But the price would be remarkably steep. Sources told MLB.com on Monday that the Phillies, Blue Jays and Mariners are in discussions to send Halladay to the Phillies, Cliff Lee to the Mariners and three top Phillies prospects -- including previously untouchable right-hander Kyle Drabek -- to the Blue Jays. The Phillies also would receive top prospects from the Mariners in the deal.
One source familiar with the negotiations said that nothing has been finalized because the Phillies have not reached agreement on a contract extension with Halladay, which is required. Halladay and his agent arrived in Philadelphia on Monday to take a physical and talk about the extension.
CSNPhilly.com first reported that the Phillies would send Drabek, outfielder Michael Taylor and catcher Travis d'Arnaud to the Blue Jays. Sources echoed that package for Halladay. Sources also told MLB.com that only the Phillies would receive Seattle's prospects in the Lee deal. None would be shipped to Toronto.
One of Seattle's prospects is expected to be right-hander Phillippe Aumont. Seattle is expected to send at least one other prospect to the Phillies.
ESPN.com reported that Halladay would receive a three-year extension with vesting options that could lengthen the deal. The extension could guarantee Halladay around $60 million.
Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, said Monday afternoon that he had not heard from the Phillies or other teams regarding a trade.
"Unfortunately, some of this stuff is out of our control," Braunecker said. "But obviously, when there is smoke there is fire."
It is believed the Phillies are trading Lee for a few reasons.
They do not believe they can sign Lee to an extension before he becomes a free agent after the 2010 season. Lee will make $9 million next season, and the Phillies need payroll relief to afford Halladay's $15.75 million salary -- although it is reported Toronto will pay $6 million of it. But it is believed the reason the Phillies are shipping Lee instead of right-hander Joe Blanton, who will make around $7 million or more next season, is that Lee brings a greater haul of prospects in return. The Phillies sent right-handers Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco, shortstop Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson to the Indians in July for Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco.
Drabek, Taylor and d'Arnaud would mean the Phillies would have surrendered seven top prospects since July.
Braunecker said he had talks with the Phillies last week at the Winter Meetings about a contract extension.
"It's been very preliminary dialogue," Braunecker said. "I wouldn't characterize our discussions at this point as negotiations. But I think it's inaccurate to say whatever dialogue we've had to this point as being anything other than positive and constructive."
Lee told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in August that when the Indians decided not to talk about an extension in Spring Training of 2009 that it made little sense for him to talk about one after the 2009 season, when he was so close to free agency.
"It doesn't make sense to do it one year out when I just watched what CC [Sabathia] did," said Lee, referring to Sabathia's seven-year, $161 million contract.
Braunecker said Lee's comments pertained exclusively to negotiations with the Cleveland Indians, and not the Phillies.
"We had taken a position at the end of Spring Training with the Indians that Cliff was going to play out the remainder of his contract and enter the free-agent market," Braunecker said. "We've never had any of those conversations with the Phillies of any sort. That was exclusive to the situation with Cleveland."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.