Phillies seek out 'pen help on Day 1
GM would like to add depth as insurance for Lidge, Romero
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Phillies moved from meeting to meeting Monday in their search for pitching at the Winter Meetings.
They're looking for bullpen help, especially with the knowledge that Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero might not be recovered from their offseason elbow surgeries by Opening Day, according to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Amaro said if Lidge and Romero not ready by then, it won't be long thereafter.
But they're also are looking for back-of-the-rotation help, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Jamie Moyer's recovery from sports hernia surgery in October and scheduled knee surgery next month.
Amaro said he is more likely to fill those holes on the free-agent market, although he said they could get creative and work a trade.
Amaro declined comment on a rumor that the Phils have made right-hander Joe Blanton available to trade to free up money to improve the bullpen, but it seems unlikely Amaro would trade pitching to get pitching.
"I'm sure I would at some point," Amaro said. "It's kind of like robbing Peter to trade Paul, but if you think Paul is better than Peter, then it's worth it."
But Philadelphia's GM also said he doesn't "want to mess with our rotation as it stands. But it doesn't mean we have to make that a hard and fast rule. I think it's more about keeping the options as open as possible. ... I'll put our rotation as it stands up there with pretty much anybody in the National League. The better your rotation is, the more heat you can take off the bullpen. I think that's probably the best way to get a more predictable bullpen."
Right-hander Chan Ho Park seems to be the team's top priority in the bullpen. Amaro met with Park's agent, Jeff Borris, on Monday. Philadelphia has continued interest in left-hander Scott Eyre, although Amaro said he would be comfortable with rookie left-handers Antonio Bastardo or Sergio Escalona in the bullpen next season.
"They haven't moved particularly quickly, so I don't necessarily expect them to end quickly," Amaro said of contract negotiations with Park and Eyre. "I may go sign somebody else because they're waiting around."
The Phillies have been linked to right-hander Brandon Lyon, but one source said Monday the asking price for Lyon remains high.
The Phils already have $114.2 million committed to 15 players in 2010. Include the expected raises for Blanton, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey and the payroll pushes to more than $130 million. That leaves Philadelphia with just a few million to spend.
"I think we're going to be just fine with our payroll," Amaro said. "I don't think it's going to change much. We have our limitations. We're going to be pushing $140 million. It is what it is. It's my job to figure out a way to make sure this a contending team."
The Phils have until Saturday to offer contracts to Durbin and Condrey, who are eligible for salary arbitration. Amaro said the club hasn't made a final decision, but "as far as I'm concerned, at least right now, these are guys that we'll probably count on. But again, a lot of it kind of depends on what happens over these next several days in regards to the other free agents that might be out there."
But besides the bullpen, Amaro also wants to add depth to the rotation. John Smoltz has been mentioned, but he might be in the same boat as Lyon -- his asking price might be out of the Phillies' range.
Philadelphia is also looking for a fifth outfielder to replace Matt Stairs, who could be with the team in Spring Training, but only if he signs a Minor League deal. The Phils have expressed interest in Brian Giles, although it doesn't appear talks are serious.
Giles, who hits left-handed like Stairs, hit .191 with two home runs and 23 RBIs in 61 games last season for the Padres. He played through knee pain almost the entire season, which might have affected him at the plate. He had surgery in October.
"We've talked about it a little bit," said Giles' agent, Joe Bick. "Philly needs to try to find Brian a spot where there might be more playing time, but it's certainly something we'll keep the door open on."
But the bench seems to be the least of Amaro's worries. He would like to find pitching help, and he would like to find it sooner rather than later.
"I would love to be able to walk away with somebody we feel comfortable with in the seventh, eighth and ninth [innings]," he said. "But what I want and what I can get are sometimes two separate things."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.