INDIANAPOLIS -- Here in the land of unsigned free agents, top-secret club plans and countless misdirection plays from agents, the best cloak-and-dagger game of all is being conducted by the Toronto Blue Jays as they sort their way through the Roy Halladay trade plans from their suite on floor ...
Ah, I can't tell you which floor they're operating on.
|Depending on whom you ask, Roy Halladay will be dealt anywhere from now and July. (Getty Images)|
Because when they go upstairs each afternoon for a briefing with new general manager Alex Anthopoulos, he meets them on a hotel floor that is not his own. A neutral site, if you will. Because he's fearful that if they discover his suite number, someone will camp out and take note of which teams come calling as he works toward completing the Halladay trade.
As if anybody besides the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Angels, Cubs and maybe one or two other clubs even have the kind of money (and prospects) it takes to shop from that aisle.
Six months after the Jays kicked off a very public auction of Halladay when since-fired GM J.P. Ricciardi told our Danny Knobler that he was open for business on the ace, the Jays' strategy has swung so far back the other way that now they're barely even publicly admitting that they know who Halladay is, for crying out loud.
There are signs that they're working feverishly toward a deal. Yes, these signs include a seemingly vagrant GM who, the way it's going, might be walking the Marriott halls holding a homemade cardboard sign reading "Will trade ace pitcher for four good players" sometime in the next 24 hours.
As the icy cold weather moved in and a sleety rain pelted Indianapolis (motto: "Crossroads of America") Tuesday, the expectation that the Jays will unload Halladay pretty much remains unanimous. The only disagreement among the baseball honchos here conducting the Winter Meetings is in regard to exactly when the young (32) rookie GM will pull the trigger.
While the Toronto scribes played hide-and-seek with the GM again Tuesday (probably, the rain was the only thing keeping him from scheduling a rooftop meeting this time), I took the pulse of five executives and scouts about the Halladay situation. In my informal survey, all five said they absolutely think he will be traded. And four of the five said they think it will be before spring training begins.
"They'll trade him, but not now," a National League executive said. "I think they'll gather names and then run it by the Yankees. Everything eventually goes through the Yankees."
Sound theory, but this NL exec was speaking before the Yankees pulled the trigger on the three-way trade with Detroit and Arizona. The Yankees definitely are in the market for starting pitching, and they definitely can afford Halladay. But by sending outfield prospect Austin Jackson to Detroit along with pitcher Phil Coke in the Curtis Granderson trade, the feeling among some in the industry is that the Yankees might not want to deal more prospects. Stay tuned.
"My bet is Boston," said one NL scout. "And later, not sooner. I'd say before the season. You hear that they're motivated to get prospects."
A second executive said he thinks Halladay definitely will be traded, but "in July, even though he doesn't want it to happen then."
The ace right-hander's agent said a couple of weeks ago that he wants the trade to happen before spring training, so as to not disrupt his season too badly. From the Jays' perspective, though Anthopoulos has put the lid on any public comments, they'd prefer that, too. One Toronto source agreed that the clear preference is to strike a deal before spring training begins, because the club just went through three months of a season attempting to play while trade rumors swirled, and why would anybody associated with that want to do it again?
Despite being the new kid on the block, Anthopoulos has respectfully requested that rival clubs talking trade visit his top-secret suite, rather than the other way around -- presumably to keep security as tight as possible on any news leaks.
He's also requested that rival clubs not bring large contingents of people to the table, asking that he either meet one-on-one with the other GM or, perhaps, maybe he and assistant Tony LaCava meet with a GM and assistant from another club. The thinking there is that conversations can be more direct, with fewer distractions. And, presumably, fewer leaks.
Anthopoulos declines to provide any details about whom he is meeting each day -- to the point where the cold he's currently fighting is playing into things.
"I've told everybody I don't want to shake hands just because I didn't want to get them sick," he told Toronto reporters the other day, smiling. "When guys start getting sick, everyone's going to know who I spoke to."
The baseball world soon will find out. The scouting report on this new guy is minimal. The questions he's facing, and the criticalness of the decisions he is about to make, are not.
"I think he'll trade him this winter, but not here," one AL scout said. "The new guy has a lot on his plate. That would be my guess.
"Why have the distraction during spring training? I don't think it will be here, though, because with all the free agents, the timing of everything is screwed up."