BALTIMORE - It was just an eight-word response.

Roy Halladay wasn't rude about it. In fact, he was quite polite.

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Still, the Toronto Blue Jays' ace pitcher wasn't giving any insight into the hottest topic of conversation surrounding the Phillies.

"I think I'm going to pass on that," Halladay said yesterday when asked about a possible trade to the Phillies, or any other team, for that matter.

This wasn't bad news for Phillies fans hoping for a stud pitching acquisition to shore up a shaky rotation.

It just wasn't good news, either.

Since Halladay would have to waive his no-trade clause for the Blue Jays to move him, it's kind of imperative that he would want to go to South Philly, Los Angeles, New York, Boston or any other place offering him a new home.

Ideally for the Phillies, Halladay would have responded, "Hell, yeah, I'd go to Philadelphia. Who wouldn't want to pitch for a team that can win the World Series?"

OK, so that was my fantasy scenario as I was driving down I-95 to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where the Blue Jays wrapped up the first half of the season with a game against Baltimore.

Wouldn't that have been some column?

The truth, however, is that unless a player really feels strongly one way or the other, talking about a potential trade is a no-win situation.

Last Monday, Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi acknowledged that he had talked to Halladay to prepare him for the possibility of a trade.

On Tuesday, Halladay told reporters, "I want to stay, but I think it's a situation you have to evaluate.

"I'm really not at that situation just yet. If something comes up, you weigh your options at that point. I hate to put the cart in front of the horse and start saying, 'Do I want to do that?' I think you just evaluate the situations when they come."

Still, until Halladay is either traded somewhere else or the trade deadline passes on July 31, he's going to be a topic of interest in Philadelphia.

The Phillies are viewed as the front-runner to acquire Halladay because they have the front-line prospects to entice Toronto into a trade.

With hot prospects like pitcher Kyle Drabek, outfielder Michael Taylor and catcher Lou Marson, I have little doubt they could put together a package the Blue Jays would jump at. It might take two or all three.

Thus far, the Phillies have given no inclination that they are hell-bent on trading for Halladay at any cost.

I say get the deal done.Give the Blue Jays what they want. If Halladay wanted a contract extension to waive his no-trade clause, I'd do that, too.

To me, this is not a difficult decision.

With their current nucleus of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge, the Phillies have a 3- or 4-year window to be as strong as any contender for the World Series.

Their time is now.

Certainly, the Phillies could be mortgaging their future by including a potential top-of-the-rotation starter in Drabek, a five-tool outfielder in Taylor and a solid, major league-quality catcher in Marson, but the possibility of winning one or more World Series over the next few seasons would be worth it.

If Halladay was done with his current contract after this season, I'd be hesitant, but Halladay is signed for next season at 15.75 million.

That's only about $3.75 million more than the salary coming off the books with Brett Myers.

I can't think of anyone who wouldn't trade Myers and $3.75 million for Halladay, a former Cy Young winner.

Financially, the Phillies can absorb this trade.

Ideally, the Phillies and Halladay, 32, would agree on an extension, which is an entirely different financial situation.

But even if they couldn't agree to an extension but they could get Halladay - 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA - to agree to the trade, the Phillies will have greatly enhanced their chances of winning the World Series this year and next.

A legitimate shot at winning two championships would be worth the hit to the minor league system.

Prospects are exactly that. Halladay has proved his major league worth over 11 seasons.

Now is the time for the Phillies to make a bold strike.

This franchise has won two World Series in 126 seasons. If they get Halladay, who is 141-69 in 272 career starts, they could potentially double that total over the next 1 1/2 seasons.

I think Halladay could have that much impact.

It was an eight-word response that didn't give a hint one way or the other, but that shouldn't stop the Phillies from going hard after a game-changing pitcher who could mean the difference between defending the World Series or not. *

Send e-mail to smallwj@phillynews.com.

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