THANKS TO the slow goings of rush-hour traffic, no one in the Philadelphia area drove off the road following the latest dose of rumors involving the Phillies.
One report, from CBSSports.com, said the Phils had discussions with the Chicago Cubs about acquiring outfielder Alfonso Soriano and cash, and sending outfielder Domonic Brown to Wrigleyville.
Another, courtesy of Sportsradio 94-WIP, had the Phillies offering a 3-year deal to free agent Josh Hamilton.
None of this should surprise you. So if the rumor mill heats up again during afternoon drive time, drive with a steady hand and an understanding of how these things work.
Of course the Phillies would have interest in a former MVP who hit 43 home runs this year (Hamilton) and in a veteran righthanded hitter with more power than Hunter Pence (Soriano). It would be more newsworthy if the Phils didn't have interest in either player.
When the middle of your lineup includes Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, two guys who didn't play together in 2012 until the Friday before the All-Star break and continue to be injury risks, you have to practice due diligence and exhaust all options in finding another impact bat. Throw in Carlos Ruiz' 25-game suspension and that need becomes more apparent, especially in the form of a righthanded bat.
So it's not surprising if the Phils are considering anything and everything in finding such a bat. As it said in this space on Tuesday, there is no chance the Phillies go into the 2013 season with question marks in both corner outfield spots when putting their faith in one of those spots backfired in each of the last two seasons.
The Phillies will get another outfield bat. After saving money on centerfield, management has the wherewithal to spend on that bat.
Soriano, who turns 37 next month, has 2 years and $36 million left on his contract. It's difficult to imagine the Cubs moving him without assuming most of that salary.
If Brown's name is involved, it's probably not worth hyperventilating about. He hasn't done anything to live up to his former top-prospect prowess and the Phils are looking for a productive outfield bat in part because Brown has never fulfilled that potential.
But as Soriano's salary illustrates, it's not likely to happen anyway.
If the Phils continue to scour the trade market, Colorado's Michael Cuddyer could be another bat worth pursuing. Cuddyer, in whom the Phils had interest last winter, has 2 years and $21 million remaining on his contract.
After acquiring their last two everyday players via trade in the last week, the Phils, however, are more likely to spend on a free agent rather than continue to subtract young players from an aging roster and thinning farm system.
The most attractive power bats left on the open market are Nick Swisher, Cody Ross and Josh Hamilton.
The 31-year-old Hamilton, a former MVP who has 100 home runs and a .952 OPS in the last three seasons, is clearly the most talented of the class. But his market has been slow to develop, most likely because teams are wary of committing long-term dollars to a player who has a history of substance abuse.
The Seattle Mariners, a team set on adding a high-profile bat this winter, reportedly offered Hamilton a 3-year deal in the neighborhood of $75 million last week. Since 3 years sounds a lot more appealing then 5, 6, or 7, it would be foolish for the Phils not to consider a similar, short-term plunge with a player of Hamilton's caliber.
Ruben Amaro Jr. himself admitted that Hamilton was the one "difference maker" on the market this winter. But beyond that, all Amaro would offer was a, "No . . . and I wouldn't tell you if I did," regarding any conversations he had with anyone at baseball's winter meetings last week.
Instead of separating facts from fiction, it's probably more effective to point out the obvious: If Hamilton can be had on a short-term (read: low-risk) deal, the Phils wouldn't be the only team interested in making a deal.
The Yankees and Red Sox, the latter of which is making a habit of short-team contracts lately, can never be discounted. But the more obvious team is the one Hamilton has played with for the last five seasons: the Texas Rangers.
Following a weekend when they were outbid by the Dodgers for Zack Greinke, the Rangers have the dollars to satisfy Hamilton. Sure, they might prefer a top-of-the-rotation starter like Greinke, but none is left on the market.
So if another team offers Hamilton a lucrative 3-year deal, do you honestly think Texas wouldn't match that or go to 4 years?
Just as Cole Hamels said this summer that he would give the Phils every last chance to re-sign him, even had he hit the open market, Hamilton's preference is to stay put. Since the Rangers have a pocketful of cash and the knowledge that they could probably match the best offer and retain him, it's difficult to imagine Hamilton anywhere but Arlington in 2013.
But since this Thursday marks the second anniversary of the date Amaro swooped in and shocked baseball by signing Cliff Lee, nothing is guaranteed in the hot-stove league, other than the constant rumors that breathe baseball into the December sports scene.