November 8 Philadelphia Daily News:
“Football is said to be a game of controlled aggression, but the same label applies to the modus operandi of Ruben Amaro Jr. in each of the last two baseball offseasons, moving swiftly to fill his most glaring needs instead of waiting for the market to unfold.
The results: Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco, both signed by mid-December.
Right now, though, rightfielder Jayson Werth is the only obvious candidate to prompt the Phillies to commit serious long-term dollars.
So it comes as no surprise that the first 24 hours of the free-agent signing period – which began after the clock struck midnight Saturday – passed quietly.
The Phillies have several areas of need, including a bullpen with only three guaranteed returnees. And if Werth ends up signing elsewhere, which at this point seems likely, they have a glaring one. But they also feel that they have several internal candidates to fill those needs.
Veteran reserve outfielders Ben Francisco, a righthanded hitter, and Ross Gload, a lefty, are under club control for next season, creating the possibility of a platoon situation in right. Top prospect Domonic Brown, who is scheduled to begin winter ball in the Dominican Republic next week, could also factor into the equation.
In the bullpen, righthanders Chad Durbin and Jose Contreras are both free agents who could re-sign for 2011. Several young arms are expected to compete for jobs in spring training. But the Phillies are also expected to explore external options to supplement closer Brad Lidge and setup man Ryan Madson (and, perhaps, compete with righty Danys Baez, who struggled last season after signing a 2-year contract).
Last year, the Phillies doled out $30.8 million in guaranteed money to free agents, eighth in the majors. In 2008, only five teams eclipsed the $47 million they spent.
But it’s hard to imagine the Phillies reaching either figure again (unless, of course, they manage to work out a deal with Werth). They already have about $146.35 million in actual dollars guaranteed to 16 players for 2011 (although that doesn’t take into consideration the $11 million they received from the Astros in the Roy Oswalt trade in July). For luxury-tax purposes, that figure is slightly lower: about $143.7 million, calculated by the average annual value of each contract. The luxury tax threshold for 2011 is $178 million, putting the Phillies less than $35 million shy of that barrier, which upon being eclipsed requires a team to pay a competitive balance tax of 22.5 percent.
That being said, few people expected the Phillies to land Roy Halladay last season, and when Amaro addressed the media 2 weeks ago, he acknowledged the possibility of being “creative” and “moving pieces” in order to facilitate a deal.
For now, though, all is quiet on the free-agent front.”
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