"We have some flexibility," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before Wednesday night's game against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park. "A lot of it depends on the player that we're talking about, but we have some flexibility. It's not unlimited. And as you know, we have the highest payroll we've ever had. We're well over $130 million, and there is a limit to what we can spend."
Halladay will make $15.75 million next season, which is a relative bargain for a pitcher of his caliber.
But it isn't just the money.
"It would take a lot for us to part with him," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi told The Boston Globe on Wednesday. "We've gotten a lot of calls from teams, but none of them are telling us at this point what they're willing to give up. If you're coming at us with a 'B' list of young players, don't bother. This is one of the five best players in baseball. It's going to take a significant package of players for us to even listen. So as the teams call, we'll go through the ones we feel are the serious ones, and then we'll start scouting their farm systems to see if there's anything we can do."
A Blue Jays scout attended the Phillies game Tuesday, when left-hander J.A. Happ pitched. Happ could interest the Jays, but Amaro said the Phils are looking to add players at the Major League level, not subtract them.
The player Toronto might want the most is Double-A Reading right-hander Kyle Drabek. He is Philadelphia's top prospect, but Phillies insiders have said he is one of three untouchables in the farm system. (Even Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who would love Halladay, said it would be tough to trade Drabek.) Outfielder Dominic Brown and right-hander Jason Knapp are the others, although it is possible the Phillies could rethink their positions on them if Halladay could be had. Other top prospects like Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Michael Taylor are available.
The Phillies have been in this position before. They came up short in the CC Sabathia sweepstakes last July, although they reportedly finished close behind the Brewers.
"If you're second, you're last, I guess," Amaro said.
But the Phillies seem to be better equipped to land a pitcher this year than last year.
"I think we're in good position to do some things overall," Amaro said. "Like I said, I think our farm system has improved. Again, when you're talking about doing trades of any type, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We may think our guys are much better than they think our guys are. We'll try to be aggressive with the right deal. At the same time, we have to be prudent about what some of these moves might impact our future, too."
Amaro is told that while his philosophy about balancing the present and future makes sense, fans and even Manuel, whose job is to win today, might not want to hear it.
Manuel, asked if he understood the risk in mortgaging the future for a shot at a World Series title, said, "Let me put it to you like this, if I could get somebody who's going to be impact right away, then I would go get him. I look at our team. I look at [Ryan] Howard, [Chase] Utley, [Jimmy] Rollins, [Shane] Victorino, [Brad] Lidge, [Cole] Hamels, those guys. We have a window in there of at least three years. That gives us a chance to get back and repeat in the World Series the next three years. Why not make our team as good as it possibly can be at the Major League level?"
Amaro said he understood.
"The goal is to win this year. There's no question about that," he said. "That doesn't change. But we didn't get CC last year and we didn't get Manny [Ramirez], last year and most of these guys on the field right now are toting rings around. ... My goal is to sustain this window. Keep the window as open as long as possible. Our goal is not to win just one or two or three years. It's to try to win many years."
In the end, it will come down to which team is willing to meet the very high demands from the Blue Jays.
Riccardi isn't optimistic a trade will happen.
"My gut feeling is no, we won't, because there aren't too many teams out there who are willing to give us the significant package of prospects we would need to make this go," Riccardi told the Globe. "Teams protect their prospects."
Plan B for the Phillies might be free-agent right-hander Pedro Martinez, who the Phils watched throw Tuesday in the Dominican Republic.
Martinez remains a possibility, although Amaro wouldn't say much about the workout.
"We are trying to do what we can to add to our club, and if we feel at the end of the day Pedro is going to help us, than we'll make a run at him," Amaro said.