With Christmas just 22 days away, pitching still sits atop the Phillies' wish list.
As the Phillies head into the winter meetings today in Nashville, Tenn., they are hoping the next 4 days of face-to-face conversations, negotiations and handshakes bring them an early Christmas present.
"Pitching is definitely the biggest thing on our Christmas list this year," general manager Pat Gillick said last week.
The team knows there is a lot of wishful thinking on their list and they can't get everything they want - like former Phillie Randy Wolf, who agreed in principle Saturday to 1-year deal worth close to $9 million with San Diego.
The Phillies were potent players in trying to lure the 31-year-old lefty back to the city where he began his career. Instead Wolf, who hasn't pitched an entire season since 2003, will join a rotation with Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, Greg Maddux and Chris Young.
The Phillies reportedly offered Wolf a deal similar to the Padres' deal. A year ago, Wolf turned down a multiyear deal from the Phillies and elected to pitch in his hometown of Los Angeles.
Despite not getting Wolf, who was 9-6 with a 4.73 ERA in 18 starts with the Dodgers last season, the Phillies are content to add more depth to a staff whose 4.73 ERA was fourth worst in the NL. This could include landing 32-year-old Japanese righthander Hiroki Kuroda, who was 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA in 11 seasons for Hiroshima in Japan's Central League. Other options include Bartolo Colon, Carlos Silva and Kris Benson.
Meanwhile, the team also has other priorities to monitor. On Friday, they offered arbitration to free-agent centerfielder Aaron Rowand, who is said to be seeking a 5-year deal worth about $10-12 million a year. By offering arbitration to Rowand, who is a Type A free agent, the Phillies will receive two top draft picks as compensation if Rowand signs with another team.
Gillick said the team has remained in contact with Rowand and agent Craig Landis since free agency began and was hopeful the All-Star Gold Glover would be back crashing into walls inside Citizens Bank Park.
Rowand's contract value is believed to have risen slightly since centerfielder Torii Hunter earned a 5-year, $90 million deal from the Angels 2 weeks ago. If the Phillies, who are expected to have about $10-$15 million of their $105 million budget to work with, can't bring back Rowand, Gillick insists the team is content with the offense the outfield of Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth can provide.
The Phillies did not offer arbitration to Freddy Garcia, meaning the team likely will cut all ties with the righthander who pitched in 11 games, compiling a 1-5 record and a 5.90 ERA. Garcia, a Type B free agent, would have given the Phillies a supplemental draft pick if he signed with another team. If Garcia had accepted arbitration, the Phillies risked having to pay him more than the $10 million he made last season. The Mets reportedly are interested in Garcia.
While their Christmas list is long, the Phillies wouldn't be surprised if they left Nashville without making any moves. The team has said on numerous occasions that this year's free-agent pool is thin and they won't spend money for the sake of spending it.
"The bottom line is we need to improve our pitching," Gillick said. "If we can accomplish that, then we should be in good shape." *