PHILADELPHIA – Roy Halladay grew up in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and wanted badly to help restore the team to its former glory.
But when he came to realize that wasn’t going to be possible any time soon, he ended up landing right where he wanted to pitch, with the two-time National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.
“This is a dream come true,” the ace right-hander said Citizens Bank Park after his complex four-team, nine-player deal was finalized Wednesday.
“The longer you play in your career the more important (winning) becomes. I’ve been able to establish myself, achieve things. The more I play, the more I realize how important that is for me.
“To see a team do it in back-to-back years and have that success says a lot about the players in the clubhouse and people that are putting the team together. It’s not an accident. I want to be a part of that.”
All it took to make it happen was one of baseball’s biggest trades involving top pitchers. The Phillies sent post-season ace Cliff Lee to Seattle and acquired Halladay from Toronto in a swap that marked the first time in history that two Cy Young winners were dealt on the same day.
Money was a key factor, too. The Blue Jays sent US$6 million to Philadelphia with Halladay, who then agreed to a $60 million, three-year contract extension through 2013.
He was ready to commit because he believes the Phillies will give him a chance to win multiple World Series titles, his sole burning desire on a baseball field.
“I think I’ve had it the majority of time I was in Toronto, things just didn’t work out to where we actually had that chance,” he said. “I think that desire was there. I think the organization’s desire was there. But it didn’t work out.
“We got to the point where I think they needed to start over and I wanted to continue that pursuit. I tremendously enjoyed my time there. I loved it. But I’m overwhelmed with this opportunity.”
Halladay has never pitched in the post-season in his 12-year career with the Blue Jays, who drafted him in 1995. His current contract, which expires after he earns $15.75 million in 2010, included a no-trade clause that allowed him to control his destiny.
Philadelphia was at the top of his list.
“This is where I wanted to be,” he said. “That was the bottom line for us. It was an easy decision. Once the opportunity came up to be a part of this it was something I couldn’t pass up.”
The Phillies actively pursued Halladay at the trade deadline, but balked at parting with lefty J.A. Happ and right-hander Kyle Drabek, who ended up as part of the deal.
Halladay was publicly auctioned throughout the month of July by former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, but he failed to complete a deal. It left the team with a pitcher who desperately wanted out, knowing a rebuilding of the franchise was coming.
“I’d like to start by thanking everybody in Toronto, the fans, the organization, the people,” Halladay said at the start of his first press conference with his new team.
“It’s been a big part of my life and something I’ll never forget. I enjoyed my time there. I’m also extremely excited about a new chapter and having this opportunity to be a part of such a great organization and somewhere that my family and I are really looking forward to being a part of.”
-With files from Associated Press writer Dan Gelston.