Teams looking for Winter Meetings rebound

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- All Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel wants for Christmas is a slugger.

"We need someone who can hit the ball out of the park," he said.

He's still waiting even after Thursday's trade with the Minnesota Twins, while everyone else was leaving the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort at the conclusion of baseball's Winter Meetings.

The Phillies landed outfielder Ben Revere for right-hander Vance Worley and Trevor May, Philadelphia's top pitching prospect. However, the 24-year-old Revere is a speedy center fielder who has yet to hit a major-league home run in 254 games and 1,064 plate appearances over three seasons.

That isn't exactly the type of player Manuel is looking for general manager Ruben Amaro to acquire as the Phillies try to rebound from an 81-81 season in which their five-year reign of the National League East champions ended.

The Phillies, who had the game's third-highest payroll last season at $171 million, are one of five big-money team that came to Nashville looking to improve their clubs and reverse their 2012 fortunes.

The Yankees spent a major-league-high $195 million last season and won the American League East title, but were swept by the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series.

Fourth in payroll at $140 million, the Los Angeles Angels finished third in the AL West and out of the postseason for a third straight year despite signing first baseman Albert Pujols and left-hander C.J. Wilson as free agents last December.

A $121-million payroll that was the sixth-highest got the Texas Rangers into the AL Wild Card game, but they lost at home to the Baltimore Orioles. That followed an ugly collapse in which the two-time defending pennant winners blew a five-game in the final nine games of the season, which allowed the Oakland Athletics -- with a $61-million payroll -- to steal the AL West title.

The Boston Red Sox showed that $110 million may not get a team very far. Despite ranking 10th in payroll, the Red Sox went 69-93 and were last in the AL East, the first time the franchise had finished in the basement in 20 years. The poor showing cost Bobby Valentine his job after just one season.

None of the five aforementioned teams have made a splash move this winter. In fact, it is the Red Sox who have been the most proactive in trying to restock its roster following the trade last August that sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, left fielder Carl Crawford and right-hander Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers and sliced $260 million in players' salaries.

The Red Sox signed free agents Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino to identical three-year, $39-million contracts, despite both having down 2012 seasons. Napoli batted .227 with 24 homers in 108 games with Texas this year while Victorino hit a combined .255 with 11 homers and 39 stolen bases in 154 games with the Phillies and Dodgers.

The Red Sox are also asking both players to move out of their comfort zones defensively, with Napoli going to first base from catcher and Victorino shifting to right field from center.

The Red Sox have also signed reliever Koji Uehara, catcher David Ross and outfielder Jonny Gomes. All are expected to help with creating a better clubhouse atmosphere, too.

"Given the number of needs that we have, we've done a good job of addressing our roster," said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was obtained in a trade from Toronto in October after spending the previous two seasons as the Toronto Blue Jays' manager. "Not only with just the ability to create more offense, but a definite intent to bring in guys that are proven team guys, guys of high character.

"That's something that (general manager) Ben (Cherrington) and I have talked extensively about, and I think we're making the progress that we've hoped, at least in the early going, with adding those types of players."

The Red Sox's archrival hasn't made much progress to improve its roster. In fact, the Yankees opened the meetings by announcing that third baseman Alex Rodriguez will undergo arthroscopic hip surgery next month, and could be out until the All-Star break.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has been told by ownership to hold the line on the payroll this winter. New York has watched its money so closely, that it watched free-agent catcher Russell Martin jump to the famously frugal Pittsburgh Pirates on a two-year, $17-million deal.

The Yankees retained left-hander Andy Pettitte, right-hander Hiroki Kuroda and all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera on one-year contacts but won't re-sign right fielder Nick Swisher.

If the season started today, the Yankees' starting lineup could include a third basemen who hasn't played above Class AA in David Adams and a pair of journeymen in catcher Chris Stewart and right fielder Chris Dickerson.

"(Cashman) isn't on a lot of players that he liked," agent Scott Boras said. "He'd like to be in on more, but right now he is working with ownership to see where he can go. The model to be a Goliath is totally different than the approach they're taking. They're reducing their payroll despite record revenues in the $800 million-$900 million area."

Despite acquiring Revere, the Phillies' winter work is far from done. They want a third baseman and a corner outfielder to bolster the offense. They reportedly have a trade in place to land Rangers infielder Michael Young, but Young can veto any trade because he's a 10-and-five player -- having at least 10 years of major-league service time, including five with the same team.

There had been talk that the Phillies would trade left-hander Cliff Lee to get a bat. However, Amaro says he's committed to building his team around Lee, fellow starting pitchers Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels and closer Jonathan Papelbon.

While Manuel appreciates having a lot of quality pitching at his disposal, he wants more offense.

"We can't play guys who drive in 40-45 playing on the corners again this season," he said. "We need more bats, more power. That's kind of the way I look at it."

The Rangers have been more aggressive than the Angels in their attempt to unseat the A's as the AL West champs.

While the Rangers haven't made any major moves, they appear to be bidding against the Dodgers for free agent right-hander Zack Greinke. The price tag may surpass the $161 million CC Sabathia got from the Yankees as a free agent after the 2008 season, which is the largest contract ever given to a pitcher.

The Rangers are also trying to pry right fielder Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and general manager Jon Daniels has reportedly tried to get as many as eight teams into various three-way and four-way proposals in an effort to secure a deal.

"To be successful, it costs, and it's nice to know that our needs can be met," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Re-signing Greinke was the Angels' top offseason priority, but it appears his asking price is beyond what they want to pay.

Still, they've made moves to strength the pitching staff, trading with the Atlanta Braves for starter Tommy Hanson and signing free agent Joe Blanton for the rotation, while adding righty Ryan Madson and lefty Sean Burnett to the bullpen via free agency.

"I think we're going to have a very good team, but it's never good to make any predictions, especially in December," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Remember everyone in baseball had us making the World Series at this time last year after we signed Albert and C.J., and we didn't even make the playoffs. There is still a lot of time left in the offseason then a full season ahead of us."
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