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12/12/07 1:59 AM ET

Mailbag: Looking at Phils' free agents

Beat reporter Ken Mandel answers Phils fans' questions

I'm wondering how the Rangers' deal with Milton Bradley affects Aaron Rowand's situation. Does Rowand's waiting to ink a deal become a good sign for the Phillies?
-- Ryan M., Philadelphia

Bradley's signing with the Rangers affects Rowand in the sense that it may remove Texas as a potential landing spot, though that club balked at the five-year request all along. Andruw Jones' two-year, $36-million deal with the Dodgers suggests teams are willing to overpay annually for the flexibility of a shorter-term contract. The Phillies are one of those teams, and they're willing to go three years with a vesting fourth-year option.

Rowand isn't going to sign for Torii Hunter money (five years, $90 million), and at some point, he'll get his four guaranteed years and move on. It could still be from the Phillies, though general manager Pat Gillick deemed that a "long shot," and Rowand's agent, Craig Landis, agreed. Rowand waiting is of no significance to Philadelphia. The second Rowand gets a deal he's seeking, he's taking it.

Can you explain the Tadahito Iguchi situation? I'm still confused. I thought he was a free agent, but in reality the Phillies released him. Now, it looks like it's coming back to bite them. How did they get in this situation? Wasn't he a free agent all along?
-- Scott F., Linwood, N.J.

As a player from Japan with fewer than six years of Major League experience, Iguchi is subjected to a slightly different set of rules. The original contract he signed with the White Sox before the 2005 season called for him to be re-signed within 15 days of the World Series or released, and the Phillies couldn't offer arbitration, a process by which a player can potentially return to their former team on a one-year contract. Typically, players who come over in this fashion negotiate the arbitration aspect out of their deals.

While he technically was a free agent all along and agreed to a deal with the Padres on Tuesday, he wouldn't have been able to return to the Phillies until May 15. His agent, Rocky Hall, had hoped to get a waiver from the Commissioner's Office that would allow Iguchi to play for the Phillies on Opening Day, but was told that wasn't going to happen.

The Phillies got into this situation because of Iguchi. They wanted him to play third originally, but his agent apparently misread the market as far as opportunities to play second base. This is understandable given how early in the offseason Iguchi had to decide -- and it's not like second base could be an option soon with the Phillies, short of an injury to Chase Utley.

Also, Iguchi could've signed a waiver that allowed him to be offered arbitration, thus permitting him to be eligible to return without the six-week exile. For whatever reason, he didn't sign that, either.

The Phillies tried, but it just did not work out.

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Is there any chance of Livan Hernandez coming to Philadelphia?
-- Bill W., Mt. Laurel, N.J.

Very, very little chance.

What is the deal with Ryan Howard's contract?
-- Anthony A., Oreland, Pa.

Unless he's non-tendered or traded, two highly unlikely scenarios, Howard will be a Phillie through the 2011 season. Salary arbitration is a process for players with fewer than six years of Major League experience gradually move up the pay scale. The process begins after a player completes his third big league season and continues through his sixth, when that player becomes an unrestricted free agent.

A certain percentage of players get classified as "Super Two" players and receive an extra year or arbitration eligibility, so Howard actually gets an extra year to go through the process. Teams and players often attempt to bypass this procedure by signing multi-year deals, and this will be explored with Howard.

Might the Phillies trade Wes Helms and bring in Brandon Inge from the Tigers?
-- Melanie A., Philadelphia

Both options were discussed in the wake of Florida's trade of Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, with the Phillies potentially dealing Helms to the Marlins and acquiring Inge from the Tigers. Philadelphia has little interest in Inge and won't trade Helms unless they first upgrade the position.

What are your thoughts on trading Pat Burrell to San Francisco for Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain straight up, or Noah Lowry plus a bullpen prospect?
-- Les M., Harrisburg, Pa.

I would do that trade, but the Giants won't and shouldn't. They wouldn't deal Lincecum for Toronto outfielder Alex Rios, who is younger and better than Burrell, and more controllable contract-wise. Burrell is expensive and will be a free agent after the season.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.