LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Late for another meeting, Ruben Amaro Jr. dashed from the ninth-floor Phillies suite at the Walt Disney Dolphin Hotel on Wednesday afternoon. The general manager is searching all corners of the winter meetings for starting pitching. Two more options, Bartolo Colon and Edinson Volquez, were snatched by other teams within the next two hours.
"We've laid some groundwork," Amaro said. "That doesn't mean we're necessarily going to get anything done."
The Phillies may leave here Thursday with nothing but a player taken in the Rule 5 draft (they are undecided on whether they will even select someone). They are not pursuing any of the top starters on the market such as Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Matt Garza.
Bronson Arroyo, one of the better secondary options, is still available, but other teams appear to be more interested in him than the Phillies. The 36-year-old righthander is believed to be seeking a three-year deal.
Amaro wondered whether the Phillies should invest in multiple starters rather than one costly pitcher.
"It may be best to give us some depth on the pitching side, rather than going for a home run," Amaro said. "I like going for the home run a lot. It may be best for us to try to maintain some flexibility and add depth. There is a fine line. Should we try to hit a home run or hit a couple of doubles?"
Amaro was asked if he has spoken to any of the big-name pitchers. "We've talked about them internally," he said.
A rival executive believed the pitching market was stagnant because of the three-year, $30 million contract that Scott Feldman signed with Houston last week. Feldman, a nine-year veteran with a 4.62 career ERA, was offered a two-year deal by the Phillies for approximately $16 million, according to a source. Many executives saw the Astros' deal as a huge overpayment.
Volquez, a 30-year-old pitcher who was released in August by San Diego, signed with Pittsburgh for a reported $5 million on Wednesday. He has a career 4.75 ERA. Colon agreed to a two-year, $20 million contract with the Mets soon thereafter. The 40-year-old finished sixth in American League Cy Young Award voting last season.
The Phillies could explore midlevel arms like Jason Hammel (career 4.80 ERA in eight seasons), Paul Maholm (a lefty with average numbers), Bruce Chen (36 and still kicking), Tommy Hanson (riddled with injury concern), or Jerome Williams (non-tendered by the Angels).
That list is not overwhelming. Amaro could pursue a trade, and believes he has the assets to make one happen. That depth, though, is something Amaro values.
"We almost have to have that," he said. "We can't lose sight of that."
Domonic Brown remains a trade chip. The Phillies would want young, controllable pitching in return for him. But the team's offense is just as blemished as the pitching staff.
Beyond Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, the Phillies rotation is Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Pettibone, and Miguel Gonzalez. Amaro said Kendrick's price through arbitration would not be affected by recent contracts signed by players before free agency began. He is expected to earn nearly $7 million next season.
"It's amazing," Amaro said. "We talked about it this morning. He has 64 wins. Do you know how many wins Garza has? Sixty-seven."
Amaro added: "He's benefited from some run support and defense. But wins are wins."
Another possible target for the Phillies is A.J. Burnett, but the baseball world does not know whether he will pitch again in 2014. Burnett, who turns 37 in January, has said his preference was to play for the Pirates or retire. Burnett's neighbor in Maryland is Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock. The two are family friends.
"We have left no stone unturned," Amaro said. "I don't have any idea what he's going to do. His neighbor is pretty close with him, but apparently not close enough."