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Phils' Rowand becomes free agent

Phils' Rowand becomes free agent

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand was among the players who filed for free agency on the first day of eligibility, joining teammates Jon Lieber, Jose Mesa and Abraham Nunez.

The Phillies' exclusive window for negotiating with Rowand remains open until Nov. 12, when he will be free to pursue offers from all 30 clubs. Players can file for the next 10 days.

Other notable players filing on the first day -- from the Phillies perspective -- included infielder Mark Loretta, starting pitcher Carlos Silva and closers Francisco Cordero and Mariano Rivera. Pitcher Curt Schilling hasn't yet filed, and will likely become a target when he does.

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Alex Rodriquez, the highest-profile player available by virtue of his opting out of his contract, won't be a Phillie. The superstar could seek a payday between $250 million to $300 million contract for eight to 10 years. The team has about $105 million to spend for its 2008 payroll, and signing Rodriguez would severely compromise their ability to address their pitching.

The Phillies held their first of two days of organizational meetings on Monday afternoon, where members of the front-office staff, scouts and coaches discussed the team's needs at each level. Likely discussed was how much they're willing to pay for Rowand and other free agents, including several of the ones they contacted on Monday. Rowand is coming off a season in which he hit .309 with a career-high 27 home runs and 89 RBIs.

It has been reported that Rowand is seeking a six-year deal worth $85 million, a price the Phillies can't afford. Though general manager Pat Gillick said there's money in the budget to retain Rowand and still address pitching, the team is likely willing to be in the three-year, $30-33 million range that Eric Byrnes received from Arizona this season.

Pitching remins the priority. Improving third base is on the list, too.

If Rowand leaves and the Phillies don't add another center fielder, the team will shift right fielder Shane Victorino to center field and could end up with a three-headed monster of Jayson Werth, Greg Dobbs and Michael Bourn in right field.

The Phillies declined a 2008 option on infielder Abraham Nunez earlier this month, though the team could bring him back at a reduced rate. Gillick closed the door on Lieber and Freddy Garcia, who has yet to file, returning to the organization. The Phillies have 10 potential free agents.

Another topic on the docket that may have been broached was what to do with Brett Myers. The stated preference has been to leave him in the bullpen, but a thin market for starting pitching and the possibility of signing Rivera or Cordero could push Myers to the rotation.

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

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