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Phillies GM Amaro preaches smart shopping

The SportsXchange

ORLANDO -- Since taking over the job from Pat Gillick five years ago, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has fancied himself as a proactive and aggressive executive who enjoyed making headlines in acquiring big names for the Philadelphia Phillies.

In his first 14 months on the job, Amaro brought in the likes of Roy Halladay, Pedro Martinez, Cliff Lee and Raul Ibanez. He would also add Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence in the next two years.

As the Phillies attempt to bounce back from two years outside the playoffs by contending again in 2014, Amaro appears to be taking a different route assembling the 2014 roster.

In addition to re-signing catcher Carlos Ruiz, Amaro has signed a pair of lower-level free agents, outfielder Marlon Byrd and righthander Roberto Hernandez, to round out the starting lineup and five-man rotation. And he traded for Brad Lincoln in an effort to add a veteran arm to the bullpen.

Although Amaro didn't rule out more moves in the near future, he also didn't sound like a GM keen on adding any big names and big salaries to bolster either the lineup or the pitching staff. The Phillies have not been linked to the likes of Shin Soo Choo or Ubaldo Jimenez this offseason.

"Some of the big names, for us, are probably more names than they are talent," Amaro said of the free agent market in general. "I would imagine with the prices that are out there, and what they're seeking, I don't think it matches up with the level of talent -- that's my take on it. Someone's going to pay, I'm sure. Someone is going to get the players. We're just not targeting those because we don't think it's the right bang for the buck."

For the most part, the Phillies have already spent big dollars and big-ticket items.

They signed the biggest fish on the free agent market three years ago (Cliff Lee, five years, $120 million), gave Jonathan Papelbon the richest contract for a reliever in baseball history two years ago (four years, $50 million) and kept Cole Hamels off the free agent market last year with a late-season extension that is the richest contract in franchise history (six years, $144 million). The trio of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins also account for a combined $51 million of the 2014 payroll.

Although the Phillies still have some flexibility (they were around $30 million under the $189 million luxury tax threshold after signing Hernandez), they don't sound like a team eager to add any more hefty contracts prior to Opening Day.

"I like going for the home run a lot," Amaro said. "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?"

NOTES: RHP Roberto Hernandez came to terms on a one-year contract to join the Phillies rotation, according to multiple reports, first from CSNPhilly.com on Dec. 12. The 33-year-old Hernandez, who previously pitched under the name Fausto Carmona during his career, was 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 32 games (24 starts) with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013. Hernandez ranked seven in baseball last season with a 1.24 groundball-to-flyball ratio. He joins a rotation with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and Cuban rookie Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, with second-year right-hander Jonathan Pettibone in the mix, too.

--LF Domonic Brown has been the subject of trade rumors for most of his professional career, beginning when the Toronto Blue Jays sought him in a package for Roy Halladay back in 2009. The Phillies were able to acquire Halladay without giving up Brown back then, but that hasn't stopped the All-Star outfielder's name from popping up in new rumors.

Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said his goal is to add players like Brown - young, productive and under club control - and not subtract them. But such players also need to filter out the white noise. "You have to have thick skin, unfortunately," Amaro said. "Everyone has been there. If you're a good, young player, it's going to happen. With Bobby Abreu it happened. We sat him down and said, 'We're not trading you.'"

--1B Ryan Howard has reportedly slimmed down considerably since the regular season ended. Howard has been busy working out in Florida in preparation for what he hopes is his first healthy, full season in three years. Howard has undergone knee and Achilles' surgeries in the last two years, and the rehab that followed limited the cardio work he was able to do in the winter.

"He's lost some weight, but he seems more fit," Amaro said. "A lot of people talk about his weight, he was pretty heavy when he hit 58 home runs. He was no small human. It's really about him being healthy, his body."

--RHP Kevin Munson was selected by the Phillies from the Arizona Diamondbacks with the fourth pick in the Rule 5 Draft. Munson is a 24-year-old reliever with "a power arm," according to Phillies scouting director Mike Ondo.

"A two-pitch guy -- big fastball and hard slider," Ondo said. "He's a guy that can create some depth in our bullpen. Get him in the mix. In the past he's been capable of giving you a two-inning outing. He's also a guy that can come in with that stuff and get a strikeout."

Munson was 2-4 with a 4.12 ERA and 14 saves in 53 games between Triple-A Reno and Double-A Mobile striking out 66 while walking 22 in 54 2/3 innings.
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