Phillies likely to be quiet at Winter Meetings
General manager Amaro 'satisfied' with current state of roster
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies opened last year's Winter Meetings in frigid Indianapolis with Roy Halladay on their minds.
Next week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., figure to be less eventful.
It remains a possibility that Philadelphia will re-sign Jayson Werth, although most baseball insiders believe he will sign elsewhere. The Phillies have kicked the tires on Cliff Lee, but there is no chance they will come up with the money the New York Yankees or Texas Rangers will offer him. So if the tea leaves are being read properly, Philadelphia will enter the Winter Meetings looking to make a few adjustments to a roster that finished 2010 with the best record in baseball, but disappointingly fell to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series.
"We may be very quiet [at] these Winter Meetings," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said on Monday. "We're going to have discussions with other clubs to see if there's a match. But right now, I'm actually pretty pleased with what we have. That doesn't mean that I'm satisfied with where we're at. We do need to try to improve our bullpen and give ourselves more depth and such. But if we were to open the season today, I would feel very confident with what kind of team we would be fielding. I still think it's a championship-caliber type of club."
Fans have been wondering for weeks if the Phillies will make a big trade to inject new life into the lineup or clear salary to help bring back Werth. But it does not sound publicly like Amaro thinks a major shakeup is necessary. He sees a strong rotation with Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels; a bullpen that could be solid with a couple of quality additions; and a lineup he expects to improve.
"We had several players who did not have their typical years," he said.
But could it be some of those players are on the downside of their careers?
"We don't feel that's the case," Amaro said. "But we have to monitor that. We certainly feel like Jimmy Rollins is a better player than he's been the last couple [of] years. He hasn't been able to get unglued because of his injuries. We had Chase [Utley] down for a significant amount of time and [he] came back maybe too quickly. Ryan Howard, even though he'd never make that excuse, he had a very significant issue with his ankle. I just think there are a number of guys including [Shane] Victorino and Raul [Ibanez] and some others who just didn't have their typical seasons. Frankly, I think we can count on those guys to have better years. At least some of them."
Of course, who will be the right-handed bat should Werth leave? It would be a big hole in a left-handed-heavy lineup. Free-agent possibilities include Jeff Francoeur, Magglio Ordonez and Jermaine Dye. Players potentially available in a trade include Josh Willingham, Carlos Quentin and Aaron Rowand. The Braves also could non-tender Matt Diaz before Thursday's deadline, which would make him available.
Do any of those names excite anybody when compared to Werth?
"I actually feel a lot more confident about what we have in-house compared to what's out there," Amaro said. "If Jayson Werth is not a Phillie in the coming years, I have the confidence that we have the personnel on our club today that can help us be a productive team. Are we going to try to continue to improve? Yeah. We owe it to ourselves to do that. That said, we have some guys with some track records who are pretty good ballplayers who can produce."
One guy is Ben Francisco, who hit .284 with six home runs, 18 RBIs and a .901 OPS against left-handed pitchers last season.
"I like Ben," Amaro said. "He's a dangerous hitter. He's a guy that when he's gotten an opportunity to play for us, he's played very well. He hasn't been an All-Star-caliber player, but we don't know that he can't be.
"It's the same thing as a left-handed reliever. We're not going to go out there and get a guy to stand on the mound because he's left-handed. It's about trying to get somebody we feel is going to be an upgrade, somebody who can support us or give us depth. We're about getting quality and improving the club. If it's not somebody we feel is an upgrade over what we have internally, we don't view it as something we need to do. We're continuing to assess: 'Who is better than Ben Francisco? Who is better than a combination of Ben and Dominic Brown? Who is better than a combination with [John] Mayberry Jr. being a mix in there as well?'"
The smart bet from the beginning of the offseason has been Brown and Francisco platooning in right field. Brown is playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but he is hitting just .043 (1-for-23) with two RBIs in his first seven games.
"He's had over a month off," Amaro said. "He's just getting his legs underneath him. He needs to get some at-bats and get rolling. He hasn't had a great start, but we'll start evaluating the guy after 30 or 40 or 50 at-bats. It's unfair to start evaluating somebody after 20 at-bats. The kid is going to be a very good baseball player. Whether he's going to be starting in Philadelphia next year or he's going to be in Triple-A remains to be seen, but 23 at-bats does not make a winter-ball season."
While fans remain focused on Werth and right field, Amaro said the priority remains the bullpen. The Phillies certainly need a reliable left-hander with J.C. Romero not coming back. Hisanori Takahashi, Pedro Feliciano, Brian Fuentes and Arthur Rhodes are free agents -- and the Cincinnati Reds are hopeful they can re-sign Rhodes.
Philadelphia also is looking to upgrade its bench. The club is specifically looking for somebody to replace Greg Dobbs, preferably somebody who can play both the infield and outfield. The Phils also must tender contracts to Francisco and right-hander Kyle Kendrick by Thursday's deadline. Amaro said they have not made any final decisions, although Francisco certainly will be tendered. It is likely Kendrick will, too. The Phillies know pitching is tough to find.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.