Phils to focus on needs at Meetings
Pitching help among club's top priorities in Indianapolis
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies locked up catcher Brian Schneider on Tuesday, signed infielder Juan Castro on Thursday and were expected to complete a deal with free agent Placido Polanco in short order.
Next up for the Phillies?
The Phillies did not offer salary arbitration to right-hander Chan Ho Park and left-hander Scott Eyre. Both are Type B free agents, which means the Phillies would have received a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft had they offered and the players had signed elsewhere.
Amaro is looking to keep financial flexibility. Schneider signed a two-year, $2.75 million contract Tuesday, according to a source. He will make $1.25 million in 2010 and $1.5 million in 2011. That leaves the Phillies' 2010 payroll at $108 million for 13 players. That does include significant raises for Joe Blanton, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz, plus the money it will take to find a third baseman and bullpen help.
"I don't know that we want to put ourselves in a position to be tied up money-wise in either player," Amaro said of Park and Eyre. "I think we want to be able to keep our flexibility as far as who we'll make a run at. And that will financially tie us up, frankly. That doesn't mean we don't want to bring them back. We can still bring them back."
But it has to be at the right price, and right now, the Phillies and the agents for Park and Eyre have differences of opinion.
Clearly, the Phils need to fill holes in the bullpen. But they also would like to add depth to their rotation, which makes sense following Jamie Moyer's recent health issues. Moyer is back in Florida after being hospitalized last week for recurring symptoms following his sports hernia surgery Oct. 2. Moyer had surgery Friday to wash out a collection of blood that might have been infected. It was the second time Moyer had been hospitalized since his initial surgery.
Moyer's latest surgery also delayed what Amaro called minor surgery on the veteran's left knee, which is scheduled for early next month. Amaro said it could impact Moyer's ability to start Spring Training on time, although he did not think it would prevent the lefty from being ready for the season.
But it shows how tenuous the bottom of the rotation is. The Phillies have Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Blanton and J.A. Happ in the top four sports. But should something else happen to Moyer or another starter, the Phillies have Kyle Kendrick and little else.
"Pitchers aren't falling out of trees and I don't have an unlimited budget, so I have to try to work on the other priorities and that's third base and the bullpen and maybe add some depth [in the rotation] with perhaps a sixth-year free agent ... or take a flier on somebody who might give us some upside who may not be on anybody's radar screen," Amaro said. "Try to shoot for a low-risk, high-reward type of a guy. There's a lot of pitching out there. The quality of it, you just never know."
Could John Smoltz be that guy? ESPN.com first reported that the Phillies have kicked the tires in Smoltz's interest in pitching in Philadelphia. He could be a low-risk, high-reward type pitcher, but one source said Smoltz might be looking for too much money at the moment, which would remove his "low risk" label.
But would Smoltz even want to pitch at Citizens Bank Park? He has been critical of the ballpark in the past, but another source said Tuesday evening the ballpark would not be a factor in Smoltz's interest in the Phillies.
"I guess he'd fit the bill," Amaro said. "We've talked to several agents about a bunch of different guys. But we don't talk about specific guys unless we're signing them. But he would kind of fit the ball, certainly. I'm not sure if that's a role he wants to play, but we've had some discussions with some of those guys who could give us some more pitching depth."
So as the Phillies enter the Winter Meetings next week in Indianapolis, it's clear they're looking for pitching help. Their bench is mostly complete with Greg Dobbs, Ben Francisco, Schneider and Castro, assuming Castro passes his physical.
That leaves one bench spot open, assuming the Phillies carry 12 pitchers during the season. Amaro said he would like somebody versatile, and he said that person already could be in the system. The Phillies already have signed outfielder DeWayne Wise and infielder Wilson Valdez to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.
But if the final bench piece comes from the outside, it sounds like Amaro is ready to wait to see what develops as the offseason progresses.
Right now, he has other things on his mind.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.