Statements by Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi yesterday that Roy Halladay would test the free-agent market in 2010 threatened to cause a rift with the Blue Jays' star right-hander.
After learning that Halladay had been irked by his revelation, Ricciardi moved last night to dispel any notion of a split.
"Roy Halladay has not demanded a trade," Ricciardi said. "We know what he wants and he knows what he wants. He hasn't given us a list of teams. We've run teams by him to see if he has any interest in going there - yes or no. There is no secret, hidden agenda. We're not playing divide and conquer … and, again, my gut tells me that I just don't see anything happening."
Speaking to reporters yesterday afternoon as he was getting on an elevator at the Rogers Centre, Ricciardi said: "I think I made this clear really early that Doc wanted to test the free-agent market. That's the reason we're going down this whole avenue."
Ricciardi also indicated to reporters that Halladay, who has a no-trade clause, provided a list of teams to the Blue Jays.
Halladay appeared testy after yesterday's 5-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians when reporters approached him for comment on the impromptu interview with Ricciardi.
"I don't want to address it," Halladay said. "I don't even know what he [Ricciardi]said. I'll do it after I pitch."
According to Rogers Sportsnet, Halladay's initial reaction when approached by one of their reporters was: "This is not good."
For the second time in a week, Toronto baseball fans will get a chance tonight to bid a cautionary adieu to Halladay when he pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of a three-game series at the Rogers Centre.
The Blue Jays have always maintained that this season was a "building bridge" to next year, when the team felt it would be in a better position to contend in the American League East with a full roster of healthy pitchers. And it was expected that Halladay would be the centrepiece of that pitching staff.
But Ricciardi first told reporters in New York on July 5 that the Blue Jays would be "open to anything" to improve the club, including listening to offers for Halladay.
Sources say Halladay may have informed Ricciardi during that road trip that he intended to test the market (the Blue Jays mobilized their scouts soon afterward), but Ricciardi said he was not certain of the date of the discussion.
Last night, Ricciardi drew a parallel to the circumstances surrounding Carlos Delgado's decision in 2004 to exercise his no-trade clause.
"I asked Carlos after the All-Star break if he would waive his no-trade clause," Ricciardi said. "He said no. I asked Roy about it this year, and he said he'd be open to it."
Ricciardi told reporters yesterday afternoon that "this has been a joint venture. It hasn't been without talking and Doc not included in the process. He's obviously expressed an interest that when free agency comes up next time, that he's going to at least be attracted to trying to see what it is."
Ricciardi has never clearly expressed that Halladay's desire to test free agency was behind the club's decision to consider trade proposals. Further confusing the Jays' motives, Blue Jays interim chief executive officer Paul Beeston suggested last week in an interview on a Toronto radio station that he intended to discuss a contract extension with the pitcher this past weekend.
Beeston did not return a call seeking comment last night.
Ricciardi said: "I heard the interview. It may have been interpreted that way [that the team wanted to discuss an extension]… but I interpreted it differently. To me, it just meant that Paul was going to sit down and talk to Roy."
The Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are reportedly among interested parties, although the Yankees have cooled their interest.
Dodgers assistant general manager Logan White has been in Toronto this week, reportedly to look at Jason Frasor as well as Halladay. Scott Downs and Scott Rolen are other Blue Jays players attracting interest from contending teams.