According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the bullpen-stocked Pirates could move 31-year-old Damaso Marte, who's owed $2.45 million.
If the winter hot stove was a game of Battleship, the Phillies will now shift their attack to three-peg cruisers and two-peg patrol boats, while teams like Boston and New York fire on five-peg aircraft carriers like Barry Zito and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
The Phillies are at DEFCON 4 – only slightly higher than peacetime military readiness. They will submerge, gather intelligence and hunt for a fleet of relievers, using floatation device Jon Lieber as bait. Then, they'll seek someone to replace David Dellucci, perhaps take a chance on a free agent reliever, sign a bench catcher and call it a successful campaign. They’ll listen to pings for Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell, but won’t open their ballistic missile hatches just yet.
For teams still tracking a starter, a Lieber deal could hinge on Jeff Suppan’s situation; it’s been suggested that Pittsburgh, St. Louis and the Cubs are looking at the free agent right-hander. Houston could also become a possibility after allowing Andy Pettitte to slip back to New York. The Cardinals have reportedly offered Suppan a three-year deal for less that $8 million. Expect that number to rise following’s last week’s signings of Vicente Padilla, Ted Lilly and Gil Meche, pitchers considered to be in Suppan’s general range.
In terms of what he’d command on the open market, Lieber would probably fall under Suppan, based on what a team could expect in 2007. Pittsburgh has a nice selection of relief pitching, and are said to be dangling late-inning pitcher Damaso Marte. The Brewers and Rangers also are interested in Lieber, who’s due $7.5 million next season. Texas is believed to be dangling some combination of Scott Feldman, Ron Mahay and Joaquin Benoit. The Phillies and Brewers had a deal in place for Kevin Mench and Derrick Turnbow, which fell through after the Freddy Garcia deal.
For teams seeking starting pitching, Miguel Batista, Jeff Weaver, John Thomson, Mark Redman and David Wells are some of the top names who've yet to sign.
As for that outfielder from the left side, Ryan Church of Washington has been targeted, but the Nationals reportedly want too much, as in, Ryan Madson. The Phillies have rightfully declined; they’re in no position to deal relief pitching. They’ve talked with Aubrey Huff’s peeps, but Huff would probably prefer a starting role somewhere. Free agent Steve Finley was mentioned in one of the weekend articles, but Finley has always signed on the West Coast.
As for backup catcher, the job could go to any number of candidates, ranging from former Mariner Ben Davis to a young throw-in as part of a Lieber trade. Just about every article, including the latest Jim Salisbury organization report in Baseball America, names Carlos Ruiz as the starting catcher.
There’s still room for creativity. If Lieber is moved, they could look at Darren Oliver as a long-man possibilty, straight reliever or spot starter. J.C. Romero and Dustin Hermanson are still on the reliever board. Picthers like Tony Armas Jr., Tomo Ohka or Aaron Sele might work as relievers, insurance policies and deadline trade chips.