Phils could dip into farm system if deal is right
Still in market for outfielders, club isn't limiting options to free agents
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Phillies hope something fruitful comes from these Winter Meetings.
Maybe it will happen upon their return to Philadelphia on Thursday. Maybe it will happen next week.
The Phils have used the Meetings in the past to build a framework for significant moves like the Roy Halladay trade in 2009 and the Cliff Lee signing in '10. Maybe their efforts this week at the Opryland Resort & Convention Center will provide similar results. Maybe they will find a quality center fielder, corner outfielder and setup man before the calendar turns to 2013.
"It's been interesting," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday afternoon. "We've had some good discussions on some things. I'm pretty optimistic that some good things can come out of these Winter Meetings. We've made some inroads, but it doesn't mean much until you sign on the dotted line."
Both Amaro and manager Charlie Manuel said Wednesday they prefer a center fielder to a corner outfielder with power. Unfortunately for them, the market has dwindled. B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino have signed with the Braves, Giants and Red Sox, respectively. The Nationals acquired Denard Span in a trade with the Twins.
Michael Bourn is available, but the Phillies might be wary of his price. Bourn is one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball and has tremendous speed, but he also has a career .704 OPS.
"He's a franchise player," said Scott Boras, Bourn's agent. "I think there are a number of teams that feel Michael Bourn is the centerpiece of what they want to do. Atlanta was not a playoff team until he got there in '12. They weren't in '11. A lot of teams have come to me and said they viewed him as the core of the Atlanta team. So I think Michael ... being a quality leadoff hitter, having speed, and just having the defensive dominance, [is a franchise player]. For a pitching staff to gain that many more outs, it just enhances the investment you made in your pitching. And it also provides for the core of the lineup, that guy who's just constantly on second base and gives them the ability to score more runs. He's really a key guy for success."
Boras and Amaro had a bit of a dustup last offseason when Boras thought Philadelphia reneged on a contract offer for Ryan Madson, which the Phils adamantly denied.
Boras said the past is in the past.
"Ruben and I have met at least two or three times personally about other matters," Boras said. "We're both professionals, and we've dealt with one another for years and expect to deal with one another for years to come."
Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler remains a possibility, if the Phillies can accommodate Colorado with enough pitching. The Phils are willing to trade right-hander Vance Worley, if it makes sense. Amaro said this week there is almost nobody untouchable in the farm system, which means top pitching prospects like Trevor May, Ethan Martin, Jonathan Pettibone and Adam Morgan could be moved.
ESPN.com reported the Phillies have made contact with some of the second-tier free-agent pitchers in the event they move some of their own pitching to acquire a position player.
Other options? Manuel said he thinks Ichiro Suzuki could help Philadelphia. The parties have talked. But can Ichiro play any center field?
The Phils could acquire a lesser center fielder and try to improve the offense by also acquiring a corner outfielder with power. Minnesota's Josh Willingham would make sense. So would Colorado's Michael Cuddyer and Arizona's Jason Kubel.
"We have to be creative," Amaro said. "Again, I'd like to keep as much talent as we possibly can. But again, we'll have to try to be creative to do these things. None of these guys come without warts. There are no players that are out there -- the perfect player or the player that is going to give you all of the combinations you want."
But Amaro sounded confident there are quality outfielders available. Are there a lot of them?
"Enough of them," he said. "We've made progress. Usually it takes a lot more than one phone call, though. It's more about whether you actually have something done or not."
Amaro maintained he is not frustrated or itching to sign somebody or do something to improve the team.
"We can wait until the cows come home to make our team better," he said.
So far, Phillies fans have been doing just that: waiting. They hope they don't have to wait much longer.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.