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Posted: Friday July 17, 2009 12:36PM; Updated: Friday July 17, 2009 1:57PM
Jon Heyman Jon Heyman >

Dodgers enter race for Halladay; Jays freezing out Yankees, Red Sox

Story Highlights

Halladay and Lee apparently head the Dodgers' wish list of starting pitchers

The Phils are seen as the logical winner of the Halladay derby for many reasons

Milwaukee could make another run at a star pitcher; notes around the majors

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Roy Halladay
Toronto ace Roy Halladay recently said he thinks there's a 50-50 chance he'll be traded.
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While the Phillies remain almost everyone's favorite to land superstar pitcher Roy Halladay, and the best-in-baseball Dodgers are now believed to be showing interest, two big-market contenders for the summer's big pitching prize -- the Yankees and Red Sox -- recently have been informed by the Blue Jays that their chances to land Halladay are slim.

Executives familiar with the trade talks say Jays people told the Yankees and Red Sox that they prefer to deal Halladay -- if he's dealt at all -- to a team outside their division. Further proving their point, the Jays haven't followed up recently on a Yankees call expressing interest 10 days ago.

Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi won't publicly rule out an intra-divisional blockbuster, but a directive to look elsewhere first may come from above. This is such a big deal, one competing executive said, that acting club president Paul Beeston and ownership are heavily involved.

Even after their just-completed signing of the Cooperstown-bound Pedro Martinez, the Phillies are still seen by competitors as the logical winner of the derby for several reasons, including: 1) they seek a front-line starter; 2) they have the money to spend on Halladay, who makes $14.25 million this year and will earn $15.75 million next year; and 3) they possess the prospects to form a more than decent package.

But while Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has publicly suggested they view top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek (son of Doug) as untouchable, some competing execs say they believe the Jays would be obligated to insist on Drabek, who flashed his eye-popping talent (he throws a dynamic curveball) in the Futures Game in St. Louis. "Any trade they make would have to start with Drabek,'' one competing executive opined. "How do the Jays do a deal for this player and go back and tell their fans they didn't get the other team's best prospect?''

"This trade is going to have to hurt somebody,'' another executive with an interested team maintained.

One Jays-connected person suggested at the start that the Jays actually may not insist on Drabek due to his past arm trouble (he had Tommy John surgery) and a reputation for cockiness. But while the Phillies have a deep reserve of prospects and young players (pitchers J.A. Happ, Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp; outfielders John Mayberry Jr., Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor; catcher Lou Marson and shortstop Jason Donald), most others see Drabek as the clear gem of the system.

The Dodgers have a bevy of talented young players who could interest the Jays. The potential issue for the Dodgers is that most of those young players are already producing at the big-league level and contributing to the team that has held baseball's best record almost from the start of the season. "(The Jays) would want something from the Dodgers' major-league roster,'' one competing executive opined

The Dodgers surely wouldn't want to subtract from their rotation by offering ace pitcher Chad Billingsley or 21-year-old Clayton Kershaw, and might also have difficulty including either of their young outfield talents, Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier -- though they do have veteran Juan Pierre waiting to fill in ably. Without the inclusion of Kemp or Ethier, it's questionable whether L.A. could entice the Jays with young pitcher James McDonald, pitching prospects Ethan Martin and Josh Lindblom, shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr. and a few others.

The Angels are focused on pitching and remain interested in Halladay, but their top prospects, infielders Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez and pitchers Jordan Walden and Trevor Reckling, may not be enough. St. Louis, one place Halladay figures to approve considering his close relationship with Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, would almost surely have to include coveted third base prospect Brett Wallace, and that still may not be enough, according to a Jays-connected person. The Giants, Brewers, White Sox, Rangers and Tigers are among other parties believed to have interest.

Some executives privately question whether the Jays can get enough to justify dealing a true ace, but rare is the time when a team dangles such a star only to pull him back. Though two executives still flat out said on Thursday they don't believe Halladay will be dealt. Halladay's comments at the All-Star break seemed to indicate he is willing to go to team with a better chance at the postseason, and he himself put the chances for a deal at 50-50. His mention of wanting to try hitting in the National League was especially interesting. Would the Jays prefer to exclude the entire AL?

It's a tough call for the Jays either way.

"It's a negative if they trade him, and a negative of they don't,'' one competing executive said.

The Jays apparently think things will get a little too negative around Toronto if they deal him to the archrival Yankees or Red Sox. While teams are generally leery to deal a star within the division, in this case it would be especially painful since the Jays perennially have to peer up at the big-market Yankees and Red Sox in the standings.

Though it would take a haul for anyone to acquire Halladay (Toronto is said to be asking for four prime prospects, including two who will be big-league ready by next year), the Jays apparently aren't now insisting that any acquiring team take on Vernon Wells' onerous contract. At least two GMs from big-market teams say there has been no suggestion the Jays would require, expect or even hope that anyone would take Wells and the $90 million remaining on his bad deal off their hands. That in itself shows Toronto is serious and realistic about this undertaking.

While the Yankees remain interested, one more major factor looms as an impediment to a deal. The Yankees are reluctant to "gut their system,'' according to one rival executive. The Yankees could easily form a nice trade package by including one of two young talented right-handers -- Joba Chamberlain and/or Phil Hughes -- plus catching prospect Jesus Montero and outfield prospect Austin Jackson.

However, the Yankees and Red Sox -- who have coveted young pitchers Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, Junichi Tazawa, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Casey Kelly and Manny Delcarmen -- both have grown significantly more protective in recent years of their farm systems. So neither would seem willing to pay the high premium Toronto would seek to deal with them.

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