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No done deals, but Phils active at Winter Meetings

No done deals, but Phils active at Winter Meetings

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Other than dismissing or downplaying rumors involving Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Domonic Brown and Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has had little to say at the Winter Meetings.

He offered a small nugget Wednesday afternoon.

"We've got stuff going on," Amaro said.

Sure, Ruben.

"No, no," Amaro insisted. "We've got something for you. Maybe. Not before you leave. There's still 24 hours or so left, you never know."

The Phillies are looking for starting pitching. Top-tier free agents like Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana do not seem like a possibility at this point. They have expressed interest in Bronson Arroyo, although it appears they are not front-runners. They have inquired about A.J. Burnett and others.

They have talked to teams about making trades.

"We've laid some groundwork," Amaro said. "It doesn't mean necessarily anything is going to get done, but we've had some good discussions. We have left no stone unturned."

Amaro believes the Phils have the players available to acquire a quality pitcher in a trade.

"It's just a matter of whether or not we want to utilize them," he said, "whether we want to keep the depth for us, just in case. That's what we have to weigh."

In previous years, it would be an easier decision to make. The Phillies had winning teams on the cusp of a World Series championship. It made more sense to trade top prospects for a top pitcher or top hitter because they believed they were one piece from winning another title.

But Philadelphia lost 89 games last season, scoring the fourth-fewest runs in baseball and ranking second to last in the National League in ERA.

One player might not be enough.

It is why the Phils might try to acquire two No. 4 or 5 starters rather than one No. 3. A lack of starting-pitching depth crippled them last season. They need to be better prepared to handle injuries or ineffectiveness. Following Hamels and Lee, they have Kyle Kendrick, Miguel Gonzalez and Jonathan Pettibone.

That's it, unless they try Ethan Martin as a starter to open the season.

"[Staying put] may be best, to give us some depth on the pitching side, rather than going for a home run," Amaro said. "I like going for the home run a lot. It may be best for us to try to maintain some flexibility and add depth. There is a fine line. Should we try to hit a home run or hit a couple of doubles?"

Have they at least talked about "home run" moves?

"We've talked about them internally," he said.

That is somewhat of a surprise, considering in winters past the Phillies pursued names like Roy Halladay, Lee, Papelbon and Raul Ibanez.

"I think their team is in a position where they are trying to work on what's below, but they're trying to win now," said agent Scott Boras, who represents Brown. "When you're in that position, it's hard to say when you look in the glass of water that it's crystal clear. It's a hard process. It's a very hard process."

One of the reasons the Phils have been shopping Brown is because they believe he could get them young pitching.

Boras said he isn't surprised Brown's name is popping up in trade rumors, despite a breakout season and the fact that Philadelphia needs to get younger.

"Really, when you have breakout young players that teams have control over for a long time, I think it's pretty customary that teams are going to be interested in them," Boras said. "Again, anybody with 20-plus home run power these days, we're talking about annually, there's like 40 of them in the league. That's a little over one a team. So when you hit 27 home runs, like Domonic did, clubs are going to pay attention and try to acquire those assets."

Boras disputed the notion that the Phillies are dangling Brown, however.

"I think it's unfair to say they're dangling him," he said. "I would expect that teams are going to ask Philadelphia … because they may be offering them more veteran players to help in their direction toward winning now. That's the give and go of this. It's like eating and brushing your teeth at the same time. You want clean teeth, but then again, you want to survive. So I don't know quite how you do it."

Todd Zolecki 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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