Ruben Amaro, Charlie Manuel

As Phillies reach .500, GM Ruben Amaro looking to address center field and bullpen

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Though the Phillies, at long last, reached .500 for the first time since June 7, one would think most signs point to the team being sellers at the deadline. Yesterday, they lost center fielder Ben Revere to a broken foot and he will be sidelined for six to eight weeks. They have a few soon-to-be free agents. The Minor League system is still a little light on legitimate talent. They also rank among the bottom-ten in baseball in run differential at -45.

On the subject of improving the roster, GM Ruben Amaro asked rhetorically, “How do I do it? I don’t know. We’ll find out. I’m the GM. I’m supposed to be able to do this stuff I guess.”

Amaro told the media prior to this afternoon’s first-half finale that he is looking for upgrades in center field and in the bullpen. He said, “we’ll probably be looking for a centerfielder if there’s one that’s available. I don’t know if there’s one available or one that will be an upgrade from what we have right now with John [Mayberry] being out there.”

As it turned out, Mayberry helped the Phillies walk off in today’s first-half finale against the White Sox with an RBI single up the middle in the tenth inning. It was the third extra inning game the two teams had played in a 36-hour period. (Per Jayson Stark, it’s the first time all three games of a series went extras since the Athletics and White Sox did it May 11-13, 2011.) The Phillies emerged victorious in two of them and finish the ten-game homestand — which Amaro explicitly was using as a barometer for the team’s buyer or seller status — at 7-3. The Braves lost to the Reds, so the Phillies will enter the first half six games behind in third place.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.