Phillies Have Varying Interest In Free Agents

With Wes Helms locked up and Alfonso Soriano lost, the Phillies are considering other options. Some of the names that they're pursuing are very familiar, while others are only known as visitors in Philadelphia.

Pat Gillick was able to land a right-handed hitter at the general manager's meetings, although it wasn't the one that he wanted.

Looking for some offense from the right-hand side of the plate and the left-hand side of the infield, Wes Helms fit the bill and got a two-year, $5.45 million contract that includes a team option for 2009. Helms, 30, figures to share third base with defensive whiz Abraham Nunez.

"The guy who plays the best will play more than the other," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Helms, once a top prospect for the Braves, batted .329 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI in only 240 at-bats for the Marlins last season. Used primarily as a defensive replacement for rookie first baseman Mike Jacobs and a spot starter against left-handed pitching, Helms was looking for more playing time elsewhere. It's likely that Helms will be the one being replaced for defensive reasons in Philadelphia, since Nunez is considered a stronger defensive third baseman.

During the GM meetings, the Phillies also got the bad news that Alfonso Soriano was signing a huge - read that ridiculous - contract with the Chicago Cubs. The Phillies were on board with the per year cost ($17 million) but were never interested in giving Soriano anywhere near the 8 years that the Cubs gave him to get the deal done.

So, with Helms signed and Alfonso gone, the Phillies are still busy.

The Phillies remain hopeful of re-signing LHP Randy Wolf to round out the rotation, but they're going to have competition.

Wolf has received interest from several teams, including the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rangers and Mets. Because of the inflationary nature of a thin free agent market for pitchers, he could command a three-year contract in the $20 million-$24 million range. Wolf's agent, Arn Tellem, is hoping to have a deal completed before the winter meetings begin December 4.

If that's too rich for the Phillies, they may turn to free agent RHPs Adam Eaton, Miguel Batista or Jeff Suppan. The Phils also could trade for another starting pitcher, and think they have a nice piece of bait to offer in CF Aaron Rowand.

Meanwhile, OF David Dellucci said his agent has been contacted by as many as 11 teams, including the Rangers, who traded him to the Phillies on April 1. Dellucci is looking for two things: A multi-year contract and more playing time, neither of which the Phils are offering.

The Phillies figure to offer Dellucci salary arbitration since they can recoup a first or second-round draft pick from any team that signs him as a free agent.

One area that the Phillies aren't likely to fill through free agency would be a catcher. Manager Charlie Manuel believes the Phillies are well-stocked at the catching position and he has said that he would be fine with platooning incumbents Chris Coste and Carlos Ruiz. For his part, Gillick is interested in a catching upgrade, but is likely to do that through a trade rather than free agency. The object of Gillick's affection would be Diamondbacks C Johnny Estrada, a former Phillie, who has said he would welcome a deal back to the City of Brotherly Love.

Gillick isn't interested in Philadelphia area native Mike Piazza and it's also unlikely that the Phillies will even offer arbitration to Mike Lieberthal, who hasn't drawn a lot of interest on the free agent market. It's thought that if the Phillies did offer arbitration to Lieberthal, the plan would backfire much like it did a few years ago with Kevin Millwood and Lieberthal would accept the offer.

On another note...
The Phillies interviewed third base coaching candidates during the GM meetings and hope to have the position filled soon. The front-runner seems to be Pete Mackanin, once a third base coach with Pittsburgh and Montreal.

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