PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are going to explore other options at third base.

They announced Sunday night they have declined Pedro Feliz's $5.5 million club option for 2010. They will pay his $500,000 buyout instead.

"This doesn't preclude us from bringing Pedro back next season," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. "While this allows us to explore other opportunities, we will continue to keep the lines of communication open with Pedro and his representative."

There are some intriguing names available at third base. Chone Figgins would be the best third baseman available on the free-agent market. Adrian Beltre and Mark DeRosa are interesting names. Former Phillies infielder Placido Polanco is expected to become a free agent. He has played second base since he joined the Detroit Tigers in 2005, but has played third in the past.

The Phillies are expected to bring back their remaining seven everyday players -- catcher Carlos Ruiz, first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, left fielder Raul Ibanez, center fielder Shane Victorino and right fielder Jayson Werth -- which means this could be the Phillies' only opportunity to upgrade their lineup.

They have plenty of power, so maybe they look toward finding a quality top-of-the-order hitter. Figgins or Polanco would fit that bill. Figgins hit .298 with 114 runs scored, a .395 on-base percentage and 42 stolen bases this season for the Los Angeles Angels. Polanco hit .285 with a .331 on-base percentage and 82 runs scored for the Detroit Tigers.

Feliz, 34, hit .266 with 12 home runs and 82 RBIs in 158 games this season. He hit a team-best .336 with runners in scoring position, which ranked 13th in the National League. But his value was in his glove. He played excellent defense for the Phillies for two seasons.

Like Amaro said, the Phillies still could re-sign Feliz if they don't find a suitable alternative. But there is some risk. Feliz could ask for more than the $5.5 million he would have received had the Phillies simply picked up the option. Or he could sign elsewhere.

The Phillies are willing to take that risk.

Amaro, who could not be reached for further comment, said Friday, "[Feliz] had a solid year for us. I like the man personally. He's a great person. He's a great teammate. But I also believe in trying to improve and sometimes a change can be for the better."