INDIANAPOLIS - The Phillies came to the winter meetings admitting to low expectations. And met them.
The traveling party arrived looking for more pitching. The entourage departed yesterday with another bat instead, although the signing of pinch-hitter Ross Gload won't become official until he passes a physical.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had already made three significant free-agent acquisitions - third baseman Placido Polanco, backup catcher Brian Schneider, infielder Juan Castro - before the annual December gathering of baseball people began.
The biggest reason the Phils were unable to beef up their pitching, turning the meetings into a 4-day snoozefest, was that once again the market quickly became pricier than they had anticipated.
"Supply and demand," Amaro said before flying back to Philadelphia. "There aren't that many quality arms out there as far as we're concerned. When you have 30 teams looking for the same things, it grows the market."
One reliever he had targeted, righthander Brandon Lyon, got a 3-year contract worth $15 million from the Astros. That's more money for more years than the Phils had projected.
"We were in there pretty deep," Amaro said.
According to sources, they also made a push for righthander LaTroy Hawkins, but weren't willing to commit to him for more than one season. He signed a 2-year, $7.5 million deal with the Brewers.
While Amaro would have liked to have added an experienced pitcher or two to the roster this week, the reality is that the winter meetings provide an artificial time frame. There are still arms available and more than 2 months before spring training opens.
"We hope to," Amaro said when asked if he still expected to be able to make more moves. "We did have one guy go off the board, but again, it's supply and demand. We try to think outside the box when there's not a whole lot of supply."
The Phillies could also re-sign righthander Chan Ho Park, righthander Chad Durbin and/or lefty Scott Eyre.
Amaro also raised the possibility that younger, untested pitchers like Sergio Escalona, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Zagurski and Scott Mathieson could get a shot. And righthander Dave Herndon will be in the mix after being selected in yesterday's Rule 5 draft.
How vital obtaining reinforcements will be hinges to an extent on closer Brad Lidge and lefty J.C. Romero bouncing back from surgery. If both return to form, they would team up with Ryan Madson to give manager Charlie Manuel solid options during the late innings.
Of course, one of the lasting truisms of baseball is that teams can never have too much pitching. There will be injuries. There will be slumps. That's just part of the game.
That's why Amaro will continue to call agents and keep the lines of communication open for possible trades.
There is also expected to be another group of free agents created at midnight tomorrow, when players who aren't offered contracts for 2010 will be on the market.