DALLAS - The GPS in Ruben Amaro Jr.'s head seems to always tell him to take the unexpected turn.
Now, that unpredictable directional voice may be talking to Amaro again - if you believe that the Phillies general manager is about to do all the things necessary to make Aramis Ramirez his new third baseman.
It's possible, of course, that this is all just a negotiating ploy to get shortstop Jimmy Rollins to back down on his free-agent asking price, which apparently remains well above the plateau the Phillies are willing to pay.
Amaro said for the umpteenth time this offseason that his priority is to re-sign Rollins, but he also admitted that if his veteran shortstop with the surest glove in the National League goes elsewhere, the Phillies need a Plan B.
"I think we'd probably have to consider improving our offense somewhere else," the general manager said. "Hopefully, it won't get to that point. If we do, we'll have to figure out how to work around it."
Rest assured, they already are doing that figuring, but it's unclear exactly how prominently Ramirez has entered their thinking for myriad reasons.
As Amaro spoke Monday afternoon in his suite at the Anatole Hilton, Ramirez's agent, Paul Kinzer, was just checking in. Kinzer said he has had "preliminary discussions" with the Phillies about Ramirez, but nothing more. The agent also represents Rafael Furcal, the free-agent shortstop who helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series, and it's possible he could figure in the Phillies' plans if Rollins signs elsewhere.
Kinzer said he planned to have further discussions with the Phillies on Monday night, so that should give a clearer indication of just how serious the Phillies are about the free-agent third baseman who bounced back from a disappointing 2010 season.
Signing Ramirez will not be cheap. He made $14.6 million last season and, at 33, he's probably looking for at least a three-year deal.
Then there is the complication of what to do with veteran third baseman Placido Polanco. Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are trying to trade Polanco, but he has a $7.25 million price tag attached to his name and recently underwent surgery to repair a double sports hernia. Since he is coming off his least productive offensive season since he became an everyday player, Polanco is a tough sell unless the Phillies are willing to eat some of the contract.
Finally, even if the Phillies can move Polanco and sign Ramirez, they still need a shortstop. In that scenario, it may end up being Freddy Galvis, who has played exactly 33 games at the triple-A level and zero in the big leagues. The thinking is that with Ramirez's bat, they could afford to place Galvis at the bottom of the batting order provided he caught the baseball on a consistent basis.
It would be risky business to put a rookie shortstop behind the best starting rotation in baseball.
The question is whether the Phillies would be a better team with Ramirez and Galvis on the left side of their infield than they would be with Rollins and Polanco.
There is no easy answer, because all the veteran players involved have endured nagging lower-body injuries over the last few years and have reached the age when they are past their prime.
Ramirez, with his 315 career home runs and .284 career batting average, would be an attractive addition to an offense that has been wildly inconsistent the last two seasons. He has a power bat without an abundance of strikeouts.
On the other hand, when Polanco is healthy, he is the kind of hitter every team is looking for.
"I know Polly can be a very productive player, but he needs to be healthy to do it," Amaro said shortly after the season ended. "Polly is the kind of guy we're trying to have. He works the count, he understands what the importance of contact with two strikes is. That's what we're trying to improve, and he kind of epitomizes that."
That doesn't change the fact that Polanco is now an "if he's healthy" player - and they are always dangerous to rely on.
Pat Gillick, senior adviser to Amaro, said it is imperative that the Phillies cut down on their strikeouts next season, but swinging and missing is not a glaring weakness in Rollins' game. The last time he struck out more than 100 times was the 2003 season.
Rollins is also capable of hitting 20 or more home runs if he's healthy.
A lineup with Rollins and Polanco means the Phillies again would have two reliable defensive players on the left side. Ramirez has a solid glove at third, and all indications are that Galvis would be just fine defensively at shortstop with a chance to emerge as a Gold Glove player at the position.
"Pitching and defense are a very important part to our equation," Amaro said. "That's why we won 102 games last year."
That's true, but a lack of offense was why they lost in the playoffs to the Cardinals last season and the San Francisco Giants the year before.
Now the Phillies are trying to figure out what the best combination would be on the left side of their infield. They'd prefer Rollins and Polanco, but they'd be just fine with Ramirez and Galvis.