CHICAGO - Ruben Amaro Jr. is not offering any hints about whom he'd like as his next third baseman, but there are indications it could be one of three players.
People who have spoken about the subject with the Phillies general manager believe his wish list is headed, in some order, by Placido Polanco, Mark DeRosa, and Adrian Beltre. All are free agents.
Amaro spent the last three days at the general managers meetings at the O'Hare Hilton. Before heading back to Philadelphia yesterday, he termed the meetings "a recon visit," in which he met with other teams and agents before the off-season wheeling and dealing begins in earnest.
"We had several discussions on ways to improve the club," Amaro said.
Amaro has met or spoken by telephone with the agents for a number of free-agent third basemen. In addition to Polanco, DeRosa and Beltre, the crop includes Chone Figgins and Miguel Tejada. All interest the Phillies.
But Polanco, DeRosa, and Beltre appear to be the prime targets - for now. As always, things can change quickly at this time of year.
The Phillies are familiar with Polanco - he played for the club from 2002 to 2005 - and they know he would fit well into their clubhouse. Polanco most recently played second base for Detroit, and on Tuesday won his second American League Gold Glove in the last three years at that position. He is willing to move to third, as long as it's for a contending team.
Polanco, 34, made $4.6 million each of the last four seasons. Something in that range, in a one- or two-year deal, would seem to fit into the Phils' payroll scheme. Polanco is represented by Seth Levinson, who has a good relationship with the Phillies. Levinson also represents Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino.
DeRosa, who will turn 35 in February, has long been on the Phillies' radar. They tried to sign him before the 2007 season and attempted to trade for him last winter. He made $5.5 million last season.
Beltre, who will turn 31 in April, is the X factor. He is the youngest of the Phils' targets, but is coming off a season in which he played in just 111 games because of a left shoulder injury (bone spurs) that required surgery. The two-time Gold Glover has hit at least 20 home runs seven times, including 48 in 2004, and his righthanded power could play well in Citizens Bank Park.
Beltre, however, is coming off a five-year, $64 million contract with Seattle, and made $12 million last season. There have been indications that the Phillies don't want to go that high. However, if Beltre's price slides - and that's a possibility with his coming off an injury - he could be the Phils' man. Of course, agent Scott Boras will do all he can to make sure his client's price does not slide.
Figgins is considered by many to be the top third baseman on the market, but his asking price, which could start at five years and $50 million, appears to be more than the Phillies want to spend.
Teams cannot make offers on free agents (other than their own) until Nov. 20. As much as Amaro would like to make a quick strike, he, and other executives, believe this market will develop slowly.
"The agents and the players are going to be out there trying to maximize their dollars," he said. "That's their job. I'm a fairly aggressive guy. I'd like to make a quick strike, but it takes two to tango. I'd rather do something early, but I don't see that happening."
The Phillies can negotiate with their own free agents, and they are about to deliver an offer to Chan Ho Park, who made $2.5 million last season.
Reports out of South Korea say Park wants to start. The Phillies want him to be a reliever. Park had a 2.52 ERA in 38 games as a reliever for the Phils this year, and a 7.29 ERA in seven starts.
"The indication we got from [Park's] agent was that he understands he's best suited for the bullpen," Amaro said.
Lidge update. Closer Brad Lidge underwent surgery yesterday to repair the flexor pronator (forearm/elbow) tendon.
"Brad could be one to two weeks behind in spring training, but, overall, we feel very good about his recovery time," Amaro said.