Phils weigh options as free agency looms

Phils weighing free agency options

PHILADELPHIA -- Let's catch up with where the Phillies stand as teams can sign free agents beginning Friday.

First, some important dates to know:

• The Phillies have until Dec. 1 to offer salary arbitration to their own free agents.

• Free agents offered arbitration have until Dec. 7 to accept.

• The Phillies have until Dec. 12 to tender contracts to their remaining unsigned players.

Everybody knows the Phillies are looking for a new third baseman. They would love Chone Figgins, but they are not expected to be in the running because he is seeking a reported five-year, $50 million deal. The Phillies already have $106.75 million committed to just 12 players next season, which does not include significant raises to salary arbitration-eligible players Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Carlos Ruiz, plus upgrades to the bullpen and bench. The Phillies are going to look for a shorter, more affordable contract to fill their void at third.

More likely targets at third base are Adrian Beltre, Mark DeRosa and former Phillie Placido Polanco. The Phillies have previously had interest in Miguel Tejada, but he also might command too pricey a contract.

Polanco, a two-time Gold Glove winner, has appeared in 322 career games at third base, some of those coming during a previous tour with the Phillies from 2002-05.

The Phillies reportedly have expressed interest in right-hander Fernando Rodney, but he could be looking to close, which is not an option in Philadelphia.

The Phillies have nine free agents: catcher Paul Bako, infielder Miguel Cairo, left-hander Scott Eyre, third baseman Pedro Feliz, right-hander Pedro Martinez, right-hander Brett Myers, right-hander Chan Ho Park, outfielder Matt Stairs and left-hander Jack Taschner.

Park and Eyre, who are Type B free agents, seem to be the most likely players to return. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he has contacted Park's agent about bringing him back. Eyre, who had elbow surgery Monday, said he will play for Philadelphia or retire. If he decides to play, the Phils seem interested. He is 5-1 with a 1.62 ERA in 61 games since he joined the club in August 2008.

The Phillies have told Myers that he will not be back. If Stairs returns, it would on a Minor League deal.

If Feliz returns, it means Philadelphia's plans to upgrade at third base did not go as intended. Amaro said last week that he has told Martinez that they have not closed the door on his return, but are focusing their attention elsewhere. It seems unlikely Martinez will be back.

Amaro hasn't ruled out Bako's return, but he also said finding a backup catcher is a priority, which indicates they will be looking elsewhere.

Taschner is expected to sign elsewhere. It is difficult to picture the Phils signing Cairo to anything other than a Minor League deal.

Philadelphia has seven players eligible for salary arbitration: Blanton, infielder Eric Bruntlett, right-hander Clay Condrey, right-hander Chad Durbin, Ruiz, Victorino and right-hander Tyler Walker.

The Phillies are expected to tender contracts to Blanton, Ruiz and Victorino. Durbin is a good bet, depending on how the Phillies rebuild their bullpen. The futures for Bruntlett, Condrey and Walker seem less certain.

But in the offseason, very little is certain. The Phils were in serious talks last offseason for a trade involving DeRosa. That fell through and they quickly jumped on left fielder Raul Ibanez.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.