LAS VEGAS - The biggest reason the Phillies put forward for not offering salary arbitration to veteran lefthander Jamie Moyer is that they didn't want to potentially have to wait until February to find out how much they were going to have to pay him.
Along those lines, general manager Ruben Amaro made it clear yesterday that he isn't willing to wait any longer to find out about Moyer and that, if an attractive alternative presents itself, he's likely to take it.
He may not have meant that to sound like a challenge to Moyer and his agent, Jim Bronner. But it sort of came off that way.
"There's nothing new on Moyer. It's kind of in a holding pattern, I guess. We're still in negotiations and trying to bring him back," Amaro said during a media briefing at the palatial Bellagio hotel. "What the length of the discussion has done is opened us up to look at other avenues and do other things. That does not mean we do not want Jamie back. We would like to bring him back. But we also have to look at other ways to fill certain holes.
"If we have a deal in place and it's going to bring us a pitcher that we feel is going to help us, we're not going to stop and we're not going to delay because Jamie Moyer has not been signed yet. Just like any other deal, if we feel there's a deal to be made and it's going to improve our club, we'll move forward on it. If there's a way to improve the club that presents itself, we're going to have to go ahead and move on it."
He took the edge off slightly by adding that signing another pitcher wouldn't "necessarily" mean that the 46-year-old Moyer, who went 16-7 with a 3.71 earned run average in 2008, couldn't be re-signed as well.
Said Bronner in a brief phone conversation: "I really don't want to discuss the negotiations."
It's been widely reported that the Phillies have contacted the representatives for free agents A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe, although both are likely to receive offers longer than the 3 years that has traditionally been the Phillies limit for pitchers.
That would also seem to rule out a Jake Peavy rumor that circulated late yesterday. The San Diego righthander is due to make $81 million over the next 5 years, not to mention the number of quality prospects the Phillies would have to give up.
They have, according to sources, at least expressed some interest in righthander Braden Looper. Jon Garland could be an interesting alternative.
It remains unclear whether they would take a shot at lefthander Randy Wolf, originally a Phillies second-round draft choice. They've made an offer each of the last 2 years and there are those in the organization who believe that he used those to get better deals with teams in his native California, first the Dodgers and then the Padres. Amaro remained noncommittal. "We're keeping our options open," he said.
Last offseason, the Phillies signed free-agent righthander Kris Benson after considering other coming-off-injuries longshots like Bartolo Colon and Glendon Rusch.
Benson didn't work out and was released at the end of August. Still, Amaro said that while taking on another rehab project wasn't a priority, he wouldn't rule it out.
"Not yet," he said. "I think that we're trying to go for a higher-level player than that right now rather than work the opposite way . . . But we've been working to add those pieces to our club to give us little depth, a low-risk, high-reward type of guy. We have talked to an agent about one player in particular, but we haven't moved on it."
One interesting name who would fall into that category is lefthander Mark Mulder, who is coming off two shoulder surgeries.
Amaro has said all along that pitching is a priority, but stressed yesterday that he will move at any opportunity, regardless of the position.
One intriguing name that surfaced yesterday as a possible replacement for Pat Burrell in leftfield is Minnesota's Delmon Young. According the sources, the Phillies have been actively seeking background information on a player best-known for a 2006 incident when he was suspended 50 games in the minor leagues for throwing his bat at an umpire.
"We don't comment on other teams' players," Amaro said.
Young could be available because the Twins already have Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span and Carlos Gomez in the outfield. Young was the first overall pick by Tampa Bay in 2003 but brings some baggage, including a reputation for not taking instruction well.
But he's still just 23 years old, clearly has talent and appears to fit a Phillies need since it appears highly unlikely that Burrell will be re-signed.
The deadline to offer contracts to players is Friday at midnight.
Ruben Amaro Jr.
declined to discuss whether the Phillies are considering nontendering anyone on their roster . . . Amaro shot down a report that the team made an offer to infielder
and added that he's "not really" interested in trying to bring him back . . . Amaro was unwilling to discuss the possibility that manager