NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Phillies' brass likely will take part in the Rule 5 draft Thursday morning, board a plane in Nashville early in the afternoon and spend the weekend in Philadelphia.

Barring an unforeseen change, they still will have a gaping hole in the middle of their roster, at a position everyone can readily identify as their priority this winter. They won't have a centerfielder.

Frankly, the Phils haven't had a centerfielder since they traded away Shane Victorino 129 days ago. Victorino has found new homes on two separate coasts since he last patrolled centerfield for the Phillies.

Like his general manager, manager Charlie Manuel didn't appear to be particularly antsy about the matter. The Phils won't hold their first workout in Clearwater, Fla., for another 10 weeks.

"I think at any time you see, especially the frontline guys, the best ones, when they start falling off the board . . . but that doesn't mean that you can't get a good player," Manuel said of seeing B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan and others sign elsewhere. "Baseball is that way. And if you do trades or [use the] free-agent market or whatever, you can get guys sometimes, if you know what you're doing, get the right guys and then things can work out for you."

Ruben Amaro Jr. used the musical-chairs analogy the other day, saying that the Phils' opportunity to acquire a centerfielder could increase with fewer teams needing one in light of the aforementioned signings.

But the opposite also could be true. If the Phils are one of the last teams looking for a centerfielder, agents or teams can hold them over a barrel, right?

Not necessarily.

"I still think there will be opportunities," Amaro said. "If the well runs dry on the free-agent front, I think there are opportunities on the trade front."

The Phils may very well deal from a position of strength, trading a pitcher (Vance Worley? Prospects?) for a proven, starting centerfielder. Jacoby Ellsbury, Peter Bourjos, Dexter Fowler and Coco Crisp are all names that have circulated in the rumor mill that is the winter meetings.

But when asked to identify what exactly he would like in a centerfielder, Manuel gave the traits he was looking for and then offered up a few names, too.

"I think somebody that runs - that covers a lot of ground," Manuel said. "A guy that can go gap to gap. If I had to point to the best ones or something like that, you could probably rank - you'd go with [Michael] Bourn and Upton and [Denard] Span. Ellsbury a couple of years ago, he was that good.

"But guys that cover a lot of ground, guys that are kind of smooth-looking, going and catching the ball . . . they have to have speed. They have to have first-step quickness, and they have to be able to cover a lot of . . . ground and know the situations in the game."

According to the game's most prominent player agent, there's one player who separates himself from the pack. Coincidentally, he happens to be that player's agent.

Scott Boras would like to endorse former Phillie Bourn.

"I think the value of a player is representative to his standing among his peers," said Boras, who addressed a gaggle of media at the same time Manuel held his own news conference late Wednesday afternoon. "So when you take out the metrics of the game and the performance . . . the great thing about Michael is his consistency is greater than all. His defensive acumen is, there's just a huge separation between him and every other player at that position. And offensively he provides the leadoff spot . . . And those all add premiums to him that most of the other players in the market don't have."

After computing that statement into your Boras-to-dollars translator, it says the agent expects the client to fetch a deal richer than the 5-year, $75.25 million contract Upton received from Atlanta last week. Since the Phils reportedly were outbid by the Braves, it's difficult to envision them diving into richer waters for Bourn.

But with Amaro at the trigger, then again, who knows? The Upton proceedings, though, would seem to suggest a trade is far more likely.

"We have some players people like," Amaro said.

And does Manuel like the names he's hearing who could potentially come into his lineup?

"Some of the names they're kicking around up there, yeah, it definitely could help us," he said. "If we get some guys that could help us, I feel very good about it, yeah."

But Manuel, like an anxious fan base, might have to be patient if the pursuit of a centerfielder goes beyond this week, Christmas and perhaps New Year's, too.

"We can wait until the cows come home to make our team better," Amaro said.