There's Smoke on Halladay

Right Field BleachersCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2009

I’m not saying Doug Melvin is about to lock in a trade for Roy Halladay, but it is clear the Brewers are very serious about trying to land the ace. And it’s Melvin’s increasing levels of vagueness that are tipping his hand.

Does anyone else recall last season when Brewers GM Doug Melvin repeatedly denied the Brewers and Indians were closing in on a deal for CC Sabathia? For a little refresher, here’s a blurb from an article that was printed less than a week before Melvin finalized that trade last year:

Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin laughed Monday when asked if his team really was the leader in the C.C. Sabathia Sweepstakes.

“Just the same old rumors,” Melvin said.

Sound familiar?

Most Brewers fans should know by now that Melvin is the master of deception on trade dealings. He won’t lie, but to truly get to the bottom of trade discussions, you have to read between the lines of what he’s saying.

First off, if there is no possibility of a trade or no interest in a trade on the Brewers part, Melvin will flat out say that. In this case, he has actually admitted there is interest.

Melvin will also indicate whether he’s had discussions with a certain team, which usually helps determine the Brewers interest. He has admitted the Brewers and Blue Jays are discussing Halladay.

But the most telling characteristics seem to be that the closer Melvin gets to a deal, the more he shoots down the possibilities of trades in the media and the more he speaks in generalities. In this case, he’s been noticeably vague and less than optimistic, especially this week:

  • July 8: “When a general manager says he is listening to offers, yeah, I’ll call,” said Melvin. “I haven’t called yet.”
  • July 17: “We’ve had a conversation with them. I don’t want to get into the details. I don’t want to characterize it at this point.”
  • July 17: “I’ve said it would be highly unlikely (to trade either Alcides Escobar or Mat Gamel),” Melvin said. “They are as ‘untouchable’ as any player can be. I don’t want to say anything more.”
  • July 19: “I know what their expectations are and I don’t know if I want to meet them,” said Melvin, who has said he does not want to trade Gamel of shortstop prospect Alcides Escobar. “Teams are asking a lot for pitching.”

Another sign that this is more than a passing interest on the Brewers part is how Journal-Sentinel Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt is covering the rumors. There might not be anyone closer to the team (without being employed by them) than Haudricourt. Earlier this season, he basically said there was absolutely no chance of the Brewers pulling off a deal for Halladay. Take a look at how quickly he’s changed his mind over the past couple weeks:

  • July 8: “Melvin said Wednesday he would make a call to Toronto’s J.P. Ricciardi, who announced he will listen to offers for ace Roy Halladay.”
  • July 11: “If Brewers general manager Doug Melvin holds true to his promise of not trading top prospects Mat Gameland Escobar, don’t look for Roy Halladay to be wearing a Milwaukee uniform in the second half.”
  • July 17: “Melvin has said he considered Gamel and Escobar “untouchables” in any trade talks but hedged ever so slightly on that characterization Friday.”
  • July 17: “Because I knew what Toronto would want in exchange for right-hander Roy Halladay, I initially thought the Brewers had no chance of jumping into the bidding. But, after speaking with general manager Doug Melvin today about Halladay, I’m not so sure.”
  • July 17: “So, it’s obvious the Brewers are looking at all the angles regarding Halladay, which indicates more than casual interest. Whether they would pony up what it would take to get him, much less outbid other serious suitors, remains to be seen. But it seems as if they are kicking the tires pretty hard.”
  • July 18: “The Brewers see themselves as a perennial contender in the NL Central. Let’s see if they can convince Halladay of that and come up with an acceptable package for the Blue Jays.”
  • July 19 via Twitter: “Dick Groch, the top scouting asst. to Brewers GM Doug Melvin, is in Toronto today, watching Halladay pitch. Brewers definitely interested.”
  • July 19: “When Groch is around, the Brewers have serious interest.”

The national media has even started to notice the Brewers as serious suitors for Halladay. Within just the last couple days, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has said, “The Brewers are one of the teams flying under the radar for Roy Halladay” and  Danny Knobler of CBS Sports has said, “The latest news is that the Brewers were set to have two high-level emissaries at the Rogers Centre Sunday, when Halladay faced (and beat) the Red Sox.”

I don’t know that a deal will get made (in fact, I’d still say it’s unlikely), but there is definitely “smoke” on these trade talks. The Brewers are more than a casual suitor here. They are most likely preparing an offer for Toronto, if they haven’t already made one. And we’ll know within the next 10 days or so if it’ll be enough.

In the meantime, the debate will rage among Brewers fans (much like with CC last year) if Halladay is worth the high price he’ll command in a trade…