Core of Phillies, Rays to remain intact
World Series opponents have few players entering free agency
The Phillies and the Rays have little to worry about during the offseason, at least on the free-agent front.
Both clubs will enter the 2009 season in defense of their respective pennants and neither is facing a major reloading project due to the departure of veteran talent because each has the core of its ballclub under control.
That should make the transition a bit smoother for Ruben Amaro Jr., the new Phillies general manager whose first order of business will be the General Managers Meetings in Dana Point, Calif., which began Monday.
Amaro and the World Series-champion Phillies should be welcoming back Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Brad Lidge and NLCS and World Series MVP Cole Hamels when they open Spring Training in February.
Amaro will face decisions in the next few weeks, though, on Howard, Werth and Victorino, who are all eligible for arbitration.
Hamels will also be eligible for arbitration as a Super Two -- those players with at least two years in the league and fewer than three but in the top 17 percent of service time among that group. Other Phillies who will be eligible for salary arbitration are Joe Blanton, Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, Eric Bruntlett and Greg Dobbs.
Those eligible for free agency include Pat Burrell, Tom Gordon, Jamie Moyer, So Taguchi and Scott Eyre. Gordon is currently the only one from that group to file.
Gordon, a right-handed reliever, hasn't pitched since July due to swelling in his right elbow, and he had surgery in October. The Phillies did not pick up Gordon's $4.5 million option, instead buying out his contract for $1 million while also declining to pick up Taguchi's $1.25 million option and extending a $150,000 buyout of the outfielder's contract.
That leaves decisions on Burrell, Moyer and Eyre.
Burrell is a born-and-bred Phillie, a regular since 2000 who was drafted No. 1 overall in 1998. The outfielder completed a six-year, $50 million deal this past season and drilled a leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh to set up the winning run in the Phillies' World Series clincher in Game 5. He has expressed an interest in returning to the only professional organization he's known.
If the club does not pursue Burrell, it may target Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday, an option it considered at the July 31 Trade Deadline. Holliday can not be a free agent until next offseason, but the Phillies would like to unload Adam Eaton's contract and could be willing to part with right-hander Brett Myers or Victorino.
Moyer is a short-timer in Phillies terms, but a 22-year Major League veteran and a local who grew up in the area. The 45-year-old left-hander was 16-7 for the Phillies in 2008 while logging nearly 200 innings for the second straight season.
He made $3.5 million this past season at the end of a two-year deal and went 0-2 in three postseason starts. But Moyer also started and allowed three runs in a no-decision in Game 3 of the World Series, won by the Phillies in the bottom of the ninth on Carlos Ruiz's infield single.
"I hope I'm back here," Moyer said. "I sense there's a good feeling that I may come back here. I have not talked to the club at all, but we'll see what happens."
But the most expensive decision, whether they pay now or later, will be that regarding Howard. The first baseman will be entering his second year of arbitration and is likely due another record award. Last season it was $10 million and word is he will eclipse Alfonso Soriano's record request of $12 million in an arbitration case, if it gets that far.
Following a season in which Howard led the Majors again in home runs and RBIs while also leading the Phillies with six RBIs in the World Series, a long-term deal is a strong possibility.
As for the Rays, only outfielder Rocco Baldelli and utilityman Eric Hinske are free agents, and both have filed. Reliever Trever Miller could also become a free agent if the Rays do not pick up his $2 million option.
It was an emotional season for Baldelli, who returned from a mitochondrial disorder that had left him in a constant state of fatigue. He began the season on the 60-day disabled list and the Rays declined in April to pick up his 2009 $6 million option, which made him a free agent when the season ended.
Baldelli still feels the effects of the disorder, a factor the Rays or any other interested team will consider.
"This has been the only place I've ever played, and I'm very comfortable here," Baldelli said. "Everyone's been very supportive through all this stuff I've been dealing with."
Those Rays eligible for arbitration include right-handers Grant Balfour and Edwin Jackson; catcher Dioner Navarro, infielders Willy Aybar, Jason Bartlett and Jonny Gomes; and outfielder/DH Gabe Gross.
Baldelli, Gomes, Gross, Hinske, Fernando Perez and Ben Zobrist helped to fill a gap in right field, but the Rays would like to have a power-hitting regular at that position. The club is loaded with pitching and would be willing to deal from that area of strength with Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, James Shields and David Price deemed untouchable.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.