Bullpen, Werth remain on Phillies' agenda
Amaro makes progress on several issues at GM Meetings
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. found himself at the Orlando, Fla., airport around noon ET on Thursday. He had been in Florida for much of the week for the General Managers Meetings, where he may have made some headway on potential free agents and trades.
"We chatted with several agents and free agents," Amaro said from the airport. "We had some good dialogue with some other clubs. That's pretty much where it stands."
The Phillies signed right-hander Jose Contreras to a two-year, $5.5 million contract this week. They also signed their share of Minor League free agents, including corner infielder Jeff Larish, who played last season with the Oakland A's. But Philadelphia is not believed to be close with any other free agents who are expected to make an impact on the big league roster.
"I think these things will start to pick up as we get closer to the Winter Meetings in a couple weeks," Amaro said.
The Phillies have talked with agent Scott Boras about free-agent right fielder Jayson Werth and other Boras clients. It is believed Boras will seek a contract similar to the seven-year, $120 million contract Matt Holliday signed last winter with the Cardinals. Philadelphia will not approach those numbers, though it is possible it could offer him a three-year or four-year deal.
It seems highly unlikely that Werth would accept that, but the Phillies would be in position to retain Werth if he suddenly finds the market is not what he expected.
The Phillies probably are in the same situation with left-hander Cliff Lee. They could make a three-year or four-year offer, although Lee almost certainly will get the mega-contract he wants from the Yankees or Rangers.
"We haven't closed the door on any player," Amaro said.
Amaro reiterated that upgrading the bullpen is his priority. The Phillies want a reliable left-hander since they declined J.C. Romero's option. Philadelphia has interest in Hisanori Takahashi, who pitched in 2010 for the Mets. He can be a starter or reliever, which is an attractive quality. Takahashi's agent is Arn Tellem, whom the Phillies have a good relationship with.
Other left-handers that interest Philadelphia include Pedro Feliciano, Brian Fuentes and Arthur Rhodes.
Improving the bullpen is nice, but Phillies fans remain fixated on Werth or his replacement. The chance certainly exists the team will enter the 2011 season with Domonic Brown and Ben Francisco platooning in right field, although there are other players available.
Free agents include Jeff Francoeur, Magglio Ordonez and Jermaine Dye.
The Nationals might be looking to trade Josh Willingham. He was having a good year in 2010 until suffering a knee injury, which required season-ending surgery in August. Aaron Rowand is available, although the Giants almost certainly would have to eat much of his contract. Braves outfielder Matt Diaz could be non-tendered.
ESPN.com reported the Phillies have looked into White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, although he is the rare right-handed hitter who struggles more against left-handed pitching. He has an .857 career OPS against right-handed pitchers, but just a .773 OPS against left-handers. To put that in perspective, Ordonez (.954), Dye (.871), Willingham (.885), Rowand (.826), Francoeur (.824) and Francisco (.806) all have had more success in their careers against left-handed pitchers.
"Things are moving slowly right now, but they could pick up at any time," Amaro said.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.