ST. LOUIS - Any team interested in Roy Halladay will have to wait until after it strikes a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays to discuss a contract extension with the ace right-hander.

An anonymous source confirmed Tuesday no negotiating window will be granted to Halladay's suitors prior to the completion of any trade, as sometimes happens to help facilitate a swap.

The New York Mets, for instance, received a 72-hour window to work out an extension with Johan Santana before sending a package of four prospects to the Minnesota Twins for the left-hander. Santana ended up reaching an US$137.5-million, six-year agreement that allowed the trade to go-ahead.

But a key difference is that Santana was heading into the final season of his old contract when that trade was made. Halladay still has a season and a half remaining on his deal, providing teams with ample opportunity to work out a longer-term commitment.

"If they want to extend him that is enough time to talk to him," said the source.

Both the Blue Jays and Halladay feel the chances of a trade are about "the flip of a coin," as the 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner put it Monday during a frenzy of questions about his future and what destinations would be acceptable to him.

Halladay has some control over the process because of his no-trade clause and one school of thought was that he would only approve a deal if an extension was agreed upon beforehand.

But as wave after wave of media descended upon him in the AL clubhouse prior to Tuesday's all-star game, he reiterated that all he cared about was winning and he'd closely examine his options.

"That's a little bit of an added bonus for me," he said. "If something doesn't work out and I can't stay in Toronto where I like it, I can be picky and hopefully find something that not only suits me but kind of suits the goals I want to achieve at this point."

Teams said to be interested in Halladay include Philadelphia, St. Louis, Boston along with both New York, Los Angeles and Chicago clubs, and he's routinely been asked whether he'd accept a trade to various locale.

Each time he's said it's too early to consider that, and the only reason he'd accept a move is to join a contender.

"The longer you play the more you realize that your window is small," he said. "It's a fragile game, you never know how long you're going to play, and that's what I'm looking at.

"I realize that window is getting shorter and I want to have a chance to win."

Halladay's availability has grown into one of the biggest stories at the all-star game, filtering down to all levels. He's even been taking a ribbing from some of his AL colleagues.

"I think a lot of guys understand how much of its own life these things seem to take on," said Halladay. "There's just so much speculation and things like that that I think most of it is more joking around with guys type of thing.

"It's definitely different, even with my own teammates. It's just a topic you try to avoid, you don't want it to come up, one of those uncomfortable situations."

The 32-year-old is making US$14.25 million this season and is due another $15.75 million in 2010.

The Blue Jays would ideally like to sign him to an extension but aren't expected to have the resources to build a winner around him, meaning he'd probably walk after next season.

They're looking for a package of top-shelf prospects or very young players in exchange for arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

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