Theres a lot brewing on the executive level of Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies appear to be on the verge of signing a closer Jonathan Papelbon? and they are trying to get a deal done with infielderoutfielder Michael Cuddyer.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. touched on these topics, as well Jimmy Rollins free-agency, Ryan Howards injury and Freddy Galvis development in an interview on Thursday.
Question: A month later, does the teams postseason elimination still sting?
Answer: A little bit. And I think that is what motivates us in the front office. We are still motivated and were motivated to get back to the World Series. Its almost like a drug. Once youre there, you want to get back. I know the players feel like that and I can absolutely tell you the front office does as well.
Q: Can you give an example of how youre motivated and how you are approaching this off-season?
A: Aggressively as usual. That will show you something about what our goals are. At the same time, we have to be intelligent about the moves that we make and as always you want to try and do whats best for the club in 2012, but, you know, you sometimes have to pull the reins back and make sure youre doing what is best for the club in the long term as well because thats what these fans deserve. They deserve for us to be contenders every year, not just in 2012, not just in 2013, but were going to try and perpetuate that.
Q: Theres a lot of talk that youre bearing down on a free-agent closer. You have two big openings, closer and shortstop. Have you prioritized closer ahead of shortstop?
A: I dont know if it is ahead of shortstop, but I think under the circumstances closer is a very vital part of our club. Im not sure if one is more important that the other. Jimmy Rollins obviously has been a very important part of our club for a long time. But if we dont stop games that were supposed to win with our staff, then its going to be troublesome and that is something that we need to shore up.
Q: Are you indeed close with a closer?
A: I think there are a couple of deals we could do right now. We are still working through those.
Q: You hear names like Ryan Madson, your incumbent, you hear names like Jonathan Papelbon. Are they the two focus guys? Is there a preference?
A: Theres a lot more. The beauty of this closer market is theres a variety of closers available and on a variety of levels of talent. Were going to try and do what is best for the club overall. Ultimately, we always try to get the best player. But we have to get the best player and fit all the rest of the pieces of the puzzle together. We have to deal with the shortstop We may be looking for a bat in the lineup to provide us with a little more punch ... And its not an unlimited situation. I think our payroll is going to be very similar to 175 million in 2011. At the same time, we have a lot of guys going north on their salaries. We dont have a ton of flexibility as it stands so we have to make sure we try and put the right pieces together in the right way.
Q: Obviously you think closers are important. Would you relax your standard of three-year max deals with pitchers to get a premier guy, a guy you want?
A: Possibly. But again, our preference is stay at three years and not go beyond that. I think its obvious that we have gone beyond that now with Cliff Lee. Were going to try our best to maintain that, but time and circumstance can change things.
Q: How about the reports that you were moving toward a deal with Ryan Madson and club president David Montgomery put the halt on it?
A: Well, the one thing I can tell you about that is, and we dont discuss these things publicly, is that those reports were erroneous. Thats all I will say about that.
Q: Were you close with Ryan?
A: That's all I'll say about it.
Q: Has David Montgomery ever nixed a baseball deal that you guys presented to him?
A: David is the most supportive owner anybody could ever have. We all have people that we have to answer to. But David Montgomery is I think about what Pat Gillick said to me when he kind of passed the baton and I took over. He said, You will never find a better place to work and you will not have a better boss. I know Im not going to get a better one than Dave.
Q: You mentioned possibly adding a bat. You entertained Michael Cuddyer. Is he a firm possibility in your mind after your visit with him?
A: He is just one of many. When we visit with players its more about them getting to know us and us getting to know them. Our minds are open as far as a bat is concerned. Again, were just trying to figure out whats the best way to allocate our dollars.
Q: Where do things stand with Jimmy Rollins?
A: Jimmy is a free agent and we continue to have discussions and well kind of see where things go. We dont characterize the negotiations. Wed like to bring Jimmy back. That would be our ultimate goal. Whether we can do that, whether we can get two to tango and make it happen, that remains to be seen.
Q: Is there any common ground with Jimmy so far?
A: I think its all been very positive. I think Jimmy, and he has earned this right to be out there looking at other possibilities, thats the nature of being a free agent, and thats great for him. If theres another situation out there for him that he thinks is better for him, more profitable, whatever the case may be, he may take that. Hopefully that doesnt happen.
Q: Hows Ryan Howard torn Achilles tendon healing, and do you still think April is still a possibility?
A: I do think April is a possibility. He seems to be doing fine. He had a little trouble with a wound, with the opening of the wound after he had the operation, but were addressing that now. Were hopeful we can get him back by April, but well have to see how it goes. Well know more as he gets into January and February whether its realistic to think hell be back by the April date.
Q: Are you talking to Roy Oswalt? Is it possible he could return?
A: We had some discussions right after the season with Roys agent and we havent had as many recently. But again, we fit all the pieces of the puzzle together here. Whether he comes back or not remains to be seen.
Q: Would his back issue give you pause on a multi-year deal?
A: I cant discuss any of his medical stuff.
Q: Hows shortstop prospect Freddy Galvis doing in winter ball?
A: Defensively, hes playing great. Hes starting to swing the bat much better. The Venezuelan winter league is a good league for him. Its a good test. We know this guy can play defense. He has great energy, baseball IQ, instincts. The question with Freddy is: Offensively can he hold his own? There are many in our organization who think he can because he does some of the little things that are important. We talked to Triple A manager Ryne Sandberg about him recently. And the thing that Ryne said was he was kind of the guy they wanted up in a key situation. They knew hed drive the run in with two outs, man on third. Hed be able to move the runner when he had to move the runner, or bunt or pull in the ball and hes done those little things.
It was interesting to have Ryne talk about how the other veteran players, and we had many of them there, how they were kind of in awe how he handled himself, how he adjusted to that level so quickly and how he handled certain situations well. It was great to have him play playoff baseball in Triple A. I got a chance to watch him play. Several of us got a chance to watch him play playoff baseball where theres intensity there. Not nearly the intensity they have on a daily basis here in Philadelphia. But he handled those situations well and made one of the best plays I have ever seen a kid make up the middle at one point. Hes not afraid. Hes a young kid who likes to play, and Im looking forward to watching him continue to develop.
Q: Did that conversation with Sandberg leave you to believing that if you dont retain Jimmy, maybe Freddy could do it?
A: Oh, I think there are a lot of people that think he can do it. Is it risky? Absolutely -- for a team like this that is expected to be in the playoffs and expected to go to the World Series. No question, its a huge risk. But thats OK. Were not afraid to take risks. Weve done it before. Right now it is just a matter of how things develop with Jimmy and how things may develop if Jimmy is not part of our club, how they may develop with some other free agents who we have had discussions with, and weighing that with whether or not we want to take the risk of having a young kid come in and be our everyday shortstop.
Q: The general managers meetings start on Monday. You traded for Brad Lidge at the GM meetings one year. How do you see them kind of shaping up this year?
A: Weve laid some groundwork already. Weve had discussions about several different possibilities now. We dont have the same level of prospect to be moving in trades, and, frankly, I dont want to move any of our prospects. I want to try and keep them all. I think that most of our acquisitions may be coming through free agency more than anything else. There may be some things we can tweak and we can try and work on to improve our club and well look to see if there are opportunities to do that.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org