THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — J.P. Ricciardi set a loose deadline of next Tuesday for completing a Roy Halladay trade, sending potential suitors a clear message that if they want the ace right-hander they had better ante up soon to get him.
The Toronto Blue Jays general manager also turned up the posturing by saying "at this point it’s probably unlikely we’ll trade Doc," after both he and Halladay recently pegged the chances for a deal at "50-50."
"If we don’t have him traded by the time his last start gets here it’s probably not going to get done," Ricciardi said before Tuesday’s series opener with the Cleveland Indians.
"As you get closer and closer to the deadline, no-one’s really stepped up yet and at that point I think time starts running out on you. And, like I’ve said, we’ve got to be highly motivated to move him. We haven’t been highly motivated yet."
Ricciardi said some sort of cutoff is necessary in order to give the teams enough time to tie up all the loose ends a deal of such magnitude brings, from physicals for all the players involved to appropriate signoffs from ownership.
Halladay also has a full no-trade clause so his approval will be needed, as well. He has two starts remaining before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, Friday at home versus Tampa Bay and July 29 at Seattle.
Ricciardi added that he’d like Halladay to pitch against the Mariners with some type of resolution to the matter, but next Tuesday is not a drop-dead date by any means.
If the Blue Jays and another team are making progress at that point, talks could extend right up to the last minute July 31. However, if no preliminary work is in place by then, talks aren’t likely to get started then or afterwards.
The Blue Jays are seeking a high-end package of prospects that includes elite young pitching for the 2003 Cy Young Award winner. They’re more likely to get it now rather than if they wait until the off-season.
"History tells you if a guy has more service time for a team, he’s probably going to be more valuable to that team at that point," said Ricciardi. "If the off-season comes and someone feels the same way and wants to blow you away, I guess you can get something but history tells you having a guy for a year and a half is more important than having him for a year."
Halladay, who is making US$14.25 million this season and is due $15.75 million in 2010 before his contract expires, has been on the open market for a couple of weeks now.
The Philadelphia Phillies are considered the favourites to land him, with Boston, Milwaukee, San Francisco, the Yankees, Dodgers and Angels all in the mix to varying degrees.
.Asked how many teams had expressed serious interest, Ricciardi declined comment, offering only, "there’s been enough."
Ricciardi also hinted that if Halladay is moved, the stripping down of the team won’t end there. Shorstop Marco Scutaro, catcher Rod Barajas and infielder John McDonald will all be free agents after the season while third baseman Scott Rolen, first baseman Lyle Overbay and closer Scott Downs are all signed through 2010.
"Everything feeds off if we do something with Doc," said Ricciardi. "The first thing we’re concentrating on is if we’re going to trade Doc, obviously. If we are trading him, then we’d be open to doing other things."