LAS VEGAS - In a move that firmly anoints Lou Marson as catcher of the future and could jeopardize fan favorite Chris Coste's run with the team, the Phillies last night traded catching prospect Jason Jaramillo to the Pittsburgh Pirates for catcher Ronny Paulino.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Paulino, who has 304 games of big-league experience - 287 behind the plate - would compete with Coste for the backup catcher's job in spring training. Carlos Ruiz won the No. 1 catcher's job in the second half of the 2008 season.
Late last night, the Phils continued to work on a bigger deal as they remained in the hunt to add Chicago Cubs infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa to their World Series championship club.
Shooting down reports that the Cubs would not trade DeRosa, a Phillies official confirmed that the former Penn quarterback was still in play.
The Cubs are not in love with the idea of dealing DeRosa - manager Lou Piniella values his versatility and character - but sources say they realize they may have to if it helps them get the prospects needed to land San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy.
The proposed multi-team deal got a little more complicated yesterday as baseball officials confirmed that the Minnesota Twins had jumped into the pursuit of DeRosa. The Twins failed to sign free-agent third baseman Casey Blake and would like to get DeRosa to play third.
The Phillies could also play DeRosa at third if Pedro Feliz is not fully recovered from off-season back surgery. But the Phils want DeRosa mainly to play second base in April and May, while Chase Utley recovers from hip surgery. Once Utley returns, DeRosa would become a super-utility player, seeing significant time in left field, where he would be the righthanded-hitting complement to a trio of lefthanded hitters - Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins.
Day 3 of the winter meetings began with a bang yesterday as the New York Yankees reeled in their top off-season target, free-agent pitcher CC Sabathia, with a staggering seven-year, $161 million contract, the largest ever for a pitcher. The Yanks are still pursuing pitchers A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe.
Once the buzz of the Yankees' signing wore off, much of the attention in the vast corridors and lobbies of the Bellagio hotel focused on the Peavy-to-Chicago trade talks.
The Phils have not been bystanders in the talks. Sources say they are ready to send two prospects to Chicago to get DeRosa. The Cubs would spin those prospects in a package for Peavy.
Sources say the Phils have submitted a list of prospects, from which the Padres can pick two. The list likely includes pitchers J.A. Happ, Kyle Kendrick and Edgar Garcia. Jaramillo was on the list before being dealt to Pittsburgh. Other prospects are also on the list, and the veteran Coste could be had. It is unlikely that top pitching prospect Carlos Carrasco is available.
Some reports have said that infielder Jason Donald could be in the deal, but sources say he is not. Donald, however, could be available in a different trade. The Phils are not eager to trade Donald and would have to get top quality in return if they did.
If the Phils do not land DeRosa, they could turn their attention to Minnesota's Delmon Young.
On the pitching front, a source with knowledge of the Phillies' off-season plan said the team has made an offer to an undisclosed relief pitcher who could work multiple innings. The Phils think it is important to add a durable arm to the bullpen so they can keep Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero to one inning apiece.
Amaro reported no progress on negotiations with free-agent lefthander Jamie Moyer.
Asked if he believed Moyer, 46, was getting any other nibbles, Amaro said: "I don't know if he is or not. I assume he's talking to other clubs."
The Phils would like to sign Moyer to a one-year deal with an option. Moyer, who won 16 games in 2008, is likely seeking a two-year deal.
Jaramillo, 26, was the Phils' second-round draft pick in 2004. He played at triple A last season, hitting .266 with eight homers and 39 RBIs in 115 games. His trade clears the way for Marson, the Phils' fourth-round pick in 2004, to catch at triple A in 2009.
Marson, 22, passed Jaramillo on the organizational depth chart with his a strong season at double-A Reading in 2008. He was also a member of the U.S. Olympic team.
Coste, 35, struggled in the second half of 2008. Amaro made it no secret that he'd like to see Paulino push Coste.
"Creating competition is always good," Amaro said.
Paulino, 27, has hit .278 with 19 homers and 128 RBIs in 304 big-league games.
The winter meetings end this morning with the Rule 5 draft. The Phillies traditionally like to be active in the draft - it netted them Shane Victorino in December 2004 - but this year's pickings are slim and it doesn't help that 25 teams pick before the Phillies.