INDIANAPOLIS - The Phillies are focused on improving their pitching staff, but do not expect to make any major moves before leaving the winter meetings tomorrow.
"Probably not," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said when asked if he would finalize any trades or free-agent signings in Indianapolis. But Amaro met with about seven teams yesterday, in addition to speaking to several agents. He was hoping to make progress on his goal of acquiring pitchers.
The Phils added a utilityman, signing Florida's Ross Gload late last night.
The arms on Amaro's list did not 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 last night 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.
Contending that his budget was still tight, Amaro said that while he preferred a bullpen stocked with experienced relievers, the 2010 Phils might use relief pitchers from their farm system.
"We may be in a position where we go with a younger bullpen," Amaro said. Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona will compete for bullpen jobs. Mike Zagurski and Scott Mathieson, both recovering from major arm surgery, might also be ready to return. If Kyle Kendrick fails to become the fifth starter, he would be a potential reliever.
One rookie who will not help the Phils' bullpen is righthander Kyle Drabek. Amaro said there was "no chance" 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 yesterday that the team would likely offer 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 yesterday.
"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 yesterday that the Phils were attempting to move Joe Blanton to sign Lyon or trade for Toronto ace Roy Halladay - though there had been no concrete information to confirm those rumors.
Amaro said he had made offers to several free agents but did not necessarily expect them to be accepted or rejected this week. Unless he is able to reduce the payroll, he said, he will remain focused on "low-risk, high-reward pitchers."
Almost a Phil. Amaro revealed that pitcher Edwin Jackson was nearly a Phillie in 2008. Jackson is ticketed for Arizona in a tentative three-way trade that would send outfielder Curtis Granderson to the New York 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. He did not offer any other specifics about the deal that nearly was.