Halladay talk could make for an interesting month

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I am not sure if J.P. Ricciardi is trying to stir up a little interest in what was going to be an otherwise ho-hum MLB trade deadline or what, but he has certainly gotten everyone's attention with his declaration that he will listen to offers for right-hander Roy Halladay.

"We have to see what makes us better," Ricciardi told CBS Sportsline on Tuesday. "Obviously, if people have interest in Roy Halladay, they'd better realize there's a steep price that's going to come with it."

Halladay, AKA the best pitcher on the planet, is not just a rent-a-player either, as he is in the second season of a three-year, $40 million contract he signed in 2006. Whatever team trades for him would inherit the $14.25 million he is making this year, as well as a relatively reasonable $15.75 million price tag for next season.

"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," Halladay said.

The 32-year-old former AL Cy Young Award winner, who would have to waive his no-trade clause should a deal be made, is having another tremendous year, going 10-2 with a 2.79 earned run average, while completing three games and compiling 98 strikeouts against just 17 walks in 116 innings.

"For me, the best I can do is try to avoid letting it become a distraction and go from there," Halladay added. "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."

Ricciardi also did the smart thing and said he would be willing to deal Halladay within the AL East, meaning, of course, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Ricciardi would have to be mentally ill to even consider such a thing, but it does not hurt to have everyone thinking the Yankees and Red Sox are involved.

There will be plenty of suitors, and New York will probably be one of them after Chien-Ming Wang went down on Saturday with what could be a season-ending shoulder injury. I cannot even fathom Ricciardi doing business with a team he has to face 19 times a year, though.

Either way, any deal for Halladay to the Yankees would have to include either Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes or both. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman did not want to part with youngsters in a deal for the younger Johan Santana two years ago, and I can't seem him doing it right now.

That said, Cashman has to know that a top three of Halladay, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett would be pretty tough to beat come playoff time.

Boston also has enough young talent to get a deal done, but general manager Theo Epstein seems unwilling to unload his young pitchers (Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, Daniel Bard) unless he is getting another young impact player in return. The Red Sox, who probably have enough pitching to win, seem more focused on adding another bat to the lineup than another ace like Halladay.

Supposedly, the team has designs on obtaining first baseman Justin Smoak, Texas' first round pick from a year ago, who is tearing up the minors and could be in the big leagues as early as next season. The Red Sox are reportedly sniffing around Cleveland's Victor Martinez as well.

People can talk about the Yankees and Red Sox all they want, but when this is all said and done, I think it is going to come down to two places: Philadelphia or Los Angeles, as in the Angels.

Since Brett Myers went down for the season with a hip injury, and even before that, Philadelphia has been searching for another top-of-the-line starter. Until Halladay's name surfaced, there was just nothing out there. Erik Bedard is not a difference-maker, nor is Jason Marquis or even Pedro Martinez, whom the team scouted this past week.

Bottom line, if the Phillies come up short in the Halladay sweepstakes, GM Ruben Amaro should be fired on the spot. This is exactly the guy they have been looking for. He is available. Go get him.

Halladay would probably tip the scales in the direction of any team he lands with, but should he surface in Philadelphia, I would almost guarantee another World Series parade down Broad Street.

Philadelphia's farm system may not be the best in baseball, but there are players there that could entice Ricciardi and the Jays, particularly shortstop Jason Donald. Start with him, throw in pitching prospects Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Drabek, and maybe someone from the major league roster, and you could have a deal.

Point is the Phillies should do whatever it takes. Worry about down the road, down the road.

Anaheim is the other logical landing spot. The Angels have had to deal with a ton of injuries, especially in the starting pitching department, yet are still tied for the top spot in the AL West heading into action on Wednesday.

Who knows when or if Kelvim Escobar is coming back? Ervin Santana is not the same pitcher he was a year ago, and is having trouble staying on the field. Halladay would fit in perfectly in a rotation that already includes John Lackey and Jered Weaver.

The Angels' system is also stacked and it has exactly what Ricciardi is looking for. There is plenty of young infield help, especially at shortstop, where the Angels have a wealth of young talent in Brandon Wood and Eric Aybar.

Sabathia was a huge difference-maker down the stretch last season for Milwaukee, and Halladay has the potential to do the same, if not more so.

If this gets done it is going to be a blockbuster. Think Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos. Cleveland basically revamped its entire farm system with that deal, nabbing Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips.

As much of a ransom as that turned out to be, Halladay will net more. There are maybe three or four legitimate aces in the game today, and he is at the top of that list.

I know this, with as many as 22 or 23 teams still thinking they are in the playoff hunt, it was going to be a dull deadline, but with Halladay in play, things are going to get very interesting over the next three weeks.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.
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