LAS VEGAS - No matter what else happens, it can never be said that Ruben Amaro Jr. was shut out in his first winter meetings as general manager.
With the annual winter conclave scheduled to break up after this morning's Rule 5 draft at the sprawling Bellagio, the Phils announced late last night that they have completed a swap of catchers with Jason Jaramillo going to the Pirates in exchange for Ronny Paulino.
It was also a swap of players who have yet to live up to expectations.
Jaramillo was the Phillies' second-round draft pick in 2004 out of Oklahoma State and was once considered one of the team's better prospects. However, he's since been surpassed on the organizational depth charts by Lou Marson.
Jaramillo batted .266 with eight homers and 39 RBI in 115 games at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season.
Paulino was once regarded as one of Pittsburgh's better prospects. But he began the season backing up Ryan Doumit, was sent to Triple A Indianapolis and sprained his ankle shortly after the demotion. He also had a hyperextended left elbow. By the time Paulino was healthy, Doumit was firmly entrenched as the Pirates' starting catcher.
"We felt it would be better for [Paulino] to move on," said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington. "He felt like he was an everyday guy who deserved to start."
That's not likely to be an opportunity he'll get with the Phillies.
"As far as I'm concerned, Carlos Ruiz is our No. 1 catcher," Amaro said. "It's his job to lose, although these things tend to play themselves out throughout the season."
The player most likely to be impacted by this trade is fan favorite Chris Coste, 35, who played behind Ruiz last season. In an era when most teams carry just two catchers, he could once again find himself the odd man out, especially after slumping down the stretch. Amaro brushed off that suggestion.
"That's not necessarily true," he said. "It's just a matter of creating competition, which is always good. It also gives us some depth and we can trade from depth. We also have options on [Coste and Paulino]. Sometimes you have to be selfish in this game."
Amaro said one of Paulino's attributes is power, although the 6-2, 245-pounder has just 19 homers in 1,021 big-league at-bats. During his time with the Pirates, he got a reputation for sometimes being unmotivated. Amaro said the Phillies were encouraged by the fact that he chose to play winter ball in his native Dominican Republic this year.
"What happened to him might have been a wakeup call," the general manager said. "It's sometimes tough for a player with 2-plus years of major league service to play winter ball. So maybe he's rededicated himself. [Special assistant] Charley Kerfeld saw him play down there and liked what he saw."
The Phillies, clearly, are hoping they still like what they see in spring training and beyond.
As minor as that trade may seem, at least it represented a tangible move on a day that continued to feature conflicting reports on whether the Phillies might end up getting infielder-outfielder Mark DeRosa in a three-way deal involving the Cubs and Padres.
At one point yesterday, a highly placed Cubs source said there was "no way" the team was trading DeRosa. An hour later, another Cubs official totally contradicted that stance, saying DeRosa could be had in the right deal.
The absurdity reached a new level when ESPN analyst Steve Phillips reported that the Phillies could get DeRosa as early as last night . . . or not at all.
The Phillies, at least, seem to believe they still have a shot at DeRosa, a former Penn quarterback.
There appeared to be little progress in attempts to add a starting pitcher yesterday. For the second straight day, Amaro said there had been no contact with lefthander Jamie Moyer or his agent, Jim Bronner.
Asked if he thought Moyer was negotiating with another team or teams, he shrugged. "I do not know," he said. "I would assume they're talking with other clubs."
And while Amaro said he's "kept things alive" in talks with free agent righthander Derek Lowe, his body language suggested that Lowe's price already may have risen beyond the Phillies' comfort zone.
Agent Scott Boras wouldn't tip his hand last night. "Obviously, Derek Lowe wants to play for a winning club, a contending club," he said. "And certainly there are a number of teams that fit that bill and have contacted him.
"I'm not going to get into specific teams. I'm just going to say that Derek has attracted a lot of interest from a lot of teams."
Boras didn't think the fact that the Yankees are on the verge of committing $161 million over 7 years for free-agent lefthander CC Sabathia knocks them out of the auction, either.
"I think the Yankees have always been about getting better any way they can," he said.
Foxsports.com reported yesterday that the Phillies have let all teams know that righthander
can be had by anyone willing to pick up $1 million of his contract. The Phillies would be responsible for the remaining $7.5 million he'll make in 2009 plus the $500,000 buyout of his option . . .
said it's possible that the Phillies, with the 26th pick, may not select a player in today's Rule 5 draft, the process through which they acquired