For Phils, focus at Meetings is on shortstop

For Phils, focus at Meetings is on shortstop

For Phils, focus at Meetings is on shortstop
PHILADELPHIA -- A few days after the Phillies lost Game 5 of the National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, 1-0, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. sat in front of a horde of reporters and talked about the offense.

"I think we fail ourselves if we just accept this is who we are and that we're not going to try to get better," he said in October. "I think we owe it to the fans, we owe it to the players, we owe it to each other to try to do what we can to change, because obviously it's not working. It's not working enough to get us to the next level, which is to try to get to the World Series and win it. There are some things we can do offensively that can change that."

But with the Winter Meetings beginning Monday in Dallas, Amaro's tone has changed. He still wants the offense to improve, but those changes might have to come internally.

"In retrospect, a lot of the things that I talked about were kind of a knee-jerk reaction to how we finished the season," he said Monday. "The reality of it is when I took a step back and took a look at what the bulk of what we did over the course of the year -- we were one of the best offensive clubs in baseball from July on. I was pretty pleased, overall. We produced as many runs as anybody in the game during that period of time."

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From July 1 through the end of the regular season, the Phillies averaged 4.80 runs per game to lead the NL. Their .743 OPS ranked fourth.

So what does this mean? It means once the Phils address their shortstop situation -- they would like to re-sign Jimmy Rollins -- they might be close to a finished product.

"Beyond that, I'm comfortable with the team we have," Amaro said.

That means Michael Cuddyer might not be coming to Philadelphia, if the Phillies bring Rollins back.

That means no big blockbuster before the holidays.

Of course, the Phils were singing the same tune before the 2010 Winter Meetings. They were looking at signing an outfielder and maybe a couple relievers, like Chad Durbin and Dennys Reyes, before talks picked up with Cliff Lee's agent, and the following week, they agreed to a five-year, $120 million contract.

But for the moment, Amaro said he is focused on shortstop and shortstop only.

Amaro said he is OK with the bullpen, which includes Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Contreras, Mike Stutes, Antonio Bastardo, Kyle Kendrick, David Herndon and others. Amaro said he feels the bench has been upgraded with Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome, although some flexibility remains. There is a chance Raul Ibanez could return on a one-year contract to platoon in left field with John Mayberry Jr., although that remains to be seen.

"I think we're in good shape," Amaro said of the bench. "I think we have more power there. I think we've given ourselves a little versatility with Wigginton."

So the Phillies head into the Winter Meetings thinking shortstop, shortstop, shortstop. If Rollins goes elsewhere, a player like Cuddyer could enter the picture again, but if Rollins stays, Amaro seems content.

"I have optimism about having Chase [Utley] for a full season," Amaro said. "I have optimism about having [Hunter] Pence for a full season. We're hopeful we can get -- and the progress has been good so far -- Ryan Howard for hopefully at least five months over the course of the season. Hopefully he'll be starting his season in late April or early May. We think [Placido Polanco] is going to be healthy. We think Mayberry is kind of on the cusp of continuing his progress of being a solid offensive performer.

"We have to look and be optimistic about some of the things that happened over the course of the year. Frankly, I'm comfortable going in with the club that we have right now, provided we can address the shortstop position."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.