Alex Anthopoulos was always going to be in high demand at baseball’s winter meetings, and the first pronouncements of the off-season from Roy Halladay’s camp will only serve to make the Toronto Blue Jays general manager even more sought after.
A potential trade of the ace right-hander must happen by next spring or Halladay will shut down talks on the matter, one of his representatives told ESPN.com, although another of his agents seemed to soften that stand in a subsequent interview with another news outlet Tuesday.
The comments, coming less than a week before the sport’s annual spend-and-swapfest, appear to be an attempt to force all potential suitors for arguably the game’s best pitcher to get their act together and make something happen Dec. 7-11 in Indianapolis.
Halladay himself has had little to say since Anthopoulos replaced the fired J.P. Ricciardi on the final weekend of a miserable 2009 season and he hasn’t publicly reacted to the new GM’s plans to rebuild the club. His agents tend to say even less on his behalf, adding impact to their words.
“One thing is certain — once Roy reports to spring training as a member of the Blue Jays, from that point forward he will not approve or even discuss any potential trade scenario,” Jeff Berry, a partner at CAA who works with Halladay’s longtime agent Greg Landry, told ESPN.com.
“This will eliminate a repeat of the distracting media frenzy of 2009 for both Roy and his teammates, and will allow Roy to focus on pitching at the exceptional level Jays fans have come to expect.”
Landry later told FoxSports.com that, “every situation will be looked at on its own merits,” and didn’t immediately return a message from The Canadian Press.
Anthopoulos, speaking to reporters at the BBWAA Toronto chapter’s annual awards luncheon, offered little reaction to their comments, but insisted the artificial deadline would not erode his ability to make a strong deal that helps replenish the Blue Jays with young, controllable players.
“With respect to trades, I don’t know that we have any deadlines to do anything,” he said. “For us, we make trades if we feel it makes the club better.
“We look at varying things: contract status, financial implications, what the return is. Everything is a factor. You weight it all out. I don’t know if it changes your ability to make a trade one way or the other.”
Still, the challenge Anthopoulos faces is how to play things from here.
The 32-year-old Halladay is in the driver’s seat, holding a no-trade clause that allows him to pick and choose his destination. He’s believed to be willing to go to at least four teams — the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Phillies — and likely a few other top contenders.
Berry said the “critical factor” in Halladay’s decision would be going to a place where he could win “multiple World Series championships,” a comment that suggests he’d like an extension in place with a new team before giving a trade his blessing. Halladay’s contract expires after the 2010 season and he’s in line for a substantial raise on the US$15.75 million he’s due to make.
Anthopoulos said in general he’d prefer not granting another team a window to negotiate an extension because of the potential complications it can cause, but privately he’s believed to be willing to allow it if the return justifies the risk.
Either way, simply making a deal is the hard part and another frenzy akin to the one launched by Ricciardi in the summer looms.
“I think it’ll be a zoo,” Anthopoulos said of the winter meetings. “I’m being honest, being completely candid. I think with just the media speculation about Roy Halladay and so on, I think no matter what I say, whether I comment or not, I understand it’s going to be a story. That’s just the reality of it.
“But, from my standpoint, there’s a lot of things I’d like to get done. I have a list of items and, really, we don’t start working when we get there. We’re in the process of doing it now. We’re just going to be able to continue dialogue, continue to try to make the team better.”
Dealing with the Halladay situation aside, the Blue Jays don’t have a starting catcher and are looking for help in the outfield, the starting rotation and the bullpen. They’re looking at trades, free agents and potential non-tender candidates.
For their part the Blue Jays offered arbitration to both catcher Rod Barajas and shortstop Marco Scutaro, ensuring they will receive compensatory draft picks if they sign elsewhere as expected.
But the ultimate shoe to drop is that of Halladay, and with thinking playoffs or bust and the Blue Jays looking to the future, a parting of ways between the two sides has long seemed imminent.
A trade would certainly help the Blue Jays kick-start their rebuilding. They would receive two draft picks in compensation should Halladay depart as a free agent after next season.