INDIANAPOLIS - They are two of the most intriguing names on the free-agent and trade markets at the winter meetings. And if you take Ruben Amaro Jr. at face value, the Phillies' general manager has about as good of a shot at acquiring one of them as he does getting a suntan here in the blustery heartland.
But while Amaro said he doesn't expect the Phillies to be a major player in the bidding process for hard-throwing Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, and while he insists the team doesn't expect to make another play for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, he stopped short of erasing either pitcher from the team's radar.
Throughout the offseason, Amaro has indicated that the Phillies would be bystanders in what figures to be a heated trade market for the ubertalented righthander. Last summer, they engaged in serious negotiations with the Blue Jays but ended up swinging a deal for Indians ace Cliff Lee. At the general managers' meetings, Amaro said flatly that the Phillies would not be pursuing a top-of-the-rotation starter. But several media reports have quoted rival executives as saying the Phillies should not be counted out. And when asked about the possibility of swinging a deal for a high-priced pitcher like Halladay, Amaro yesterday stopped short of ruling it out.
"Is there any way possible? I guess there is," Amaro said. "Is there a likelihood of us getting involved in something that's that big? Probably not."
At the GM meetings last month, Amaro said a high-priced starting pitcher would not fit into the team's payroll, which he has indicated would not crack $140 million, leaving them with roughly $12 million to spend on the rest of the offseason. Halladay, who will be a free agent after the season, is scheduled to earn $15 million.
Chapman, meanwhile, would seem to be a longer shot than even Halladay. The Phillies have scouted the 21-year-old Cuban lefthander and, like most other teams, are impressed with his raw talent (his fastball has been clocked as high as 102 mph). But Amaro said yesterday that Chapman's eventual price tag would be too high for the Phillies to pay for an unproven pitcher with command issues and a potentially steep learning curve (both professionally and personally).
While the Phillies have talked to Chapman's agents, Amaro said, "The fact of the matter is, it doesn't necessarily mean we have interest in signing him.
"Would we have interest in the talent? Of course. It would be stupid for me to sit here and say that we don't have interest in the talent. What the demand, and all the other circumstances that surround him, that's a whole entirely different issue. And I don't see us being a player."
But Amaro said the Phillies might send a representative to watch Chapman throw at a workout in Houston next week, where, like the Halladay sweepstakes, they will watch the action from the sideline.
Neither the Phillies nor Cliff Lee have ruled out the possibility of a contract extension for the ace lefty, who will be a free agent after the season. So when the Phillies requested an audience with agent Darek Braunecker at the winter meetings Tuesday, it raised some eyebrows. But Braunecker said yesterday that his talks with the team were "general" in nature.
Count Jim Leyland among those who think the signing of Placido Polanco to play third will pay big dividends. The Tigers' manager, who saw Polanco win a Gold Glove at second base in Detroit in 2009, doesn't think the veteran infielder would have much problem transitioning to third, where he last played in 2005.
"I think he'll be a really outstanding player no matter where he plays or where he goes," Leyland said. "I like to use the expression, 'He's like an old shoe.' Every once in a while, you might want to get a new, shiny one, but that one is still comfortable. That's how I describe guys like him. Real comfortable."