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Phils pursue Aramis, still want Rollins' return

Phils pursue Aramis, still want Rollins' return

Phils pursue Aramis, still want Rollins' return
DALLAS -- The Phillies are preparing for life without Jimmy Rollins.

But general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Monday they are not running from him, either. He made that point as negotiations between the Phillies and Rollins dragged and as the club pursued free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez at the Winter Meetings at the Hilton Anatole.

"I think we deserve to give the proper timing to Jimmy's situation," Amaro said in the team's hotel suite. "As I've said, the goal is to bring Jimmy back."

Sources confirmed the Phillies are pursuing Ramirez and shopping Placido Polanco, in the event they acquire Ramirez. If the Phillies reach a stalemate with Rollins -- CSNPhilly.com reported a meeting between the Phillies and Rollins' agent Dan Lozano did not go well -- they could sign Ramirez to play third base and look internally at Freddy Galvis or externally at somebody like Alex Gonzalez to play shortstop.

"If Jimmy's not back, we have to figure out what to do around that," Amaro said. "We're certainly hopeful that's not going to be the case."

Amaro has said the "shortstop situation" is his top remaining priority this offseason, but Rollins is seeking a five-year contract, while the Phillies want him on a three-year deal. As talks between the parties have stalled, Amaro does not want to be caught flatfooted. That could happen if the uncertainty surrounding Rollins lingers a couple more weeks and suitable alternatives to replace him continue to fall off the board.

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"It was a meeting. Went fine," Amaro said of his meeting with Lozano. "We gained some knowledge. I think we'll be patient to a point. We're not in any rush."

Amaro would not say if he is optimistic or pessimistic about Rollins' return, but it is a challenging situation. Rollins is the face of the organization. He helped it win the World Series, and five consecutive National League East championships. He lives in South Jersey. His wife's family is from the area. He does charity work in Delaware Valley. He clearly is the best remaining shortstop on the market since Jose Reyes agreed to terms with the Miami Marlins. Even Amaro acknowledged it would be difficult to picture the 2012 team without him.

But Rollins also turned 33 in November and his offensive production has dipped since he won the National League MVP on 2007. He also has battled leg injuries, which is problematic for a player whose game is built on speed.

If the Phillies give Rollins what he wants, they could be paying for it down the road. If they don't and they lose him they would take a hit at shortstop, when the Phillies seem to need a sure-handed defender playing behind Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

Rollins just finished a five-year, $40 million contract. One source said Rollins believes the Phillies got the better end of that deal, which could be an issue.

"At the time it ended up being a fair deal," Amaro said. "I talked to Jimmy about that in the past. I talked to Danny about it. It was the right deal at the right time. He ended up being the MVP, but his production waned after that. I don't know how you assess it. I think it was a good contract. It was one of those longer-term contracts that worked out for both parties. That doesn't always happen."

But the question is where else does Rollins fit?

The most logical destinations for Rollins other than Philadelphia are St. Louis and Milwaukee. There are reports the Cardinals are not seriously interested in Rollins, although that could change if Albert Pujols signs elsewhere. But the Cardinals do not have a history of paying above market price for players from other teams.

The Brewers also need a shortstop. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke praised Rollins on Monday -- what team that needs a shortstop wouldn't? -- but there are indications that while the Brewers' decision makers would love Rollins, they would love him at their price. The San Francisco Giants make plenty of sense, but they don't appear to have the cash to make a deal. The New York Mets are not looking to replace Jose Reyes with an expensive veteran, either.

Ramirez hit .306 with 26 home runs, 93 RBIs and an .871 on-base-plus-slugging percentage last season with the Chicago Cubs. He also has a career .342 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage. He would fit nicely in the middle of the Phillies' lineup.

It is too early to say which way this will break. While things have slowed with Rollins, it is important to remember the deals for Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in recent offseasons each died on several occasions before the parties struck an agreement. The same could happen with Rollins. They might seem far apart Monday, but things could close quickly with one productive phone call.

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

{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }