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Montgomery on trade possibilities: Phillies will do whatever it takes

Roy Halladay is allowed a moment of selfishness. He came here to win, and there is an expiration date on the 34-year-old's chance to capture a championship.

Roy Halladay is allowed a moment of selfishness. He came here to win, and there is an expiration date on the 34-year-old's chance to capture a championship.

"Knowing I'm only here for a certain amount of years," Halladay said, "yeah, I'd sell the farm."

That is the proposition before the Phillies, baseball's best team but one that is still determined to improve before Sunday's non-waiver trade deadline: Sacrifice the future for now. Maybe.

Added payroll does not appear to be an issue for the Phillies, even though one or two trades could push them above baseball's luxury-tax threshold of $178 million. The team's current payroll, as recognized by Major League Baseball, stands at about $175 million.

"We do whatever it takes," team president David Montgomery told The Inquirer. "If there's an opportunity, we'll make adjustments."

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. broke his silence on trades by saying nothing of substance, not that he should. This time of year is shrouded in secrecy, the only chatter coming from anonymous sources, most of whom typically have their own agendas.

"I enjoy listening to all the commentary," Amaro said. "It's pretty entertaining. It's not any different than any other year. It's all the same. We just try to operate as we normally do. There is nothing all that different except there is a deadline."

Amaro said his staff is still not sure what the team's needs are in a slow-moving market. Translation: If an impact bat is not readily available or too costly, the Phillies must decide if they'd rather prioritize a bullpen arm instead.

One bat they are targeting is Carlos Beltran, the Mets outfielder having a phenomenal season in a contract year. A Phillies scout followed Beltran and the Mets from Miami to Cincinnati, where they began a series Monday.

Houston's Hunter Pence, frequently speculated about as a favorite of the Phillies, is off the market, according to Sports Illustrated (which cited anonymous sources). The Astros, under new ownership, have made it clear they must be significantly overwhelmed to move the 28-year-old outfielder - if they are to trade him at all.

"I think people should know how difficult doing trades are and how different the needs are from year to year," Amaro said.

But that is his typical refrain this time of year, usually heard in the days before he negotiates a blockbuster summer deal. The Phillies have shown a willingness to deal prospects before, but only for controllable talent beyond the current season. Beltran, 34, is a free agent after 2011. Pence has two years of arbitration left.

Interest in Beltran could be feigned. Atlanta and San Francisco, the top challengers to the Phillies in the National League, are rumored to also covet Beltran. The Phillies could want to drive the price up, or even block an acquisition by those teams.

On the subject of expanding the payroll, Montgomery said there is no dancing around the fact the Phillies could be taxed - becoming the first National League team to exceed the luxury-tax system established in 2003. Teams that surpass the threshold for the first time must pay 22.5 percent on every dollar above $178 million.

The Phillies, of course, would like to remain below that level because as Montgomery said, those tax dollars are just funds that must be taken from some pool - such as player development or future acquisitions. Yet there is an unprecedented amount of money and energy invested in the current team, and that rules everything.

"If an opportunity presents itself," Montgomery said, "we will reconsider."

The Mets have reportedly told teams they are willing to assume all or most of the remaining $6 million on Beltran's salary in exchange for a handful of quality prospects. The Phillies could insist on paying Beltran if they are reluctant to surrender talent, but New York's preference is to have something to show fans in return for one of its best players.

Either way, expect Amaro to make a trade before 4 p.m. Sunday. Exactly how big, the coming days will decide.