Jays are more likely to receive one of those two top young pitchers and one of their two great outfield prospects – either Brown or Michael Taylor - plus another piece or two. If Drabek – the pitcher the Phillies very early suggested was untouchable – is included, the other players in the deal would be somewhat lesser in value.
One competing executive said he believed the Halladay derby would go beyond the Jays-announced self-imposed July 28 deadline and go right up until the actual deadline of July 31. It's believed that at least the Rangers and Angels have exchanged names, while the Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Dodgers, Giants, Rays, White Sox, and Tigers also have expressed interest. One AL executive said the Jays have been asking teams for three or four of the very top young players, with a particular emphasis on prospects who are about ready for the big leagues.
The Yankees remain waiting by the phone since an initial couple calls expressing interest two weeks ago. One AL executive said Red Sox owner John Henry would like to do something big, but Boston GM Theo Epstein has been reluctant to trade his top prospects, and beyond that, the Red Sox's biggest issue lately has been their offense. Toronto has made clear both the Yankees and Red Sox would have to pay a major premium to have any chance since they want to deal him out of the AL East.
The recent revelation that Halladay told the Jays he wouldn't sign an extension there seems to increase the likelihood of him being dealt, and one competing executive said he believes Toronto has concluded that their best package will come now, when Halladay would give an acquiring team two shots at a championship. Based on his recent comments, Halladay seems almost eager to go now, as well.
While some have suggested that even the chances for a deal for Halladay are "50-50'' or less at different points during the shopping of the superstar pitcher, league executives believe Halladay will be dealt and that the Phillies' chances in particular are seen as being very good now. While Drabek is viewed as a potential star, some execs suggest the Phillies would actually be better off trading the dynamic Drabek. "(Happ's) their No. 3 pitcher,'' one AL executive pointed out. The multi-talented Brown is generally viewed as being the bigger prospect than Taylor, but both are extremely well-regarded. The Phillies possess several more very good prospects, such as pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp, shortstop Jason Donald, outfielder John Mayberry Jr. and catcher Lou Marson.
Halladay has a full no-trade clause and has informed Toronto which teams he'd be willing to go to. But one Halladay acquaintance said he's almost sure Halladay would approve the Phillies because they are a very likely playoff team. It doesn't hurt, either, that they train in Clearwater Fla., adjacent to Dunedin, the very town where Halladay lives.