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12/02/08 10:00 AM EST
Phils have specific goals for Vegas
Entering Winter Meetings, re-signing Moyer remains priority
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- The next phase of Ruben Amaro Jr.'s accelerated stint as Phillies general manager starts Dec. 8, when representatives from all 30 teams gather for the annual Winter Meetings. Though the Meetings are being held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas from Dec. 8-11, the Phillies don't plan to hit the jackpot. Re-signing starter Jamie Moyer remains a priority, along with continuing the search for a left-field solution should Pat Burrell leave as a free agent. "Pitching wins, and we want to strengthen that," Amaro said on the day he was introduced as general manager. "That's our focus."
It has remained the focus, especially on a team looking to become the first National League team to repeat as World Series champions since the 1975-76 Reds. A team with expected payroll increases may not have financial room to add CC Sabathia or Manny Ramirez, but it will explore tweaks as necessary.
"We have things to deal with," Amaro said last week. "We're trying to improve our club, and we will look at every option."
With the 2009 returns of second baseman Chase Utley (right hip surgery) and third baseman Pedro Feliz (back surgery) unclear, the team has explored utility player options such as former Phillie Nick Punto, as well as adding another arm to an already deep and effective bullpen.
In case Moyer doesn't return, the Phillies have kicked the tires with the representatives for free-agent right-handers A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe. On the outfielder front, while they will continue to speak with Burrell, the names Raul Ibanez, Rocco Baldelli and Juan Rivera remain on the surface.
Like many teams, the Phillies may have to wait until Sabathia and Ramirez make decisions on their futures, opening up the rest of the market.
Amaro has been swamped since officially replacing Pat Gillick as general manager on Nov. 3. Later that day, he whisked away to the GM Meetings in Dana Point, Calif., briefly interrupting that cross-country journey for a trip with manager Charlie Manuel to dismiss third-base coach Steve Smith.
In the next three weeks, Amaro hired Benny Looper and Scott Proefrock as assistant general managers and promoted Chuck LaMar to assistant general manager. Amaro also negotiated deals with pitching coach Rich Dubee, hitting coach Milt Thompson, first-base coach Davey Lopes and new bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer.
Bench coach Jimy Williams resigned and was replaced by Pete Mackanin, while Sam Perlozzo took over as third-base coach.
On the field, Amaro re-signed Scott Eyre to a one-year, $2 million contract extension, and hopes to do the same with Moyer. The team added organizational depth by signing reliever Mike Koplove to a Minor League deal, and would like to bring in more arms to compete for jobs in an already deep and effective bullpen.
Dealing outfielder Greg Golson to the Rangers for Minor Leaguer John Mayberry on Nov. 20 potentially added a right-handed corner outfielder, at least for the long term.
Internally, the Phillies are also believed to be mulling ways to sign Ryan Madson, Jayson Werth and Cole Hamels to contract extensions to avoid arbitration and keep them around beyond '09 (for Madson and Werth) and '12 (Hamels), respectively.
It's assumed that Amaro took a break for the Thanksgiving holiday and will now turn toward some Christmas shopping.
"We'll be looking at every possible way to improve our club," he said.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.