NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Only 12 teams in baseball hit fewer home runs in 2012 than the Phillies.
In attempting to add a couple of everyday players this winter, the Phils would ideally like to find someone who can deposit the baseball over the fence every now and then. They haven't found that player yet, but there was a guy at the Opryland Hotel who was volunteering for the job on Monday.
Darin Ruf received the Jim Bauman Trophy for leading the minor leagues in home runs in a ceremony held at the hotel. Ruf hit 38 home runs at Double A Reading in 2012.
If you add the one he hit in the Eastern League playoffs, the three he hit with the Phillies in September, and the 10 he hit in the Venezuelan Winter League, Ruf hit an eye-popping 52 home runs in 2012.
He is expected to compete for a major league job in Clearwater in 2 months.
"I've kind of always had the mind-set of they'll give me an opportunity to show what I can do in spring training," Ruf said. "I need to take advantage of it. I don't think it really matters who they sign, what they do, if I can show that I can help the team in some way."
Does Ruf, who played in 12 Phillies games in September, plan to go into the spring to win an everyday job?
"That's how I'm going to go into spring training: try to win a job," Ruf said. "Playing through the minor leagues I've been a guy that's played 140, 150 games a year. So I don't want that to stop now."
"He's going to get an opportunity to play a lot this spring," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We'll see what he does."
The 26-year-old Ruf, who began making the transition from first base to leftfield last summer, hit .317 with a .408 on-base percentage and 1.028 OPS in 139 games at Double A last season.
"He's kind of jumped onto the scene," Amaro said. "But he has an element in his game that doesn't come around very often, and that's power. It's not just because he hit 20 home runs in a month. He had productive at-bats and continued to improve throughout the year. That's a good sign. He hit well in a league with good pitching."
Just as one of their centerfield options disappeared when Angel Pagan re-signed with San Francisco, an attractive free-agent bullpen option also came off the market for the Phillies when former Kansas City closer Joakim Soria reportedly closed in on a 2-year deal with Texas.
In need of a setup man, the Phils watched Ryan Madson sign with the Los Angeles Angels last week and had a trade with Houston for Wilton Lopez killed before they could reach the finish line.
Since it's been a seller's market for free-agent relievers - Jonathan Broxton got 3 years and $21 million from Cincinnati while Jeremy Affeldt got 3 years and $18 million to stay with San Francisco - it's probably more likely that the Phillies continue to try to acquire one via trade.
"It's still a possibility, probably a better possibility because each one of these guys comes with a lot of risk," Amaro said.
With the outfield market also drying up some and no real attractive free-agent third-base options, trades could be the way to go in general.
"It depends on the type of player," Amaro said. "Clearly there are more options in certain areas as far as free agency is concerned. So if we have to look to try to move players to get players that fit, we may have to go that route. I don't want to move more players out of our system necessarily, but if that's what we have to do to make our club better, we'll try."
The Phillies quietly non-tendered outfielder Nate Schierholtz on Friday night, making him a free agent.
All major league teams had to offer arbitration-eligible players a contract before the Nov. 30 deadline, or they would become free agents. The only other Phillies player in that category was reliever Antonio Bastardo, who was tendered a contract.
So why not Nate?
"It doesn't mean we don't have interest in him," Amaro said. "We just felt the value that he would probably command as an arbitration-eligible player was north of where we valued what we wanted to pay him."
Schierholtz, 28, who hit .257 with six home runs in 114 games with the Phillies and San Francisco, made $1.3 million in 2012.
Philly Hall of Famer?
The 2013 honoree of the National Baseball Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing" will be announced Tuesday. Among the finalists is former Daily News baseball writer Paul Hagen. Hagen, who still lives in the Philadelphia area, currently writes for MLB.com.