DALLAS - The Phillies might not have to worry about Albert Pujols playing in the NL East, but they do have to wonder whether his departure from the Cardinals will complicate their negotiations with free-agent Jimmy Rollins. Pujols spurned the Cards to sign a reported 10-year, $254 million deal with the Angels, leaving St. Louis with a huge offensive void to fill, and, presumably, plenty of money at their disposal to fill it.
Whether Rollins factors into their plans remains to be seen. As recently as Wednesday, the Phillies and their longtime shortstop appeared to be making headway on a new contract. Milwaukee, which had expressed interest in Rollins, signed Alex Gonzalez to a 1-year deal yesterday. But the Cardinals certainly could use an offensive upgrade at shortstop, and Rollins is the top free-agent hitter at the position now that Jose Reyes has signed with the Marlins.
Dan Lozano, who represents both Pujols and Rollins, kept in touch with Ruben Amaro Jr. throughout the winter meetings, which ended yesterday morning after the annual Rule 5 draft. Amaro said the two sides did not have any more meetings scheduled, but he expected to resume talks in the near future.
"I'm sure we'll be in touch with each other sometime soon," Amaro said.
The Phillies have no plans to give Rollins a deadline. Amaro said he is not concerned about leaving the winter meetings without a resolution.
"I'm concerned about filling that spot," he said, "but overall I'm not concerned."
The final 24 hours of the winter meetings passed quietly, at least from the Phillies' perspective.
For the first time since 2005, they did not select a player in the Rule 5 draft. The Phillies' last two Rule 5 picks, righthander David Herndon and utility man Michael Martinez, stuck with the team throughout the following season. They did, however, lose righthander Lendy Castillo, formerly a shortstop who showed some promise after converting to pitcher in 2010. The Cubs selected the 22-year-old with the sixth overall pick. Castillo went 4-2 with a 2.54 ERA, 9.0 strikeouts-per-nine and 3.1 walks-per-nine in 46 innings at Low-A Lakewood last season.
Castillo must remain on the Cubs active roster for the entire 2012 season or be offered back to the Phillies.
"He's a young guy that has a good arm," assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "He's got some potential. We like Lendy, hate to lose him, but good for Lendy. It's a good opportunity for him."
Does he have a chance to stick? "That's for them to answer," Looper said. "We'll take him back."
One player the Phillies thought they might lose was Jiwan James, a speed-and-defense centerfielder who has struggled to find his offensive game at the lower levels of the minors. James went undrafted, meaning he will remain in the Phillies system in 2012; he could open up the year at Double A Reading.
Once the Phillies address the shortstop position, their heavy lifting will be over. Amaro said yesterday the team could look to add another lefty reliever, and he will continue to peruse the trade market for potential upgrades. Nothing, however, is imminent.
Laynce Nix officially signed a 2-year contract yesterday, according to Amaro.
"We got to see Laynce a lot this year with Washington and he is someone we had our eye on going into the offseason," Amaro said. "He will provide us with extra power off the bench from the left side and can play all three outfield positions."
Nix, a lefthanded hitter, batted .250 with a career-high 16 homers for the Nationals last season, while making 79 starts: 59 in leftfield, 12 in right, six at first base and two as designated hitter.