INDIANAPOLIS - The Phillies are focused on improving their pitching staff, but they do not expect to make any moves before leaving the winter meetings on Thursday.
"Probably not," said general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. when asked if he would finalize any trades or free-agent signings in Indianapolis. But Amaro met with about seven teams today, in addition to speaking to several agents. While he does not see any deals being completed this week, the GM is hoping to make progress on his goal to acquire pitchers.
The arms on Amaro's list did not, however, include Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. An ESPN report linked the Phils to the dynamic - and likely expensive - 21-year-old lefthander, but Amaro told the Inquirer tonight that the Phils were not in on Chapman.
"At this point, we are not interested," he said, adding that the Phillies would not even attend a potential showcase of Chapman by his agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks.
Still claiming a tight budget, Amaro said that, while he preferred a bullpen stocked with experienced relievers, the 2010 Phils might utilize relief pitchers from their farm system.
"We may be in a position where we go with a younger bullpen," Amaro said. Lefthanders Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona will compete for bullpen jobs. Lefty Mike Zagurski and righty Scott Mathieson, both recovering from major arm surgeries, might also be ready to return. If righty Kyle Kendrick fails in his efforts to become the fifth starter, he would be become a potential reliever.
One rookie who will not help the Phils' bullpen: righthander Kyle Drabek. Amaro said there was "no chance" that the club would break in its top prospect as a reliever. Drabek is expected to begin the season as a starter in triple A.
Amaro reiterated today that the team would likely tender contracts to veterans Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey, and that he was prepared to enter the season with a bullpen composed of in-house candidates.
The Phils also could still retain Scott Eyre and Chan Ho Park, but negotiations with the agents for both players did not appear to have progressed as of late today. "We're comfortable with the numbers we've presented, and if those are numbers that won't really get it done, then we might have to go ahead and move on," Amaro said.
Despite all that, a higher-profile acquisition this off-season is far from impossible. The Phillies have spoken this week with Brandon Lyon's agent, Barry Meister, and continue to have interest in the righthanded reliever.
They have also explored ways to create space in the payroll for a signing or trade. Several major-league executives speculated today that the Phils were attempting to move Joe Blanton in order to sign Lyon or trade for Toronto ace Roy Halladay - though there has been no concrete information to confirm those rumors.
Amaro said that he has made offers to several free agents, but did not necessarily expect those offers to be accepted or rejected this week. Unless he is able to reduce the payroll, he said he would remain focused on "low-risk, high-reward pitchers."
Amaro revealed today that pitcher Edwin Jackson was nearly a Phillie in 2008. Jackson appears ticketed for Arizona in a widely reported three-way trade that sends outfielder Curtis Granderson to the Yankees and pitcher Max Scherzer to Detroit.
In 2008, when Jackson was a Tampa Bay Ray, the Phils nearly acquired him in a three-way trade, Amaro said. The GM did not offer any other specifics about the deal that nearly was.