Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Posted: 6:55 p.m.
By Jim Salisbury
ST. LOUIS Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has been none too subtle in expressing his wants around recent trade deadlines.
It was just last year when he said he wanted a starting pitcher and a good one. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. delivered Roy Oswalt at the deadline.
Now Manuel wants a hitter.
We could use a hitter in our lineup, he said Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium. At least one. We could definitely use a solid right-handed hitter.
If the Phillies were to add a right-handed hitter, he would ideally be able to pick up some at-bats in the No. 5 spot in the batting order. Phillies No. 5 hitters are batting just .207 with a .609 on-base plus slugging percentage.
With a 175 million payroll and an all-world starting pitching rotation, the Phillies long ago set winning the World Series as their goal.
Manuel was asked if his team could get where it wanted to go without adding a hitter.
Let me put it to you like this, he said. The odds get better if we had one.
The Phils are locked up in the infield. A right-handed hitter would have to be able to play a corner outfield spot.
Manuel knows what he wants in a hitter.
I dont want something weve already got, he said. Id like to have something better. A consistent hitter.
The hitch there is that the Phils may not be in a financial position to make a major acquisition. They have the games second-highest payroll and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. says he doesnt have much payroll flexibility. Whats more, they are within 3 million of the 178 million luxury-tax threshold and would pay 22.5 percent on every dollar over that. If Amaro adds a bat and the belief is he will it will have to be a complementary player with a price tag that would keep the Phils close to the threshold.
There figures to be several of these types of right-handed hitters on the market in coming weeks. Oaklands Josh Willingham is a player that interests the Phillies. San Diegos Ryan Ludwick, Kansas Citys Wilson Betemit and Colorados Ryan Spliborghs also could be available.
Manuel was asked about the Phils tight payroll.
That could be a huge problem, he said.
The Phils could free up salary by trading someone from their big-league roster, but most of their expendable, high-salary guys have warts. Raul Ibanez is 39 and has been inconsistent. Brad Lidge and Joe Blanton are both on the disabled list.
Getting even a complimentary player will cost the Phils a prospect. The Phils have excellent depth, particularly in pitching, in the low minors. If it means sacrificing a piece to get help now, Manuel is all for it.
Whats the object of the game? he said. We want to get to the World Series and win it. Thats what we want to do and thats going to take a pretty good team.
The Phillies actually are a pretty good team. They entered Wednesday nights game with the best record in the majors (46-28). But they ranked eighth in the league in OPS (.700) and seventh in runs per game (4.18)
Manuel looks at that offense and sees a team that needs more.
Speaking of Ibanez, he was just 3 for 15 in his last four games and was not in the starting lineup for Wednesday nights game. Ben Francisco started in left field.
Over the course of a 162-game season there is a period when guys get tired, Manuel said. When I look at Raul, I think he needs a break. Its like what I used to do with Pat Burrell try to get him off his feet for a couple of days and get him a blow and take his mind off things a little.
Ibanez was out of the lineup despite good lifetime numbers (9 for 30 with three homers) against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSalisburyCSN.
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