DANA POINT, Calif. - Manager Charlie Manuel was in town yesterday, shaking hands with well-wishers and meeting with new general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. One of the topics of conversation between the two men was Plan B - as in, Plan Burrell.
The Phillies have yet to begin substantive negotiations with their leftfielder, who could hit the free-agent market if a new deal is not reached by Nov. 14. Right now, the club is taking the approach that Burrell will likely at least file for free agency, although both sides have expressed an interest in keeping him in Philadelphia.
While the Phillies have some internal options that could serve to replace Burrell - one interesting candidate is current backup third baseman Greg Dobbs - Manuel said he thinks the Phillies will need to add another righthanded bat if Burrell winds up signing elsewhere.
"We've got to get a righthand hitter," Manuel said. "Ruben and I were talking about that. If we don't get Burrell back, we've got to get another righthand hitter. I mean we have to, to balance out our lineup."
One look at the numbers shows how lefty-dominant the team's lineup is.
The Phillies hit 115 home runs from the left side of the plate. And of the 99 home runs they hit from the right side, 33 came from Burrell. Batting lefthanded, the Phillies hit .269 with a .341 on-base percentage and a .469 slugging percentage. Righthanded, those numbers were .242/.324/.409.
"If he's not a power guy, he's got to be a high average hitter, like a .300 hitter who knocks in runs," Manuel said. "A guy that knocks in runs that doesn't strike out a whole lot, he can do that job, too. But at the same time, we definitely need a righthand hitter who can put up some numbers."
There are a couple of premier righthanded-hitting outfielders who could be available via trade, although both would seem unlikely. Detroit's Magglio Ordonez hit .317 with 21 home runs and 103 RBI this year, but agent Scott Boras downplayed the possibility of the Tigers moving him because of a no-trade clause that allows him to block moves to all but 10 major league teams. Besides, Detroit's asking price would likely be as hefty as Ordonez' 2009 salary ($18 million).
Colorado outfielder Matt Holliday's name has circulated through the rumor mill, but the Rockies have given no indication that they will let him go cheaply. Besides, he is a Boras client who will be a free agent after this season and there are some questions as to how he would adapt to a home park other than Coors Field.
Nevertheless, Amaro would not rule out a trade on the scale of the one the Phillies completed last year at the GM meetings, when they acquired closer Brad Lidge from the Astros.
"It's funny because you don't know when something will open up," he said. "That's kind of what happened in the GM meetings last year. Something opened up pretty quickly and boom, we acted on it. That's not to say that we will do that this time. But that's also not to say that it's not possible. It could happen."
Amaro maintains the Phillies' priority is pitching. They have made overtures toward re-signing veteran lefty starter Jamie Moyer and veteran lefty reliever Scott Eyre.
But he also conceded that, in a perfect world, the Phillies will have a solid righthanded bat for the middle of their lineup, be it Burrell or someone else.
There are some options on the free-agent market, although higher-profile players like Adam Dunn and Raul Ibanez are both lefthanded. Dodgers leftfielder Manny Ramirez does not appear to be an option at this point.
"Manny's probably the best offensive player that's been around for several years," Amaro said. "That said, I think, at least through the rumor mill, his [asking price] might be beyond where we want to be."
Which brings us back to the question: What if all else fails?
Along with veteran lefties Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins, there is Dobbs, who hit .301 with nine home runs and 40 RBI in just 226 at-bats. Although he has spent most of the last two seasons playing third base, Manuel and coach Davey Lopes both feel his best defensive position is leftfield. Although Manuel and Amaro both said they'd view him as a platoon player, that's how Jayson Werth began the season as well.
"I would probably view him as more of a platoon guy," Amaro said. "But if a guy is playing well - Werth is a perfect example - Charlie will let him play every day if he earns it. [Dobbs] has made himself a pretty good player and a pretty good hitter and if he continues to improve in the outfield, he can be a solid outfielder, too."
My two agents
It turns out Pat Burrell never fired agent Greg Genske. Instead, Genske's Legacy Sports Group will partner with Philadelphia-based agent Ed Hayes to represent Burrell in his looming free agency.
"My understanding now is that both Ed Hayes and Genske will be representing him," said Ruben Amaro, who added there was some initial confusion over the arrangement. "That's part of one of the reasons why we haven't sat down yet."
Jays claim Walrond
The Toronto Blue Jays claimed lefthander Les Walrond off waivers from the Phillies. Walrond, 31, went 1-1 with a 6.10 ERA in six games with the Phillies.
Amaro said he has had one brief conversation with Jim Bronner, the agent for veteran lefthander Jamie Moyer. The sides are expected to talk again soon . . . Amaro said the Phillies had not set a number for how much their payroll, roughly $103 million including a final payout to Jim Thome, will increase. "It'll be north," Amaro said. *
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.