The Texas Rangers, financially strapped but loaded with prospects, were pursuing Toronto ace Roy Halladay on Thursday night as one of their brightest young pitchers, Derek Holland, showed the world what the next generation of Rangers could produce in throwing a gem against the Seattle Mariners.
The Rangers are serious about their pursuit of Halladay, according to a source with knowledge of the team's thinking. But, the source added, the club does not intend to dip too deeply into its carefully rebuilt farm system and will move on if Toronto insists on what the Rangers deem as too much.
A successful last-minute Rangers strike for Halladay seems highly unlikely based on the organization's shaky financial standing and on the fact that the Rangers have had a firm philosophy in place for the past couple of seasons to build from within -- and that philosophy now appears tantalizingly close to paying off big.
The publication Baseball America rated the Rangers No. 1 in the game in its 2009 organizational talent rankings. Holland, a left-hander in just his second full professional season, was sensational in allowing only two hits over 8 2/3 innings in Texas' 7-1 win over Seattle on Thursday night.
Holland was ranked as the organization's second-best prospect for 2009 by Baseball America. Another pitcher, right-hander Neftali Perez, was first. Lefty Martin Perez was No. 5 and right-hander Michael Main was No. 10.
Under club president and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, the Rangers are determined to develop power pitchers who throw strikes.
But under owner Tom Hicks, the Rangers are in such bad shape financially that they had to seek a loan from major-league baseball to meet payroll last month. While they maybe could re-arrange some things for 2010 to fit Halladay's $15.75 million salary into their budget -- for one thing, they could forego re-signing free agents Hank Blalock, Vicente Padilla and Marlon Byrd.
But as for the approximately $4.75 million due to Halladay this year, that could be a problem. And unless the Blue Jays change their mind, general manager J.P. Ricciardi told colleague Danny Knobler on July 12 that the Jays would not kick in any money to pay part of Halladay's salary.
"We don't want to hear that somebody's not available, and we don't want to hear that they can't handle the money," Ricciardi said.
The Jays surely could find plenty to their liking in Texas' rich system in a deal for Halladay. So, too could other organizations in other trade discussions: The Rangers have been a very popular stop along the trade-talk circuit because of their wealth of young talent.