07/23/09 7:58 PM ET
Phillies continue hot pursuit of Halladay
Insiders believe Philadelphia is favorite to acquire ace
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
Expect more in the coming days.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Thursday afternoon he did not have a sense either way if the Phils would make a trade -- any trade -- before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. One thing is certain: They remain hot after Halladay, and most baseball insiders still consider the Phillies the favorites to get him.
Former Philadelphia general manager Pat Gillick has been in Toronto recently, and Blue Jays scouts have been combing the Phillies' farm system as they decide on the prospects the Phillies would need to include to acquire the former Cy Young winner.
The Blue Jays have placed a July 28 soft deadline to make a deal, but if the Phillies and Blue Jays are close, their talks certainly would continue to July 31.
And here's the kicker if the Phillies and Jays pull the trigger at the last hour: Halladay won't need to change hotel rooms. The Phillies play the Giants in San Francisco from July 30-Aug. 2 and the Blue Jays play the Athletics in Oakland from July 31-Aug. 2.
Both teams are staying in the same hotel in San Francisco.
Amaro has plenty of things to consider as he moves forward. Which prospects should he give up? How does Halladay's $15.75 million salary next season impact his other off-season moves? How does Halladay's free agency following next season influence Amaro's decision to part with the organization's top prospects?
Amaro said any reports about his prospects being untouchable (or tradeable) are purely speculative, including reports that the Phillies have told the Blue Jays that Double-A Reading right-hander Kyle Drabek would not be traded. Amaro would not say whether he would trade Drabek or not.
"There are some people we would not trade and there are some people we would, and it's all subject to change," Amaro said.
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said recently he expects a package "similar or better" to packages the Orioles received in 2008 for Erik Bedard and the Indians received in '02 for Bartolo Colon. The Orioles received All-Star outfielder Adam Jones, All-Star closer George Sherrill, top pitching prospect Chris Tillman and two others for Bedard. The Indians received Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, All-Star outfielder Grady Sizemore, second baseman Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens for Colon.
Of course, what if the Phillies don't get Halladay?
The Phils have scouted Lee, although the asking price remains high.
There is some thought that Philadelphia, if it is unable to land a quality starter, would turn its attention to the bullpen. AOL Fanhouse reported the Phillies scouted D-backs closer Chad Qualls this week. Sherrill could also be available.
Either would strengthen the Phillies' bullpen. The club placed left-hander J.C. Romero and right-hander Chad Durbin on the 15-day disabled list Thursday, and closer Brad Lidge continues to struggle.
Lidge is 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA and 19 saves in 25 opportunities this season, and he hasn't been much better since he returned from the disabled list in late June. He is 0-1 with a 7.00 ERA and six saves in six opportunities upon his return from a sprained right knee. But in nine innings, he has allowed nine hits, nine walks and seven runs. He has struck out 11 and hit two batters.
"We have different pursuits," Amaro said. "We'll continue to pursue all of them. And we'll decide by the 31st which is our biggest need. ... We're just trying to improve our club if we can. If it's with pitching, it's pitching. If it's with a bat, it's a bat. We'll try to address all these issues. These are all issues that are easier said than done. It doesn't mean they're going to be done. They may be done internally, too. Are we trying to improve our club in those three areas [rotation, bullpen, right-handed bat off the bench]? Yes, but how we line it up and prioritize it is something that we'll keep to ourselves."
Asked which he would prefer: a starter or a reliever before the deadline, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel didn't miss a beat: "I prefer the horse. The horse keeps you out of your bullpen."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.