INDIANAPOLIS - On the last full day of the winter meetings, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. continued his aggressive pursuit of modestly priced pitching.
"Haven't got to the finish line yet, but we're making some headway," Amaro said of his talks to land affordable upgrades for his bullpen and starting rotation.
The Phils met yesterday with Keith Grunewald, the agent for veteran righthander John Smoltz. The two sides have maintained contact throughout the off-season, but the team has not made an offer. Grunewald said that Smoltz, 42, had drawn interest from clubs as a starter, late-inning reliever, and a hybrid of both. The pitcher, who went 3-8 with Boston and St. Louis last season, is open to all those possibilities.
Grunewald and Amaro also discussed lefthander Ron Mahay, though also in a preliminary way. Mahay, 38, posted a 4.29 earned run average with Kansas City and Minnesota last year. The team could view him as a possible alternative to Scott Eyre, if that lefty does not reduce his asking price.
Amaro said yesterday that he had made little progress in negotiations with Chan Ho Park and Eyre. "There is a possibility that we'll move past them at some point if we don't get something done," he said, while declining to answer if that point was approaching.
One name to cross off the list: The Phils were interested in Brandon Lyon as a late-inning reliever, but the former Detroit righthander reached an agreement with Houston late last night, according to the Astros' Web site.
With Lyon off the table, at least two other intriguing possibilities emerged at the winter meetings: Various reports indicated that righthanders Mike McDougal and Kevin Correia were unlikely to be offered salary arbitration by Washington and San Diego, respectively.
Teams must decide whether to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players by 11:59 p.m. Saturday. All non-tendered players become free agents, and Amaro has said that he expected several attractive pitchers to become available.
McDougal, 32, was the Nationals' closer last season, and had 20 saves and a 3.60 ERA. The Phils are seeking a pitcher with experience closing and setting up, and McDougal fits that description.
Correia, 12-11 with a 3.91 ERA last year, could serve as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
But while Amaro is more focused this week on lesser-known pitchers, he cannot escape chatter about a glitzier name: Toronto's Roy Halladay.
Several baseball executives have said this week that they expect the Phils to become involved in the bidding for Halladay, and all agree that the team has the minor-league talent to acquire him.
Without mentioning Halladay's name, Amaro yesterday attempted to downplay the speculation. Asked if there was any possible way he would get involved in a trade for a superstar starter, he said: "Is there any way possible? I guess there is. Is there a likelihood that we'll get involved on anything that big? Probably not."
Asked to elaborate, the GM demurred. "I'm not going to get into the reasons," he said.
That story line certainly will not be resolved before the meetings conclude, and Amaro did not expect any other moves to be consummated. After the Rule 5 draft this morning - the Phils have the 26th pick - the GM and his staff will leave Indianapolis, hoping to have established a foundation for future deals.
Gload deal not yet official. The signing of versatile pinch-hitter Ross Gload was not official as of last night - the former Marlin apparently still needs to pass a physical - but Amaro said that his work retooling the bench was likely done.
"He's got some versatility, because he can play the corner outfield positions, and he can play first base," the GM said of Gload. "He's a very good first baseman, and a good lefthanded pinch-hitter."
When the deal is finalized, the Phils' bench will consist of Gload, backup catcher Brian Schneider, utility man Juan Castro, infielder Greg Dobbs, and outfielder Ben Francisco.
Brown honored. Phillies minor-leaguer Domonic Brown, an outfielder, was named to the Arizona Fall League's top prospects team.
Polanco an "old shoe." Detroit manager Jim Leyland praised former Tiger Placido Polanco, and said that the new Phillie would succeed as a third baseman despite playing second base since 2005.
"I think he'll be an outstanding player no matter where he plays or where he goes," Leyland told reporters. "I like to say he's like an old shoe. Every now and then, you want to get a new, shiny one. But he's just so comfortable."