DALLAS -- It seems like there are fewer and fewer places for veteran free-agent reliever Ryan Madson to find the lucrative, multiyear contract he desires.

Does that mean he could accept salary arbitration from the Phillies?

The deadline for his decision is midnight Wednesday, and although Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. continues to believe the possibility Madson accepts is remote, it would not be a complete shock. Other than the Boston Red Sox, there does not seem to be a team willing to spend major money on a closer. Not the Reds. Not the Padres. Not the Mets. The Angels are out there. They spend money, and Madson certainly would love to pitch for his hometown team. But if Madson's agent, Scott Boras, feels he cannot land the big deal Madson wants, he could accept salary arbitration and try again on the free-agent market next year.

"A Scott Boras client has done that before," Amaro said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings.

It happened in 2003, when Kevin Millwood accepted salary arbitration from the Phillies. If Madson accepted, he would get a considerable raise from the $4.5 million he made in 2011. The Phillies could keep him to form one of baseball's best one-two punches in the back end of the bullpen with closer Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a four-year, $50 million contract last month. But Amaro also pointed out the Phillies could trade Madson.

"I think a bullpen with Madson and [Jose] Contreras and [Antonio] Bastardo and [Mike] Stutes and Papelbon would be OK," Amaro said.

The Phillies also offered salary arbitration to Jimmy Rollins, who is expected to decline, and Raul Ibanez, who will decline.

Manuel checks in from Winter Meetings

DALLAS -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel met with reporters Tuesday at the Winter Meetings and touched on numerous subjects:

On his comfort level with the bullpen: "I would feel [better] if we had one more strong piece ... but I look at our bullpen, and I could see where [general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.] would say he was comfortable in the 'pen. I feel comfortable with our bullpen, too. But I'd like another late-inning piece, a guy with a good arm, [Jose] Contreras definitely could be that guy, and who knows, we might have somebody in the Minor Leagues that can do that."

On who plays first base while Ryan Howard is recovering from Achilles surgery: "[Laynce] Nix has played there a little bit. [John] Mayberry Jr. We'll send [Jim] Thome over in the Minor Leagues [in Spring Training] and we'll let him take ground balls and get some playing time and he'll start out playing three or four innings and we'll work him up and work him in. And when we feel like it's time to bring him over to the Major League field and put him in a game, we will. I think he's going to have to work hard, but I think he can still play first base. I had him when he was 18 years old and he played third, and he's got good hands. If I was a betting man, I'd say that he can play once or twice a week, but at the same time ... I'm not going to put him in an embarrassing situation for him. [Ty] Wigginton can play there, too."

On how many games Thome can play first base: "I think he can play 20 games, yeah. I think he can. Fifty might be a stretch, but at the same time ... in Interleague Play, is it nine games on the road? That's nine he definitely can hit there, and if you're a pinch-hitter in the National League, I can find a place for you to hit about once a night, so that's 150 or 200 or whatever. But if we get him over 200 at-bats and things like that, I think that's enough for him to help us and produce and stay sharp as a pinchhitter."

On if Hunter Pence remains his No. 3 hitter: "I still have [Chase] Utley in the third hole if he's healthy and he's good."

On if he is confident Utley can bounce back from a poor 2011: "I think he's going to come back. Utley has got some good years left. I totally believe that."