LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Around the same time the word of outfielder Carl Crawford's megadeal with Boston spread through the lobby of the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel late Wednesday night, the Phillies finalized a deal with lefthanded reliever Dennys Reyes.
It was fitting. The Phillies came here for the winter meetings with modest goals. They watched their former rightfielder, Jayson Werth, sign a massive contract with Washington. Crawford came off the board, San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was traded, and the bidding for Cliff Lee intensified.
But Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said filling out his bullpen was his top task, and, albeit relatively minor compared to the other events here, Amaro may have accomplished his goal.
And in the end, the Phillies' bullpen may not look very different.
At the beginning of the off-season, just Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, and Danys Baez were under contract. Jose Contreras, a free agent, was quickly re-signed to a two-year deal.
Reyes, who will replace J.C. Romero as the lefthanded setup man, has a one-year agreement in place, pending a physical, according to sources. Amaro declined to answer questions about Reyes because the deal cannot be announced until after the physical.
Reyes will earn $1.1 million in 2011, and the Phillies hold a club option worth $1.35 million for 2012, a source said. If Reyes appears in 70 games, the option becomes mutual. Regardless, there is a $150,000 buyout. By comparison, Romero made $4 million last season.
Reyes can also earn performance bonuses based upon amount of games pitched. He could earn as much as $1.31 million in 2011. Still, the deal represents a pay cut for Reyes, who made $2 million with St. Louis in 2010.
With five bullpen spots locked up, still another familiar face could return. Chad Durbin and the Phillies continue to have discussions about a new contract for the free-agent righthander.
Durbin, who was in the area while on vacation with his family, met with Phillies officials during the day Wednesday. A source said the two sides are optimistic a deal can be reached.
"It was a nice visit," Amaro said. "Chad's a pretty astute and classy guy."
Durbin made $2.125 million in 2010 and likely will earn a raise. The Phillies still need a middle reliever who can pitch multiple innings. Durbin has been that guy for the last three seasons.
"If we address a couple of the needs we're trying to address right now - some length and some help from the left side," Amaro said, "then I feel pretty comfortable going into the season and think it would be a strong bullpen."
Should Durbin re-sign, it would leave one spot in the bullpen and that will almost certainly go to a younger pitcher. Earlier in the off-season, Amaro expressed his desire to get younger in certain spots, specifically the bullpen. Two or three spots, he predicted, could be up for grabs.
Now, it's more likely that only one spot will be in play in spring training. There are plenty of candidates, from righthanders David Herndon, Scott Mathieson, Justin De Fratus, and Michael Stutes, to lefthanders Antonio Bastardo and Mike Zagurski. And that's not even counting Kyle Kendrick or Vance Worley, both of whom will compete for the fifth starter's job.
"One thing I want to do, at the very least, is create a little competition for a spot or two if I can," Amaro said. "We have to try to get a little younger."
Amaro said he has had discussions with other middle relievers beyond Durbin, but if the Phillies and Durbin can come to an agreement, the last bullpen spot will likely come from within the organization.
"A lot of teams are looking for the same thing," Amaro said. "Bullpen help is pretty volatile. What you think you might be getting in one guy might end up being somebody else."