Minor tweaks on board at Meetings

Minor tweaks on board at Meetings

LAS VEGAS -- The next phase of Ruben Amaro Jr.'s accelerated stint as Phillies general manager has shifted three time zones to the west from Philadelphia as front-office personnel from the Phillies have joined representatives from the other 29 teams gathering here for the annual Winter Meetings.

The Meetings are being held at the Bellagio through Thursday, and the Phillies' priority appears to be re-signing starter Jamie Moyer, which doesn't necessarily have to happen here. Amaro admitted recently that there also have been talks with free-agent pitcher Derek Lowe's camp, and there should be opportunities to meet face-to-face with agents for any free agent the club is interested in.

"Pitching wins, and we want to strengthen that," Amaro said on the day he was introduced as general manager. "That's our focus."

It has remained the focus, especially on a team looking to become the first National League team to repeat as World Series champions since the 1975-76 Reds. A team with expected payroll increases may not have financial room to add CC Sabathia or Manny Ramirez, but it will explore tweaks as necessary.

"We have things to deal with," Amaro said recently. "We're trying to improve our club, and we will look at every option."

With the 2009 returns of second baseman Chase Utley (right hip surgery) and third baseman Pedro Feliz (back surgery) unclear, the team has explored utility-player options such as former Phillies infielder Nick Punto, as well as adding another arm to an already deep and effective bullpen.

In case Moyer doesn't return, the Phillies have sent out feelers not only to Lowe, but also the representative for free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett. On the outfielder front, while they will continue to speak with their own free agent Pat Burrell, the names Raul Ibanez, Rocco Baldelli and Juan Rivera remain on the surface.

Like many teams, the Phillies may have to wait until Sabathia and Ramirez make decisions on their futures, opening up the rest of the market.

Amaro re-signed Scott Eyre to a one-year, $2 million contract extension and hopes to do the same with Moyer. The team added organizational depth by signing reliever Mike Koplove to a Minor League deal, and would like to bring in more arms to compete for jobs in an already deep and effective bullpen.

Dealing outfielder Greg Golson to the Rangers for Minor Leaguer John Mayberry on Nov. 20 potentially added a right-handed corner outfielder, at least for the long term.

Internally, the Phillies are also believed to be mulling ways to sign Ryan Madson, Jayson Werth and Cole Hamels to contract extensions to avoid arbitration and keep them around beyond '09 (for Madson and Werth) and '12 (Hamels), respectively.

"We'll be looking at every possible way to improve our club," Amaro said.

This week's Winter Meetings will feature more than just trade and free-agent talk. Cooperstown's Veterans Committee will announce its annual election decisions on Monday. On the agenda Tuesday will be the announcement of the Ford C. Frick Award, the highest honor for a broadcaster.

On Wednesday, there will be an announcement on who is participating in the World Baseball Classic as well as announcement of the Baseball Writers' Association of America's J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner. The Meetings will conclude with the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning.