Phillies Winter Meetings Preview

It's the hottest week of the Hot Stove Season and it all centers on Indianapolis. The Phillies and 29 other teams look to improve their clubs in one huge gathering of teams, agents and anyone else who is anything in baseball; It's Winter Meetings time!

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Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has already done most of the heavy lifting that he had to do in filling holes to what will become the 2010 version of the Philadelphia Phillies. He filled the gaping hole at third base - which he created by declining the option on Pedro Feliz - by signing Placido Polanco. He found a backup catcher in former Phillies fan and NL East veteran Brian Schneider. Eric Bruntlett has been converted into Juan Castro and there are a smattering of minor league signings meant to give some insurance for the big league club.

So, will the Phillies just sit back and be tourists in Indianapolis, where baseball's winter meetings are being held this week? Not at all likely. That's not Ruben's style, plus, there is still some work to do.

First, the Phillies have some in-house decisions to make. Do they - and can they - bring back Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre? Will they offer arbitration and guarantee big raises to pitchers Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin? And, can they limp through the early part of the season without J.C. Romero, Jamie Moyer and possibly, Brad Lidge, who are all coming off of injuries and may not be ready when the season starts?

The bullpen right now is in a state of disarray. It's basically Lidge, Romero and Ryan Madson, with both Lidge and Romero coming off of injuries. Condrey and Durbin are still technically Phillies, but they will get raises through arbitration and will become a little pricier, especially in the case of Durbin. The Phillies might decide that they could fill a couple bullpen spots with candidates like Sergio Escalona, Antonio Bastardo and possibly Kyle Kendrick, if they don't need him to battle for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Speaking of that fifth spot, Kendrick is one possibility, but Jamie Moyer is still lurking after undergoing surgery to repair a groin injury and then a second surgery to remove a collection of blood that was causing him pain following the surgery. And, there's a third surgery lurking to do some minor clean up on his elbow. And, if Moyer would win the spot in the rotation, that would give the Phillies four left-handed starters. Pedro Martinez is interested in coming back to the Phillies and for their part, the Phillies haven't ruled out the idea. Kyle Drabek is waiting in the wings, but will likely start the year in Triple-A and potentially move to the majors by mid-season or even a little later depending on how things are playing out.

There are definite in-house candidates to fill the final bench spot. John Mayberry Jr. has had a very productive winter season and is finding his stroke to hit curveballs, something that was holding him back from being productive last season. There's also newly signed DeWayne Wise or potentially another player that the Phillies could find in the Rule 5 Draft, which is set for Thursday.

So, technically, the Phillies could handle everything else with in-house candidates, but that doesn't mean they'll stop looking.

Brandon Lyon is their prime target to add to the the bullpen. Lyon could help in late inning situations, especially if Lidge isn't ready for opening day. He also pitched multiple innings on various occasions for Detroit last season and could fill a sixth inning type role for the club. Fernando Rodney will likely continue to look for a potential closer situation, although there aren't going to be a lot of them available and he could wind up with the Phillies if he doesn't find anything else to his liking. J.J. Putz, who struggled last season with the Mets (but then again, most of the Mets roster struggled last season) and also fell victim to their injury bug, is on the fringes and will likely hang on the market for a while until teams get down to slimmer pickings on relievers.

The biggest issue of the week will be the same as it was in late July; Roy Halladay. To gauge the Phillies potential to get Halladay, watch Boston and the New York Yankees. Both are interested in him and both could afford him, but both are also balking at the asking price in terms of young prospects that they would have to send to Toronto. It's not out of the question at all that they could both take themselves out of the bidding, leaving the Phillies in a better spot to acquire Halladay. And if the Angels can somehow re-sign John Lackey, they too would be out of the running for Halladay. That scenario would allow the Phillies to send a much smaller contingent of prospects to Toronto to get Halladay, if the Blue Jays are serious about trading him, which appears to be the case.

While the Phillies don't seem to be set to be as busy as they were at last year's winter meetings, they should at least be on the fringes of a lot of discussions. After all, they've got three consecutive NL East titles and back-to-back National League titles to defend and you don't often do that by sitting idly by while other clubs do all they can to improve. The Phillies want to return to being World Champions and Ruben Amaro has never been shy about making moves that will keep the club on that road.

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