CHARLIE MANUEL was preparing to make an appearance at the Phillies' annual holiday food drive when news broke that the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a 2-year, $14 million deal to bring back shortstop Rafael Furcal.

If it seemed inevitable last week that Jimmy Rollins would re-sign with the Phillies, the signing of Furcal by St. Louis and Alex Gonzalez by Milwaukee make it almost a lock.

The potential suitors for Rollins continue to decrease, virtually leaving only the Phillies. Rollins' agent, Dan Lozano, was expected to speak with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. on Saturday, reported. Amaro has said Rollins remains the team's top priority.

"I think it just shows that another shortstop has been taken in the National League or the big leagues, but does that mean Jimmy is coming back? Not necessarily," Manuel said at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday when asked about the Furcal signing. "I think what it's going to boil down to is that Jimmy knows we want him back and also knows he wants to come back. It's just a matter of the two sides becoming one and happy with what's going on, and then Jimmy is going to be with the Phillies next year."

Rollins has been seeking a 5-year deal. The Phillies are believed to have offered a 3-year deal, although a 4-year deal with an option, or a 3-year deal with a club option that has a big buyout and vests on certain incentives, could make sense.

The Phillies announced Saturday on their website that Rollins, who just turned 33, had minor surgery on Thursday to remove a cyst from his left wrist. The stitches will be removed within the next 2 weeks and he should be ready for spring training.

"He kind of had something with that last year, too," Manuel said, "but no, it shouldn't hurt him at all."

Rollins was in attendance for Saturday's Big 5 showdown between Temple and Villanova at the Liacouras Center.

Daily News sports writer David Murphy contributed to this story.