SAN DIEGO - Six days ago, Ruben Amaro Jr. answered his cellphone a few hours before boarding a flight bound for baseball's winter meetings and sounded as confident as ever.
More than 2 months into the offseason, the embattled general manager had not made a significant move to begin the rebuilding process. But he was surely more hopeful than the fans who have been calling for his job with each passing day.
"A lot of our players out there are being depicted as not as able commodities, but we've got some guys that still are," Amaro said Saturday. "And it's clear in dialogue with other club that there is interest. And that bodes well for us. We'll see if it turns out."
Amaro certainly wasn't lying. Although as he left the Manchester Grand Hyatt early yesterday afternoon with nary a word to reporters, his biggest, franchise-altering move wasn't yet official.
In 4 days in San Diego, the Phillies reportedly agreed to a deal to send Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers (which still hadn't been announced as of late yesterday), traded lefthanded reliever Antonio Bastardo to the Pirates for a pitching prospect, and laid the groundwork with other teams for more deals, too. The Baltimore Orioles could become the eventual landing spot for veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd.
But while other general managers took the time to wrap up their business at the winter meetings with their own media, no one from the Phillies' front office was available to talk before they left town. Surely, they didn't feel like answering questions about the status of the Rollins deal, but there obviously is a lot more to talk about for a team that could continue to see drastic change in the 2 months before pitchers and catchers convene in Clearwater, Fla.
Byrd almost certainly will be traded, the Phillies will attempt to find landing spots for Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon, and they almost certainly will listen to offers for Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and just about anyone else, too. The Phils reportedly talked with the Dodgers about Utley, but it's uncertain how far that dialogue lasted; Utley has a full no-trade clause and could make as much as $55 million in the next four seasons.
Oh, and then there's the biggest trade chip of all, Cole Hamels. According to a baseball source, the Phillies have not had any dialogue with the Boston Red Sox since Jon Lester jilted his former team and signed with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.
The potential Hamels market possibly became more complicated in the final 2 days of the winter meetings.
Dodgers top prospect Joc Pederson, an outfielder who hit .303 with 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases at Triple A Albuquerque last year, would appear to be even more of a longshot now that the team has agreed to send All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres. The Kemp deal, one of about 37 moves the Dodgers have made in the last 72 hours or so, also had not been finalized as of late yesterday.
After missing on Lester, Boston has gone hog wild in addressing its rotation, adding three starting pitchers in less than 24 hours: Rick Porcello and Wade Miley (via trades) and Justin Masterson (free agency). Although the Red Sox would appear to have a five-man staff, with that threesome joining Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly, there isn't a true No. 1, or arguably a dependable No. 2, among them.
It's certainly not out of the question that the Red Sox could take Kelly (4 years of team control) and package him with a high-end prospect or two to land an ace through a trade. But that remains to be seen.
For now, the Phillies' rebuild has began with the one player who was most instrumental in building the franchise up from the National League East basement a decade and a half ago. Barring an unlikely change of heart from either side, Rollins will hang up his No. 11 Phillies uniform and outfit himself with a Dodger blue ballcap for an introductory news conference at Chavez Ravine in the coming days.
The trade, set to send two minor league pitching prospects to the Phillies, is likely being held up because the Dodgers have more than a few moving parts after also finding trade partners in the Padres and Marlins in the final 24 hours of the meetings. In some deals, money must exchange hands (which the commissioner must approve); in almost all deals, players must pass physicals.
According to multiple reports, one of the players the Phillies could receive in return for Rollins is Zach Eflin, a 20-year-old, 6-4 righthander. Eflin reportedly was one of three players set to move from San Diego to Los Angeles in the Kemp trade.
But since that deal also hadn't been finalized as of late yesterday, the reports of Eflin's final Philadelphia destination might have been premature.
If Eflin is one of the players the Phillies receive in return for Rollins, he'll automatically become one of the top pitching prospects in a farm system in dire need of arms. Eflin, the 33rd overall pick in the 2012 draft and ranked the 10th-best prospect in San Diego's system by MLB.com, went 10-7 with a 3.80 ERA in 24 starts at Class A Lake Elsinore in 2014.
Eflin is 17-14 with a 3.41 ERA in three minor league seasons. In 50 games (49 starts), he struck out 183 while walking 65 in 253 2/3 innings.