ST. LOUIS -- Not only will Tuesday night's All-Star Game start put Toronto's Roy Halladay on the biggest stage of his career, it also will be one of the most public auditions he'll make in his new life as trade bait for a contender.
But what's more newsworthy is that the very private Halladay spoke at length Monday about the possibility of leaving his beloved Toronto. And he sounded like a man who mentally has one foot out the door already. Which is notable in that he has full no-trade powers and must sign off on any deal.
"The team's open to looking and I'm open to it," Halladay said. "It's kind of, 'Let's see what happens and go from there.'"
The longtime ace of Toronto's staff finally seems resigned to the fact that if he is going to pitch in October for the first time in his 12-year career, it's going to have to be in a uniform other than that of the Blue Jays.
"For me, that's been the biggest struggle," Halladay said. "To (Toronto general manager) J.P. Ricciardi's credit, when I signed my extension, that was the focus for him. He said they were going to try and win. I believe they did the best they could to try and win.
"But financially, the economy, maybe you get to the point where we have to change direction a little bit."
The economy has hit Toronto hard. The Blue Jays rank 12th in the American League in attendance, ahead of only Cleveland and Oakland, and next year's payroll is expected to be lower than the current $80 million. As such, in a division with big spenders Boston and the Yankees, and including a very talented Tampa Bay club, the Blue Jays' immediate prospects for contending do not look good.
From Toronto's perspective, one thing that has to factor in is the disappointing return they got when pitcher A.J. Burnett fled via free agency last winter: The Jays were expecting two draft picks, but aside from the sandwich pick they got following the first round, they were stunned when events played out to net them only a third-round pick from the Yankees.
One of the most telling glimpses into Halladay's current thinking was in how he answered the question of being traded to a large-market club. He's thrived in the out-of-the-way quiet of Toronto, and he does not enjoy the spotlight.
But he also sounds ready to compromise on that for a chance to win.
"I think so," he said. "That's what made Toronto great for me. It is quiet. It is a great place.
"But I think you've got to take a chance sometimes. Wherever that may be, there is a point in your career where you know you need to take a chance and try it and win."
At 32, Halladay seems ready to take that chance. Even if it is in New York, where he says he would not be intimidated.
"No," he said. "I'm sure a lot of media people wouldn't love me. For me, I've always been able to separate what I do on the field from off the field, and I've realized I can't always make everybody happy all the time."
He also said that although he's played his entire career in the American League, he wouldn't necessarily be adverse to pitching in the National League and, thus, batting (which should be music to Philadelphia's ears).
"Once you go from the American League East," he said, smiling. "Not that there aren't great teams out there, but it's a tough decision. I'd rather hit than have to face (Derek) Jeter, A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez), (Hideki) Matsui, (Mark) Teixeira and those guys."
Halladay, thoughtful and reflective throughout the interview, said he doesn't yet know whether he would ask for an extension of his current deal (roughly $7 million remaining this year and $15.75 million in 2010) in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause, as some major league executives believe he will.
"It's a little bit down the road for me," he said. "All I can tell you is that my priority will be to win. I've been fortunate to have been taken care of fine in Toronto. As a younger player, maybe is at the beginning of a career, that's important. Now, the emphasis is on winning. As far as thinking that far, I really haven't gotten there. It just hasn't come up."
Whether Halladay will be traded by the July 31 deadline, he said, "for me, it will be the flip of a coin. I really believe that. I think there is so much that goes into it. I'm still not 100 percent sure what direction we're going to take in Toronto, if Toronto does decide to do something."
There are many in the game who think that Ricciardi is sending out feelers now and that the Blue Jays will wind up trading Halladay this winter, rather than this July.
Whatever the timetable, after listening to Halladay on Monday, you have to believe that he's already begun cutting the emotional ties in one of the most calculated gambles of his career -- and, on Toronto's part, in recent franchise history.