One of the final tasks remaining for Ruben Amaro Jr. in this busy off-season for the Phillies is to fortify a bullpen that was a weakness last season.
The market is full of relievers, and a few even have closing experience. Considering that the Phillies had 22 blown saves last season (which tied them with four teams for the eighth most in baseball), adding a former closer could have advantages.
The Phillies have shown interest in at least one such pitcher: Mike MacDougal, who closed last season for the Washington Nationals. His agent, Rex Gary, said yesterday that he had communicated with the Phillies but declined to say how advanced the talks were.
Phillies officials were unavailable for comment.
Last week, Amaro, the general manager, told the team's Web site that the Phils were getting closer to signing a reliever, "but nothing is a done deal."
"A good number" of teams are interested in MacDougal, Gary said. After joining the Nationals in late May, the righthander saved 20 games and had a 3.60 ERA.
But he struggled with his command, walking as many batters (31) as he struck out. The Chicago White Sox had released him in April. The Nationals did not offer him a contract after the season.
MacDougal, 32, also was a closer for Kansas City in 2003 and '05.
There are plenty of former closers looking for work - Matt Capps, Danys Baez, and Jose Valverde, to name a few. ESPN reported yesterday that the Phils were interested in Fernando Rodney, who saved 37 games for Detroit in 2009.
As the Phils near the $140 million payroll figure Amaro mentioned at the winter meetings, money will become a greater concern. But they have a bullpen overhaul to do.
Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre are free agents who could land elsewhere. Clay Condrey was not offered a contract. And Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero are recovering from off-season surgery.
Lidge, who is also represented by Gary, had surgery to remove bone fragments in his right elbow in early November. Gary said the hope was still that Lidge would be ready to go at or near the beginning of spring training.
"I just talked to him," Gary said. "His elbow feels great. He's very excited about how he feels right now."