Phils Lay Groundwork For Free Agency Season

The Phillies figure to have some money to plug into a couple holes on their club and free agency is a likely place to look to spend some money. With that in mind, the team is formulating plans for how they want their off-season to play out.

This is always an interesting time of the year in baseball. The Red Sox and Indians are providing drama, while the Rockies simply sit back, wait and hope that their momentum won't be lost. For the 29 other teams, there is work going on behind the scenes and things that happen elsewhere could well have a ripple effect in Philadelphia.

For instance. Joe Torre walked away from an offer that he termed "insulting" this past week. No, the Phillies aren't going to bring him in to take over for newly re-signed Charlie Manuel and no, they're not even upset that they won't be in a position to pursue him. He's a little rich for their blood. However, that doesn't mean that the Phillies didn't take notice to Torre's exit. If closer Mariano Rivera stays true to his word, he will be headed elsewhere as a free agent. Rivera made statements that if Torre wasn't coming back, neither was he. His battery mate, Jorge Posada could also become a free agent and opt out of his player option since he also was a big fan of Torre.

The Phillies would have definite interest in Rivera and somewhat less interest, but still at least a passing interest, in Posada. Rivera would give them a bona fide closer and possibly, the opportunity to also improve their starting rotation by moving Brett Myers back to the rotation. Posada would give them a veteran catcher to work with their young pitchers, although the Phillies are very happy with Carlos Ruiz and have Jason Jaramillo and Lou Marson inching closer to the majors, making Posada a long shot at best. It's likely that Rivera and Posada will be interested in watching where Torre will wind up - St. Louis? - before they make their decision on where to play next season.

The Phillies are also keeping a close eye on Boston. Third baseman Mike Lowell and pitcher Curt Schilling have the option of hitting the free agent market after the World Series and there will be interest coming from the Phillies for both players. Lowell would fill a gaping hole at third base, while Schilling would provide a veteran presence for a rotation that is very young at the top and could use another arm to round things out.

As Pat Gillick fades to a dream sequence, he sees a lineup with Lowell at third, a starting rotation of Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Curt Schilling, Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moher and Mariano Rivera there to close things out. Okay Pat, snap back to reality. Putting that all together would likely be too expensive for the Phillies to achieve, but there is always the chance that at least some part of that plan could come to fruition.

Meanwhile, back at home, the Phillies are focusing on their free agents. They put out word to Tadahito Iguchi that they were willing to sign him as their third baseman for next season, but let it be known that he could wind up being a super-sub type player. That idea didn't thrill Iguchi, who will look elsewhere for a starting job as a second baseman. Aaron Rowand has always been thought to be too expensive for the Phillies, but that's not necessarily so. He could be back in Philly, but it's likely that he's going to at least see what else is out there. One thing is for sure, the Phillies won't be getting into much of a bidding war over Rowand and would likely fold quickly if his price approaches the six year, $84 million that it's thought he'll command.

On the mound, Jose Mesa and Antonio Alfonseca are goners. The best they can hope for from the Phillies (and possibly anywhere else) is a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Kyle Lohse is an interesting case. He put the Phillies in good shape to win most of his starts after coming over from the Cincinnati Reds and he could be welcomed back if he doesn't price himself out of the Phillies plans. One scenario would have him in the rotation instead of Myers, with Myers serving either as the closer or a very expensive set-up man for Rivera.

There are a lot of potential options for the Phillies this off-season. Free agency is one way for them to go, but there is always the option of using some of their young prospects as trade chips with other clubs. For instance, if Rowand did re-sign, Shane Victorino and/or Michael Bourn could be shopped. There is likely going to be the usual off-season rumors about a Pat Burrell trade, although he will likely stick to his guns and not waive his no-trade clause. That could change though if Burrell decides that playing elsewhere for one season might be doable and might give him a chance to see what another city is like before he hits free agency this time next season. If he likes it, he'll know that going in and if he doesn't, he'll only be stuck there for one year.

With the World Series still a couple days away from starting, and the free agent period not set to start for 15 days until after the World Series ends, it could be late November until the real fun begins in Philadelphia and other Major League cities.



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