What We're Hearing...

There are a lot of rumors flying around at this time of year. We've rounded them all up and checked them all out to give you our take on what you can believe and what you can dismiss. Plus, we've uncovered some news of our own!

One of our readers sent in the following question: "Is there any way that the Phillies get involved in the talks for Johan Santana?"

Answer: Yes. Kind of, sort of.

The Phillies are not at all interested in dealing for Santana, who would cost more in prospects than they would be willing to give up and would also cost more in dollars than they would want to pay. However, the Phillies are on the fringes of the talks. A team acquiring Santana may look to shed some salary since the financial cost of Santana will be tough to swallow and that's where the Phillies come in. The Phillies have gotten in touch with the Yankees to let them know that if they look to move some salary, they may be in a position to help in terms of taking Mike Mussina and his $11 million off the Yankees books.

Mussina isn't officially being shopped, but the Yankees would deal him in the right package. If they were to acquire Santana, Mussina could easily be the sacrificial lamb and the Phillies will be right there to scoop him up. Would the Phillies eat all of Mussina's contract? Possibly, if the Yankees would accept a low-level prospect in exchange for the 39 year old right-hander. Mussina has a no-trade clause, but might possibly accept a deal to the Phillies. One possible deal breaker would be if Mussina insisted on an extension as part of a trade, since the Phillies would look at him as a one-year move to give pitchers like Carlos Carrasco time to mature and reach the majors.

Aaron Rowand won't be back in Philadelphia, but again, he could figure in their moves. If the Yankees want to free up salary to fit in Rowand, the Mussina talks could cover that move for the New Yorkers as well, giving the Yankees an outfield that would be two-thirds former Phillies, with Rowand in center and Bobby Abreu in right.

Another guy who isn't likely to wind up in Philly is Tigers third baseman - make that ex-third baseman - Brandon Inge. The Phillies kind of like Inge, but they don't like his contract (three years and just over $19 million). The only way the Phillies even consider Inge is if the Tigers eat a whole bunch of his contract and don't ask for much in exchange.

Even though the Phillies are looking for a third baseman, they are also being approached about one of their third basemen. The Marlins recently offered Double-A reliever Scott Nestor (16-15, 4.28 over five minor league seasons) for Wes Helms. The Phillies considered the offer, but decided they were better off keeping Helms. Should they find another answer for third base, they could call the Marlins back and rekindle the talks, but they won't do it now, just in case they can't find a suitable replacement for Helms. They won't go with Greg Dobbs as their everyday third baseman and now that the commissioner's office has denied the Phillies request to be able to sign Tadahito Iguchi without him sitting out until May 15th, it's unlikely that Iguchi will be an option at third. Instead, Iguchi is now being trailed by the Colorado Rockies.

Keep your eye on Hank Blalock. The Rangers third baseman had a down season in 2007, but he's a good player with a reasonable contract ($5.950 million in 2008 with a team option for 2009 at $6.250). The Rangers might well part with him if the price is right and the Phillies just might be interested. Plus, any third base prospect coming through the ranks for the Phillies is likely two years away, so the length of Blalock's contract would be near perfect. A couple of decent prospects could get a deal done and the Phillies could then turn around and deal Helms to Florida to recoup one prospect in that deal.

The Marlins offer could change though, if Morgan Ensberg is non-tendered on Wednesday. If he is let go, the Marlins will likely pursue him and only turn back to Helms if Ensberg signs elsewhere. Would the Phillies have an interest in Ensberg? No.

Another reader question: "Are the Phillies comfortable with Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste as their catchers?"

Answer: Not completely.

The Phillies are likely to wait to see if any catchers are non-tendered this week (the deadline to offer contracts is December 12th) and might look to pick up a catcher from that list of players. Miguel Olivo and Johnny Estrada could be among the non-tendered catchers that the Phillies would consider. While they're not completely comfortable with their catching situation, they're also definitely not in panic mode and won't sink a lot of time, money or prospects into the position.

Question: "The Phillies were thought to be in talks to sign Japanes pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and lately I heard they were after Japanes outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. What are the chances that they get either of those players?"

Answer: None and slim, in that order.

Kuroda pretty much has his heart set on pitching out west, with the Dodgers and Mariners being the top contenders. The Diamondbacks have reportedly upped their offer and could be an option for Kuroda. The Phillies got in on Fukudome late and he's still mulling everything over. It appears that he will come to the U.S. next season, but Philadelphia doesn't appear to be a likely landing spot.

Question: "Erik Bedard or Dan Haren would look good in a Phillies uniform. Do you see either of them coming to town in a deal?"

Answer: No and probably not.

The Phillies offered Baltimore Kyle Kendrick, Shane Victorino, Jason Donald and Zack Segovia for Bedard and were turned down flat. It's simply going to take a LOT for a team to get Bedard away from Baltimore and the Phillies aren't going to want to give up what it would take. They may be even further away from a deal to bring Haren to town, since the A's would want a huge return in young players and the Phillies won't sell out the farm to get one pitcher.

Carlos Silva also isn't a likely candidate to be coming to Philly. The former Phillie and current free agent likely is pricing himself out of Philadelphia with a demand for a four or five-year deal. The Phillies would consider three years, but nothing longer and Silva figures to squeeze at least one extra year out of somebody out there. Kyle Lohse is a more likely candidate. He could consider three years and less money than Silva and the Phillies were happy with what he gave them late last season.

The Phillies and Pirates could match up very well for a deal. Damaso Marte is signed for $2 million in 2008 and a $6 million team option for 2009 and would be a nice addition to the back of the Phillies bullpen. Marte has pitched well in a set-up role for the Pirates and could be dealt, but so far, the Pirates are asking for a lot in exchange. A step down would be John Grabow, a left-hander with decent Major League numbers for Pittsburgh. He would be a late inning option and a complement to lefty J.C. Romero to get left-handers out.

With Rowand out of the picture, the Phillies talked to Mike Cameron, but he wants multiple years and the Phillies won't do it. That again shifted the Phillies to Pittsburgh where they found Nate McLouth. The lefty hitting McLouth has decent power (13 HR in 329 AB last season) and carries a small contract. Again though, the Pirates may want more than McLouth could be worth.

Don't count out the possiblity of the Phillies putting Josh Outman or J.A. Happ at the top of a package for Pittsburgh to get McLouth and one of the relievers. The Phillies would bite the bullet and include some good prospects in the right deal.

Speaking of prospects. Don't look for Carlos Carrasco or Adrian Cardenas to be included in any package. The Phillies love both players and would have to find the perfect fit to consider putting either of them in a deal to get pitching or anything else. The fact that the Twins would have likely started with Carrasco and Cardenas is a reason why the Phillies haven't entered into the Santana sweepstakes. There have also been reports that Joe Savery could be dealt, but those reports just don't work. Savery was drafted this past June and must be in the organization for a full calendar year before he can be dealt anywhere.



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