Phils in search of right-handed bat
Nomar, Wigginton, Alou among World Series champs' targets
While several other teams are still trying to fill significant holes before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in February, the defending World Series champion Phillies have their starting lineup and 80 percent of their starting rotation set -- with the final spot likely to be settled in-house.
But Philadelphia would still like to add a reserve right-handed hitter to give manager Charlie Manuel somebody to match up with lefty relievers late in games.
Names the Phillies have been linked to in that regard include Nomar Garciaparra, Ty Wigginton, Moises Alou, Rich Aurilia, Mark Grudzielanek and Kevin Millar.
When reached by phone on Monday, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said that player does "not necessarily" need to be an infielder, though a little insurance while Pedro Feliz and Chase Utley recover from offseason surgeries wouldn't hurt.
"We're looking for a guy that has a bit of that versatility that's needed in the National League," Amaro said.
With that in mind, Wigginton -- who Amaro confirmed the team's interest in Monday -- is perceived to be a good fit.
Not only is Wigginton a productive right-handed bat -- hitting .285 with 23 home runs and 58 RBIs in just 386 at-bats for the Astros in 2008 -- but he gives Amaro the versatility he's looking for, having plenty of experience playing both corner-outfield positions, as well as second and third base.
But whether the San Diego native, who made $4.35 million in 2008 and was then non-tendered by Houston, is in the Phillies' price range remains to be seen.
After Ryan Howard's contract gets done -- through arbitration or a new deal -- Philadelphia could sit in the mid-$130-million range with its payroll, which is up from the club-record $104 million from last season.
And although Wigginton has played in 100-plus games in five of his seven Major League seasons, Amaro said any additions would only be for a reserve role, meaning Wigginton probably won't be competing for a starting third-base job.
"Just like last year, Pedro Feliz is scheduled to receive the bulk of the playing time at third base, and we also have Greg Dobbs, who filled in admirably last year," Amaro said. "It's not an everyday role [we're trying to fill]."
Amaro has also expressed the team's interest in signing Garciaparra, but it is still unclear whether or not he'll retire. Garciaparra, 35, has played 88 games at third base throughout his 13-year career -- which saw him play his first nine as a full-time shortstop -- but has appeared in just one game at second base. Garciaparra batted .264 through 55 games during an injury-riddled '08 season with the Dodgers.
"We can't be held hostage by Nomar, though he'd be a guy we'd like to bring in," Amaro told The Inquirer recently.
Alou is another intriguing candidate
The 42-year-old, a career .303 hitter, played in just 15 games for the Mets last season after being slowed by a hernia and torn hamstring. Amaro told The Inquirer a deal may not be imminent, saying: "He's in the mix. But ultimately his expectations might be a little too high as far as playing time goes."
His agent, Fernando Cuza, wouldn't go as far as to suggest that.
"Moises is keeping all of his options open," said Cuza, who would not discuss negotiations regarding any club.
Currently, the Phillies' reserve spots going into Spring Training seem to look this way: Chris Coste as the second-string catcher -- Amaro told Philly.com recently he'd prefer youngster Lou Marson to start the season in the Minor Leagues, with recently acquired Ronny Paulino being a possible No. 3 catcher -- Eric Bruntlett and Dobbs as backup infielders, and Geoff Jenkins and Matt Stairs as reserve outfielders.
Any position player added to the 25-man roster could result in the trading of Jenkins or Stairs -- both lefties. Jenkins, who's owed $6.75 million for the '09 season and has a mutual option of $7.5 million for '10, would be a lot harder to deal. Stairs, 41 on Feb. 27, is owed just $1 million for the upcoming season in an expiring contract.
As of now, Feliz (back surgery) is on track to be ready by Opening Day. But the original prognosis of Utley's Nov. 24 hip surgery had him slated to be out four-to-six months, and though he's still hopeful for a return in time for the Phillies' first game of the '09 season, that estimation could push him back as far as late May.
Bruntlett, Dobbs, Marcus Giles (signed to a Minor League contract), Brad Harman and Jason Donald are the current candidates to fill in for Utley if he misses the early part of the season. Donald, selected in the third round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft by the Phils, hit .307 in 92 games for Double-A Reading last season.
Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.