Brewers still pushing for Halladay

If the Brewers are indeed “basically out” of the running for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, as one national baseball writer wrote on Twitter, it would be news to Milwaukee’s general manager.

“I haven’t been told that we’re out,” Doug Melvin said Friday, when the Brewers began a homestand that takes them to within 24 hours of the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. “I was never told that we’re in, either.

“I don’t want to get into who we’re talking to and when we’ve talked. It’s all part of the negotiations.”

After acquiring second baseman Felipe Lopez from the Diamondbacks on Sunday — Lopez missed a second straight start Friday because of a hamstring strain but will be installed as the everyday leadoff hitter once he’s healthy — Melvin’s focus is bolstering a shaky starting rotation that ranked 15th of the 16 National League teams and 27th of the 30 Major League teams with a 4.96 ERA entering the weekend.  Young left-hander Manny Parra entered his Friday start against the Braves riding a series of successful starts following a demotion to Triple-A Nashville, but right-hander Dave Bush remained sidelined by a right triceps injury and fellow righty Mike Burns has been too inconsistent.

Burns is lined up to start on Tuesday against the Nationals, but the Brewers are poised to bump him from the rotation. If Melvin doesn’t make a trade before then, right-hander Tim Dillard will be promoted from Nashville.

The Phillies are widely considered the chief suitor for Halladay, a right-hander who started for the Blue Jays on Friday night. Philadelphia ranked just three spots above the Brewers among NL teams with a 4.74 starters’ ERA. The Dodgers and Red Sox have also been mentioned as suitors.

According to CBSsports.com’s Danny Knobler, the Brewers fell out of the running for Halladay because they were unwilling to part with Mat Gamel or Alcides Escobar — considered Milwaukee’s top two prospects — to land Halladay. Knobler also reported that scouts from the Brewers and Red Sox left Toronto ahead of Halladay’s start against the Rays at Rogers Centre while Phillies special assistant Charley Kerfeld stayed to watch.

Asked to characterize the market one week before the deadline, Melvin called it, “quiet.” That’s probably because the top available pitchers either have one year left on their contract or an expensive option following this season — Halladay, Cleveland’s Cliff Lee, San Diego’s Jake Peavy and Arizona’s Jon Garland all fit that category — and thus will command extra in a trade. The list of pending free agents is shorter, and it includes Arizona’s Doug Davis and Seattle’s Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn.

Melvin has been in contact with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, who until last fall was Milwaukee’s amateur scouting director, but Zduriencik is hesitant to deal because Seattle is a surprising contender; seven games over .500 and 5 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West entering play Friday.

Brewers officials, meanwhile, have debated internally whether it’s worth digging into the farm system for a second straight season — CC Sabathia cost four prospects last year including 2007 first-round Draft pick Matt LaPorta — to acquire a front-line pitcher. That debate is ongoing, Melvin said. 

“It depends what you get, and what you give up,” Melvin said. “That’s what it really comes down to. What you get, what you give up, and how you’re playing at the time that you do it. …

“We’ve still got a good team,” Melvin added. “We just have to put it together. We have to put some consistency together and have a little winning streak.”

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