In July, a week after general manager J.P. Ricciardi made it publicly known that Toronto would listen to trade offers for Roy Halladay, the ace pitcher went to St. Louis for the All-Star Game as the American League's starter.

Whatever Halladay did on the mound would be overshadowed by rumors, especially regarding the Phillies. The 32-year-old admitted that the speculation had made life difficult, but this is something he wanted. This was his chance to win.

"I know what I'm looking for," he told reporters in St. Louis.

Well, five months and one general manager later, Halladay may be in position to finally get his wish.

That's why Halladay and his agent checked into a Center City hotel for face-to-face discussions with the Phillies, who were working on a potential contract extension while pursuing a three-team trade to get him.

For nearly a year, Halladay was the most coveted commodity in baseball. With his current contract set to expire after the 2010 season, the cash-strapped Blue Jays had little chance of keeping the 2003 Cy Young Award winner in Toronto.

It's a process that Halladay, by all accounts, has been deeply involved with. Initially, Halladay told reporters he did not want to know the daily details on trade discussions last summer. But over time, Halladay began receiving regular briefings from Ricciardi, the man who was trying to deal the ace.

In October, 32-year-old Alex Anthopoulos replaced Ricciardi as general manager of the Blue Jays, partly because he didn't trade Halladay.

Throughout the trade discussions, Halladay, a Denver-born righty who was adopted as a fan favorite in Canada (and nicknamed "Doc"), reiterated his love for Toronto and the organization.

Toronto wanted more flexibility and the chance to obtain top-notch prospects. Halladay wanted to play for a winning franchise.

"I've never been a person who has to be wooed," Halladay said at the All-Star Game. "I'd hate to put the cart too far in front of the horse."

In terms of performance and prospects for winning, there was likely little wooing the Phillies had to do. The blueprint for Halladay's potential transition was already executed by Cliff Lee. When the Blue Jays demanded too much for Halladay at the trade deadline, the Phillies instead turned to Cleveland for Lee, another former Cy Young winner, for four prospects: catcher Lou Marson, pitchers Carlos Carasco and Jason Knapp, and infielder Jason Donald.

The city quickly came to appreciate Lee's hard-nosed attitude on the mound, and the ace helped pitch the Phillies into the World Series for the second straight year. Halladay, like Lee, is not outspoken.

During the trade talks, Halladay tried his best not to alienate the Toronto fans while expressing his desire to move on.

"I think he's been very professional about it," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said in late July. "You know Doc, and when it comes down to pitching, he's going to focus on what he has to do."

On the mound, Halladay is best known for his ability to start and finish games at a pace few pitchers can match in this modern era that has an intense focus on pitch counts. He has finished in the top five of Cy Young voting five times.

Halladay led MLB in complete games in each of the last three seasons; he had nine last season.

The last Phillies pitcher to lead the league in complete games was Curt Schilling, with 15 in 1998. And for the first time since Schilling, the Phillies will likely invest a hefty amount in an ace.

"It's not going to be a decision based on certain years or a certain number. It's going to be based on a chance of winning," Halladay told the Toronto Star on July 7.

His chances look a lot better now.

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.