Roy Halladay, the All-Star pitcher who has been the subject of much trade talk since before last July's deadline, will not approve any proposed deal after he reports to spring training, according to his representatives.
This means that the Toronto Blue Jays either will have to work out a trade of the right-hander by the end of the offseason, or be prepared to receive only draft-pick compensation when the pitcher becomes eligible for free agency in the fall of 2010.
Halladay, through the terms of his contract, has the power to veto any trade. He is renowned for his focus and preparation, and despite the fact the Jays have finished behind the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox year after year in the standings, he has not lobbied for change.
But sources say that when Halladay, 32, was approached by club officials before the trade deadline, he told them he wanted a chance to play with a team with a chance to win, without making specific demands about a destination. And now the Blue Jays are headed into another period of rebuilding.
The Blue Jays made him available for trade offers before the July 31 deadline, setting a high price that some rival executives found to be unrealistic -- and there has been recent speculation that if the Jays don't trade Halladay this winter, they might wait until next July to deal him.
But Halladay wants the situation settled by the time he goes to spring training, according to Jeff Berry, a partner at CAA who works with Halladay's longtime point agent, Greg Landry.
Berry said in a phone interview late Monday night that the representatives and Halladay have had a "very good dialogue" with new Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos, and that the Blue Jays will have to make a decision "based on what they believe is in the best long-term interest of the Blue Jays organization."
"[But] one thing is certain -- once Roy reports to spring training as a member of the Blue Jays, from that point forward he will not approve or even discuss any potential trade scenario," Berry continued. "This will eliminate a repeat of the distracting media frenzy of 2009 for both Roy and his teammates, and will allow Roy to focus on pitching at the exceptional level Jays fans have come to expect."
Anthopoulos, in an e-mailed response, said: "We don't comment on anything with respect to trade rumors or speculation involving our players. With respect to Roy, we understand that due to his place with the Toronto Blue Jays, the events last summer and his contractual situation, that his future will continue to be discussed and speculated about.
"One thing that I feel is important to reiterate is that Roy Halladay has made it very clear that he loves the city of Toronto and the Blue Jays organization. That being said, Roy has also made it clear that his number one priority is to pitch in the postseason, and his hope is that it would be with the Toronto Blue Jays."
Halladay is 148-76 in his career, with a 3.43 ERA, winning the 2003 Cy Young Award and finishing in the top five in the Cy Young voting four other times. He went 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA for the Jays in 2009, throwing 239 innings and leading the league with nine complete games.
Two years ago, Johan Santana made a similar demand of the Minnesota Twins, as his situation reached a critical mass: He informed the Twins that he would not approve any trade after he reported to spring training.
The Twins wound up dealing him to the New York Mets for outfielder Carlos Gomez and others, and Santana signed a six-year, $137.5 million extension with New York, a record at the time; a year later, CC Sabathia received a seven-year, $161 million deal with the Yankees.
Santana made it clear to interested teams that he would require a contract extension in order to approve a trade, and this affected the offers made by the Red Sox and the Yankees. Halladay isn't necessarily going to make that demand, although it stands to reason that any team that acquires him would want to lock him up to a long-term deal, and that Halladay would be in line to ask for compensation along the lines of what Santana and Sabathia received.
"Obviously, there are recent contract markers for a pitcher of this magnitude," Berry said. "That being said, each potential trade situation will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with a critical factor being the legitimate opportunity for Roy to pursue multiple World Series championships."
The Blue Jays talked with the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Angels, Red Sox and Texas Rangers about possible trades before the deadline, and one source indicated last week that Halladay could be swayed to accept a deal to Boston, the Yankees, Phillies or Angels.
Toronto president Paul Beeston was quoted last week as saying that Halladay is "not inclined" to re-sign with the Blue Jays. That's something the team has known to be fait accompli once it began rebuilding again.
The Blue Jays would appear to have a clear choice in the matter, going forward: (A) They could either conclude a deal before the start of spring training for less than what the Blue Jays hoped to get before the July 31 deadline, or (B) be prepared to have Halladay lead their staff through the 2010 season and walk away after next year, with Toronto receiving draft picks as compensation after he departs as a free agent.
Buster Olney is a senior baseball writer for ESPN The Magazine.