12/08/11 2:12 PM EST
Phils may have some competition for Rollins
Pujols leaving Cardinals could bring St. Louis into the picture
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
The Phils and Rollins made progress this week on a new contract, so much so that nearly everybody at the Winter Meetings said they expect Rollins to remain in Philadelphia. Rollins' agent, Dan Lozano, even cancelled a meeting earlier this week with the Milwaukee Brewers, who were believed to be Rollins' other top suitor. That seemed like a pretty good sign Lozano had narrowed his focus to Philadelphia.
But things changed Thursday. Pujols is leaving the St. Louis Cardinals for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which means the Cardinals suddenly have some money to spend. They need a first baseman, second baseman and shortstop, and if they don't jump into the Prince Fielder sweepstakes (there are rumblings at the Hilton Anatole they will not), they could take a run at Rollins to fill one of their other needs. And while their history suggests otherwise, maybe the Cardinals would be willing to give Rollins what he wants.
Rollins tweeted to teammate Shane Victorino on Thursday: "something will get done, where is the question........"
This is not saying Rollins is headed to St. Louis, but it certainly would be in Lozano's best interest to explore every opportunity for his client, especially if talks with the Cardinals can get the Phillies to increase their offer. One source indicated Wednesday the Phils had been talking about a three-year deal worth about $13 million per season. Perhaps talks with St. Louis get Philadelphia to add a fourth year or an option for a fourth year.
At the very least, it seems likely to drag out the process. Thoughts that the Phillies and Rollins would strike an agreement before next week seem less likely after Pujols' departure from the National League.
Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. did not seem bothered that he is leaving the Winter Meetings without a shortstop, although he rarely tips his hand.
"I'm concerned about filling that spot, but I'm not concerned about the timing of it," Amaro said.
Amaro said nothing is scheduled with Lozano, but "we'll be in touch with each other sometime soon, if not today."
In recent Winter Meetings, the Phillies laid the groundwork on deals for Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and finalized deals soon thereafter. Amaro said that while the Phils not only laid groundwork with Rollins, they had other productive meetings as well. Philadelphia appears to be in the market for a veteran left-handed reliever, which could be George Sherrill.
"We had some interesting discussions other than what's been happening with Jimmy," Amaro said. "You never know what can come out of those. We laid some groundwork on a couple different things, not just the shortstop situation. That's our priority, but we'll continue to have dialogue with teams on some trades as well."
Asked about Pujols going to the Angels, Amaro said, "If that's the case, I'm glad he's out of our league."
That is true, but it might have made the Phils' work a little more difficult in the coming weeks.
Deals done: None, but they made some progress with Rollins. The Phillies finished most of their business before the Winter Meetings. They signed Jonathan Papelbon and Jim Thome, re-signed Brian Schneider, acquired Ty Wigginton in a trade and reach an agreement with Laynce Nix, who will sign a two-year, $2.5 million contract if he passes his physical Thursday.
Rule 5 Draft activity: The Chicago Cubs selected Phils Minor League right-hander Lendy Castillo, who went 4-2 with a 2.54 ERA last season with Class A Lakewood. Castillo has a big arm, so it will be interesting to see if he can stick with the Cubs the entire season. Philadelphia also lost three players in the Minor League phase of the Draft -- left-hander Andrew Loomis to Baltimore, shortstop Travis Mattair to Cincinnati and catcher Francisco Diaz to Pittsburgh. The Phillies took no players in this year's Draft for the first time since 2005.
Goals accomplished: Earlier in the week, it sounded like the negotiations between Philadelphia and Rollins had stalled, but things improved. That was good news for the Phils, who were looking at less-desirable solutions at shortstop if Rollins signed elsewhere. But it doesn't sound like anything is imminent, especially with Pujols leaving St. Louis.
Unfinished business: Finalize the Rollins deal. Maybe find a veteran reliever. Maybe find another piece for the bench.
GMs bottom line: "We try to acquire good players. We've had some discussions that would be interesting, but our job is to make our club better. If it's just marginally better, then it's marginally better. If it's significantly better, then that's even better. There are a couple of discussions we've had that would have done both, so we'll see where it goes. ... I don't think we have a lot of needs to be frank. I'm pretty happy with our club as it stands, but that doesn't mean we're not going to try and get better." -- Amaro
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.