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Phillies will likely make a move at winter meetings, but nothing big

NASHVILLE - The Phillies are going to make a move before they check out of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel late Thursday morning. That much is certain.

Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel. (AP file photo)
Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel. (AP file photo)Read more

NASHVILLE - The Phillies are going to make a move before they check out of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel late Thursday morning. That much is certain.

It may be nothing more than the selection of an unprotected player in the Rule 5 draft - but that will still be more than the team accomplished in the first three days at the touristy biodome that has housed this year's winter meetings.

A Rule 5 selection will not, however, be enough to appease manager Charlie Manuel and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., let alone the Philadelphia fans eagerly awaiting news of an upgraded roster.

Manuel made it clear that his wish list starts with a centerfielder who can cover significant ground.

Without saying it, Manuel indicated that he would love to have Michael Bourn, the best remaining defensive centerfielder on the free-agent market. He described Bourn as one of the best three to five defensive centerfielders in the game.

Amaro agreed that center field remains the top priority, but said he believes the Phillies can fill that need via free agency or through a trade. Read between the lines, and it is clear the Phillies would prefer not to pay the $80 million over five years that agent Scott Boras is likely seeking for his client.

Colorado's Dexter Fowler, Arizona's Justin Upton, and Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury are among the centerfielders possibly available via trade. Bourn and Josh Hamilton are at the top of the class among centerfielders. Some people view Hamilton more as a corner outfielder.

Boras, for his part, made his first appearance at the winter meetings late Wednesday afternoon. Predictably, he spoke glowingly about his center-field client.

"The great thing about Michael is his consistency is greater than all," Boras said of Bourn. "His defensive acumen . . . there's just a huge separation between him and every other player at that position. And offensively, he provides what you need in the leadoff spot."

If Amaro is uneasy about the idea of returning home without a new centerfielder or a veteran upgrade at one of the corner outfield positions and third base, he was doing a fine job of hiding it as he entertained questions in his hotel suite.

"It has been interesting because we have had some good discussions on some things," Amaro said. "I'm pretty optimistic some good things can come out of these meetings. But it doesn't mean much until you sign the dotted line."

Amaro believes he will fulfill his objective of adding a centerfielder and a corner outfielder while leaving the other corner spot for either Domonic Brown or Darin Ruf. Manuel admitted the Phillies have discussed the possibility of signing free agent Ichiro Suzuki, the future Hall of Famer who finished strong last season with the New York Yankees. Cody Ross is another free agent who intrigues the Phillies.

Manuel, meanwhile, remains enamored of the power of Ruf, who hit 39 home runs at double-A Reading and three more for the Phillies last season.

"I'm interested in his bat because he hit good pitching when we saw him," Manuel said. "I think he's hit his way into getting a chance at the major leagues. There are a lot of guys that get there that didn't really do enough to get there."

The winter meetings end Thursday morning after the Rule 5 draft, and the Phillies will leave having made a selection. It appears as if they'll also leave with a lot of work still to be done.