Saturday, December 20, 2014

Winter Meetings, Day 3: Gload, Halladay, Lee, Chapman and more

We're still here in Indianapolis at the appropriately named Winter Meetings: Lots of meetings, and lots and lots of winter. Today's weather features driving win that just about ripped the door off of the taxi cab I took to the downtown Marriott and periodic snow showers. I'm told by folks in the know that the sun does occasionally shine in Indianapolis. But like most of the rest of the gossip floating around, I have a hard time believing it.

Winter Meetings, Day 3: Gload, Halladay, Lee, Chapman and more

The Phillies met with Cliff Lee´s agent yesterday, according to a source. (File photo)
The Phillies met with Cliff Lee's agent yesterday, according to a source. (File photo)

We're still here in Indianapolis at the appropriately named Winter Meetings: Lots of meetings, and lots and lots of winter. Today's weather features driving win that just about ripped the door off of the taxi cab I took to the downtown Marriott and periodic snow showers. I'm told by folks in the know that the sun does occasionally shine in Indianapolis. But like most of the rest of the gossip floating around, I have a hard time believing it.

Ruben Amaro Jr. just finished his daily press briefing in his hotel suite. And while there isn't a whole lot of hard stuff to report, we did manage to mine a few nuggets off of the tape.

1) The Phillies still haven't officially "announced" the signing of Ross Gload to a two-year deal, but a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations said last night that the deal is indeed complete, and that only a routine physical stands in the way of the left-handed hitting first baseman/outfielder rounding out the Phillies bench. RAJ said the Phillies have had their eye on Gload dating back to his days with the Kansas City Royals, and a quick glance at the 33-year-old's measurables provide a good indication why: Gload is a career .300 pinch-hitter, including a sparkling 21-for-66 performance last season with the Marlins. He plays a great first base (.995 career fielding percentage), and also has some experience at the corner outfield positions. He is also used to a part-time role: In eight major league seasons, he has accumulated more than 300 at-bats just twice.

With Gload in the fold, the Phillies will once again have a left-handed heavy bench. Back-up catcher Brian Schneider and reserve infielder/outfielder Greg Dobbs also hit left-handed. Reserve outfielder Ben Francisco will be their top right-handed option off the bench, while light-hitting utility man Juan Castro also hits right-handed.

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The Phillies will once again enter the season without a great deal of speed on their bench, although Amaro downplayed the significance of that.

2) According to a source, Cliff Lee's agent flew into Indianapolis yesterday to meet with the Phillies at the club's behest. But Darek Braunecker, who represents Lee and earlier this offseason season said he would listen to any contract proposals the Phillies might put forth, downplayed the meeting, saying it was general in nature. It sounds like neither side is ready to engage in serious negotiations on a contract extension, and the likelihood of such an agreement happening before Lee reaches free agency next offseason remains small. Braunecker told the Daily News back in November that any negotiations would likely cease once the regular season begins.

3) RAJ and his crew spent today much as they have spent the last two days: meeting with several agents and representatives. Keith Grunewald, who represents veteran righthander John Smoltz and veteran lefthander Ron Mahay, had some dialogue with the Phillies, although dialogue was again general in nature. The Phillies have also met with representatives of Beverly Hills Sports Council, who represent righthander Chan Ho Park and righthander Octavio Dotel. Park is one of the Phillies' top targets, but no deal is imminent and BHSC says that Park has some interest from major league clubs who would offer him a chance to compete for a job as a starter. Their interest in Dotel sounds like it is extremely preliminary.

4) One name to keep your eye on is Braves lefthander Mike Gonzalez, who would seem to fit perfectly into the back end of the Phillies' bullpen, at least on paper. When healthy, Gonzalez has been terrific, having posted a 2.57 ERA, 1.1219 WHIP and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in seven major league seasons. He has experience pitching at the back end of the bullpen, having saved 24 games over the last two seasons for the Braves, so he would provide some insurance for closer Brad Lidge. But his biggest asset would be his versatility, with the ability to face left-handers in addition to manning the seventh and eighth innings with J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson.

But there are some caveats when it comes to Gonzalez, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007. He threw a career-high 74.1 innings last season after throwing just 50.2 combined in 2007-08. His previous career high for a single season was 54 in 2006.

Agent Scott Boras said today that as many as 15 teams have expressed interest in Gonzalez.

5) RAJ said that he does not expect the Phillies to be major players for the services of highly-touted yet raw Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. But he did acknowledge the Phillies' interest in his raw physical ability -- Chapman has a fastball that has been clocked as high as 102 miles per hour, but needs work on his command -- and said the club might send a representative to watch the 21-year-old pitch at some point in the near future. Chapman is expected to throw a side session in Houston next week for various major league clubs.

But with a pricetag that one executive estimated to ESPN.com at at least $15.1 million guaranteed over four years, RAJ is pessimistic about the Phillies' ability to land the hard-throwing lefty.

6) Despite RAJ's continued insistence that the Phillies are highly unlikely to land a high-priced starter like Roy Halladay in a trade, the Phillies continue to be mentioned by various media outlets as a potential suitor for the Blue Jays' righthander. While Amaro wouldn't complete rule out such a deal yesterday, a lot would have to fall right for the Phillies to wind up with Halladay.

"Is there any way possible? I guess there is," Amaro said. "Is there a likelihood of us getting involved in something that's that big? Probably not."

Why not?

"Probably more than one or two reasons," Amaro said. "I'm not going to get into the reasons."

Is there a likelihood of at least exploring?

"I'm not going to get into that," Amaro said.

In my informed opinion, here is what would have to happen for the Phillies to make a play for Halladay: First, teams like Boston and New York would have to drop out of consideration, thereby lowering the demand for the Blue Jays' ace.. Second, the Phillies would have to non-tender or trade away righthander Joe Blanton, who could make more than $7 million in arbitration. Halladay is due $15 million, and Amaro said back at the GM meetings that he did not think such a salary would fit into the Phillies' cost structure. Third, Toronto would have to be willing to accept substantially less than it was asking for at the trade deadline last season. While there is certainly an argument that the Phillies should go for broke now, you have to remember that Amaro hopes to keep his job for longer than three or four years. And while bankrupting the farm system to land Halladay might give the Phillies a great shot at winning a second World Series in three years, it doesn't guarantee them that World Series. And with just two players signed through the 2012 season, the Phillies are likely going to need some of their current prospects to step up once guys like Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard reach free agency.

David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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