We are only four days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, so I thought it would be a good time to get caught up with the latest Phillies news.
*Ryan Howard's Contract. There has been no news on this lately, so as expected this one will be going to arbitration, with the meeting date set for February 20th. We all know the story by now: Ryan Howard asked for 10 million and the Phillies offered 7 million. If Howard gets the 10 million he wants, it would tie Alfonso Soriano's record for most money given to a player through arbitration. Soriano is a decent comparison, although at the time Soriano got 10 million, he had a few more years of playing experience. The Phillies will probably win this arbitration case, and let's hope the big slugger doesn't go into a funk because of it. He deserves his payday, but it just might not be for another couple of years. For my take on this whole situation and how it affects the Phillies, read this.
*Still Searching for another Pitcher. The Phillies will be watching Kris Benson pitch today, along with probably a dozen other teams. There was some talk that the Phillies were going to sign him before the workout today to keep other teams away, but apparently they don't want Benson that bad. Benson would be a fine addition, although no one should be counting on him to pitch every fifth day. Benson isn't much of an upgrade over Adam Eaton, really.
*Kyle Lohse. Could that other pitcher be Kyle Lohse? The Phillies still say they have not ruled out re-signing him, but it would have to be at the right price. In other words, they will only sign him to a bargain deal. If the Phillies want to be competitive this year, signing Lohse should be a top priority, because not only does it give them a starter they can depend on, but it also keeps him away from the Mets. If the Phillies allow him to sign with New York, that makes the division even more of an uphill battle.
*Joe Blanton. Just throwing this out there. The A's pitcher is believed to be on the trading block, with the Dodgers, Red Sox and Reds all believed to be interested. Might the Phillies get involved? Doubtful, but he would look good in a Phillies red. They would probably have to find Jon Leiber's old uniform, it's probably the only one big enough for Blanton.
*Minor Moves. The Phillies avoided arbitration by signing Eric Bruntlett, acquired in the Brad Lidge deal, to a one year, 600,000 dollar contract. Bruntlett is expected to be a utility infielder who will be used as a defensive replacement only. He is not strong with the bat. The Phillies also released pitcher Anderson Garcia to make room for Pedro Feliz on their 40 man roster. Garcia is not a good pitcher, as he sported a 4.98 ERA in Triple A last year. He will not be missed.
*Stay Tuned. Next week, I will be starting more regular Phillies posts. I will also be doing an in-depth season preview, breaking down the Phillies and the rest of the division position-by-position.