It's taken a while, but Kenny Lofton may finally be coming to Philly. The Phillies and Yankees are nearly set to announce a deal that would send reliever Felix Rodriguez to New York for the 37 year old Lofton. The two players make almost identical amounts of money, but the Yankees are rumored to be willing to send some cash to the Phillies as part of the deal.
The Phillies have tried before to get Lofton, but have been unsuccessful. The deal may work now, because the Yankees are in need of bullpen help and the Phillies appear willing to give up Rodriguez. Lofton is a career .297 hitter, who hit .275 in 83 games with the Yankees last season.
Lofton would fill the hole that the Phillies have in center field and would likely bat second in the order, behind Jimmy Rollins. Lofton's presence would give the Phillies three left-handed hitters - Lofton, Bobby Abreu and Jim Thome - in a row in the batting order. It's likely though that against left-handers, Jason Michaels would take over in center field. It's also possible that Pat Burrell could hit fourth, splitting up Abreu and Thome in the order.
The Phillies had talked to other teams, most notably Milwaukee (Scott Podsednik) and Tampa Bay (Carl Crawford) about deals to fill center field. Both teams were asking for too much in return for those players, leading the Phillies back to Lofton and the Yankees. The Phillies also talked to free agent Steve Finley, but he prefers to sign with a west coast team. Carlos Beltran remains out of the Phillies price range and he will also be offered arbitration by the Astros, meaning that signing him would cost the Phillies a draft pick and they are determined to avoid giving up any draft picks this off-season.
Another hole is the back-up catcher's job. That will likely be filled by Sandy Alomar, Jr, who was in Philadelphia Thursday (December 2) for a physical. If all reports from that physical are good, a deal could be announced at almost any time. Alomar played in 50 games with the White Sox last season and hit .240 for Chicago.
Alomar would take over for Todd Pratt as Mike Lieberthal's back-up. Pratt played in Philadelphia for three and a half seasons before becoming a free agent after last season. While he has been a valuable part of the bench, Pratt's average has fallen over the past three years, from a high of .311 in 2002 to .258 last season. Rumors have Pratt set to sign with the Florida Marlins if the Phillies do sign Alomar.
Perhaps ironically - or coincidentally - both Lofton and Alomar played for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel in Cleveland. In fact, it was Manuel who lobbied for the Indians to acquire Lofton from Houston. Lofton and Manuel have remained close friends even though both have gone on to other organizations.
In other Phillies off-season news, the Phillies will wait to see what players are offered arbitration next week by their former teams. Since the Phillies don't want to give up any draft picks to sign a player, they won't continue to pursue any pitchers who are offered arbitration. The Phillies have talked to David Wells, Carl Pavano, Derek Lowe, Al Leiter and Brad Radke. Leiter is rumored to be signing with the Marlins, while Pavaon, Lowe and Radke are likely to be offered arbitration. That could leave Wells, who is unlikely to be offered arbitration by San Diego, as their only choice. The Phillies and Wells are considered to be high on each other's list, but will wait until after the arbitration deadline to make anything official.
One scenario is that the Marlins could sign Leiter and not offer arbitration to Pavano. If that were to happen, the Phillies could jump into the bidding. Pavano's agent said Thursday that the Phillies would be high on Pavano's list of potential places to sign.
The Phillies must also make decisions on their free agents. It's likely that they could offer arbitration to Eric Milton and Rheal Cormier. It's unlikely that they'll offer arbitration to Kevin Millwood, who accepted the Phillies offer of arbitration last season.