Lieber, Rowand Still Trade Bait

The Phillies still have some work to do as they prepare for spring training. Among their tasks is to find some help for the bullpen and their two top pieces of bait are drawing some interest.

Don't think for a moment that the Phillies are done tinkering for the upcoming season. While various players and members of the Phillies entourage are out on their yearly caravan, there is a lot going down behind the scenes.

One key piece of business is finding more help for the bullplen. Antonio Alfonseca is a nice addition, but the Phillies believe they can find better and he's not the guy that they want to go to should anything happen to incumbent closer Tom Gordon. Instead, the Phillies are thinking more along the lines of the Rangers Akinori Otsuka or San Diego's Scott Linebrink. In fact, Linebrink is the latest hot rumor to surface, with the Phillies reportedly swinging Aaron Rowand as part of the deal.

While the Phillies love Rowand's style and leadership, they would give that up for the right player in return. One drawback with Linebrink is that he has only converted 3 of 22 save opportunities in his career. The Phillies would almost insist on getting a mid-level prospect in exchange as part of the package and that's where the talks slow down.

Meanwhile, the Pirates missed out on Tomo Ohka and Jeff Weaver and are looking for a starter to add to their rotation. They've kicked the tires on Lieber, but his contract ($7.5 million) is a definite obstacle. Plus, the fact that Pittsburgh dealt Mike Gonzalez (another reliever that the Phillies had an interest in) to Atlanta doesn't give the Phillies a prime player to target from the Pirates. If the Phillies were to eat a substantial part - at least half - of Lieber's contract, the folks in the Steel City may be more interested in Lieber, but they don't have the major league reliever to offer.

Otsuka is probably the number one choice among the Phillies front office folks and the Phillies and Rangers have a friendly trade history. Rowand is interesting to the Rangers, as is Lieber. If a deal is likely to be worked out between the two teams, it would likely come during spring training when Texas has a better idea if they can get anything from Sammy Sosa and Jaret Wright, who both signed minor league deals this past week.

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