Phils eye 'pen help at Winter Meetings
GM Gillick also looking for catcher, might move Burrell
PHILADELPHIA -- When he arrives in Orlando, Fla., for the Winter Meetings, Phillies general manager Pat Gillick will be looking to improve his bullpen and catching situation and explore a trade for left fielder Pat Burrell.The four-day meetings begin on Monday, but Gillick has already filled out his starting rotation (keeping lefty Jamie Moyer and signing righty Adam Eaton) and improved the team at third base (Wes Helms). While losing out on slugger Alfonso Soriano and not being interested in Carlos Lee may lead to retaining Burrell and hoping he returns to his 2004 form, rebuilding the bullpen remains a top priority. Relievers Aaron Fultz, Arthur Rhodes and Rick White aren't expected to return, leaving the team with Geoff Geary, Ryan Madson and possibly Matt Smith to bridge the gap to closer Tom Gordon. Gillick wants to bring in a proven setup man who can occasionally close and keep Gordon fresh. The 39-year-old right-hander battled shoulder inflammation last season, an ailment which shelved him for 2 1/2 weeks and curtailed his effectiveness for a month before being disabled. "We need some help in our bullpen," Gillick said. "No question. We'll have to look through who's there." Some of Philadelphia's options in that department have been eliminated. Justin Speier signed with the Angels and Danys Baez and Jamie Walker joined the Orioles. The Phils are believed to be interested in David Weathers, LaTroy Hawkins and Miguel Batista. All have been closers in the past. Gillick knows that even if the meetings don't bear fruit, they will serve as a period of time to lay groundwork. For example, the Phillies might not trade Burrell, but they'll at least receive a good idea of which teams have a genuine interest. Teams like San Francisco remain an option, since it is believed that Burrell is willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to the Giants. As for Burrell, Gillick is hoping for renewed interest from the teams that lost out on Soriano, Lee, Moises Alou and Gary Sheffield. Considering the salaries those players received, the $27 million still owed to Burrell may seem affordable, especially if the Phillies are willing to pick up a portion of it. "Something could happen," Gillick said about Burrell on the day Soriano signed with the Cubs. "Soriano and [Carlos] Lee are the only two guys with some pop. So maybe when those two shoes drop, something might happen."
Gillick must balance that desire against needing a replacement, meaning he'll have to either get an outfielder in return or have a deal for one in place. Otherwise, the Phillies could be looking at an outfield of Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino and Jeff Conine.Another option could be dealing Rowand for bullpen help, which could make the situation with Burrell more interesting. Gillick said on Nov. 20 that he visited Burrell in Arizona and came away optimistic about the 30-year-old's health. A painful right foot injury sapped his agility in the outfield and affected his swing. Still, he's wearing a Phillies uniform, and has the power to veto any trade. "In my mind, he's playing left field [for the Phillies]," Gillick said. "He thinks he's going to be back and is getting himself ready to play. His [right] foot still wasn't back to 100 percent." Whether or not he trades Burrell, the Phillies' general manager should be quite busy next week.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.