The Phillies have two more days of exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents, and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made it clear Monday that he would prefer to strike deals with shortstop Jimmy Rollins and closer Ryan Madson before they hit the open market.
"We'd love to keep them off the market if we can do it," Amaro said. "We've had discussions with the agents of both players."
That, of course, does not mean the Phillies are close to signing either player, but it shows that the team very much wants to retain its shortstop and closer, at the right price.
Rollins is represented by Dan Lozano. Scott Boras is Madson's agent.
"Jimmy knows we'd like to bring him back," Amaro said. "We've been playing phone tag a little bit with [Boras] over the last several days, but with both players I think there is a mutual feeling of wanting to keep them in red pinstripes."
Attempts to reach Boras and Lozano on Monday were unsuccessful, and the most likely scenario remains that both players field offers from other teams before deciding whether they want to return to the Phillies.
"We want to keep both players because they have great value and are very good players," Amaro said. "We wanted to keep Jayson [Werth] last year, too, but we weren't able to compete with what he was offered. That could happen in these situations, too. We put values on players, and there is a stopping point."
The Phillies learned Monday that Rollins, Madson, and Roy Oswalt have been classified as Type A free agents, based on Elias Sports Bureau rankings. That means the Phillies will receive draft compensation provided they offer salary arbitration to the three players before Nov. 23.
In all likelihood, they will at least offer arbitration to Rollins and Madson. It's less likely they will offer arbitration to Oswalt, because they will not want to risk paying him a hefty one-year salary. The team declined Oswalt's $16 million option last week.
The Phillies were involved in both ends of Type A free agency a year ago. They lost their first-round draft pick to the Texas Rangers because they signed free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, and they gained two extra picks because Werth signed with the Washington Nationals.
Because the Nationals were among the bottom 15 teams in baseball, the Phillies received a second-round pick from Washington as well as a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds. The compensatory pick was used on Georgia high school outfielder Larry Greene, who was the Phillies' first overall selection, and the pick from the Nationals was used on shortstop Roman Quinn.
Reliever Brad Lidge and leftfielder Raul Ibanez were classified as Type B free agents, which means the Phillies would receive compensatory picks provided they offered those players arbitration before the Nov. 23 deadline. That scenario seems unlikely. The Phillies declined a $12.5 million option on Lidge last week, and they have made it clear that they intend to give John Mayberry Jr. every chance to be the starting leftfielder next season.
Amaro pulling for Mackanin. Amaro said he believes that Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin is a serious candidate for the Boston Red Sox managing job. Mackanin interviewed Monday with the Red Sox.
"On a personal level, I've known Pete Mackanin since he was my manager in winter ball years and years ago," Amaro said. "I think it was back in 1989, and I thought he was a great manager then. I really hope he gets the opportunity to manage again, because I think he deserves it."
Mackanin, 60, has been the bench coach for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel the last three seasons and has a 53-53 record in two interim managerial stints with Pittsburgh (2005) and Cincinnati (2007).
Amaro also said that no team as of Monday afternoon had asked for permission to speak with Ryne Sandberg about a coaching or managerial position. Sandberg, the manager at triple-A Lehigh Valley last season, has been offered a contract to return to the IronPigs next season and probably would be the leading candidate to replace Mackanin if he left the team.