GM Amaro: Phillies have $15 million to spend on third base, pitching help

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amaro.jpgTalking to The News Journal’s Scott Lauber, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. on Wednesday listed third base and bullpen help as his top priorities this winter, adding that he didn’t expect his team’s payroll to exceed $140 million by much if any margin.
That doesn’t leave the Phillies with as much flexibility as anticipated. The Phillies already have $106.75 million committed to 12 players for 2009. Joe Blanton ($7 million), Shane Victorino ($5.5 million), Carlos Ruiz ($2.5 million), Chad Durbin ($2.5 million) and Ben Francisco ($1.5 million) figure to collect $19 million or so through arbitration, pushing the Phillies up to $125 million before anyone is acquired.
So, that leaves the Phillies about $15 million for six roster spots. On offense, they need a third baseman, a utilityman, a pinch-hitter if Matt Stairs doesn’t return and a backup catcher. They also want another setup man to put in front of Brad Lidge and a pitcher for rotation depth.
That modest limit would make it awfully difficult for them to bring in a Chone Figgins or a quality starter. Mark DeRosa, apparently their top pick for third base, would eat up at least $6 million of that in the first year of a two- or three-year deal. Garrett Atkins could come a little cheaper. A setup man like Brandon Lyon or LaTroy Hawkins will likely cost $4 million-$5 million. Fernando Rodney and Mike Gonzalez could be even more expensive.
Barring a surprising move to trade for a cheap third baseman, the Phillies won’t be going after the big names in free agency. They have some room to maneuver, but it’s doubtful that they’ll be too adventurous after back-to-back World Series appearances.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.