PHILADELPHIA -- Assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the Phillies still haven't reached their payroll threshold, even with the signing of free-agent third baseman Pedro Feliz to a two-year, $8.5 million deal. They still have some wiggle room, possibly for a pitcher. "We have a budget and a responsibility to that budget," Amaro said Thursday, as his team introduced Feliz to Philadelphia.
The Phillies have $88.35 million of their expected $105 million to $110 million budget committed to 18 players, included $5.5 million owed to Jim Thome. That amount will head north of $100 million when the salaries of Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Chris Coste, Carlos Ruiz, Eric Bruntlett, Greg Dobbs, Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick are added in. Wes Helms and possibly Chris Snelling might come off the books if they're traded, though those salaries may be absorbed by the two yet-to-be-determined bullpen spots. This doesn't mean the Phillies are plotting a counter move to New York's stunning acquisition of Johan Santana -- arguably the game's best pitcher -- even if one were possible. "There's no question he's going to help that club," Amaro said. "He's one of the better pitchers in the game. We can't worry about what other clubs are doing around us. We have to concentrate on our club and how we can improve it." Re-siging free-agent starting pitcher Kyle Lohse remains a slight possibility, at best, and luring fellow free agent Livan Hernandez even less so. Amaro said the Phillies will take a second look at Kris Benson, who is scheduled to throw for interested teams in Atlanta on Tuesday. The Phillies weren't impressed with Benson's first session, earlier this month in Arizona. The righty missed the 2007 season recovering from right shoulder surgery, and is willing to accept a one-year, incentive-laden deal. "He wasn't really cutting it loose [the first time]," Amaro said. "It will be interesting to see how he's coming along." Phils ink first European player: The Phillies extended their reach to Europe on Thursday, signing 17-year-old Czech infielder Jakub Sladek.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound lefty is a native of Prague and attends Gymnazium Nad Stolou."Jakub has a physical presence about him and a left-handed bat that has a chance to be an offensive threat," scouting director Marti Wolever said. "He's surprisingly athletic for his size. He has a lot of upside, and at 17 years old, he has plenty of room to develop." The Phillies also signed Todd Van Steensel, a native of Sydney, Australia. Van Steensel, also 17, is a right-handed pitcher out of The Hills Sports High School.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.