We are at that point in the offseason where it isn't hard to picture Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. leaning back in his comfy office chair, resting his chin on his folded hands and quietly murmuring to himself, "I love it when a plan comes together."
Okay, so maybe that is a little dramatic, and the offseason definitely has not gone according to at least the first three plans that the Phillies drew up, but you can certainly see some plan starting to take shape.
The Phillies addressed a pair of their biggest concerns at the winter meetings when they acquired Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins to play center field (via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com) and laid the groundwork to an eventual deal for former Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young to play third base (via Paul Hagen of MLB.com).
That left the Phillies with a few more needs to address. They found themselves still in need of a corner outfielder with power, a setup man and a back of the rotation starting pitcher. Now, they have addressed two thirds of those needs, signing pitchers Mike Adams (via Ken Rosenthal on Twitter) and John Lannan to contracts (via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly on Twitter).
Now, the Phillies can use their remaining funds to find that corner outfielder with some pop, and these are all of the hottest rumors in that pursuit.
After signing Josh Hamilton, the Los Angeles Angels suddenly have a logjam of outfielders and figure to move one of Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Vernon Wells, but have been hesitant to move the first two.
Now, if the Angels had this "problem" before the Phillies had traded for Ben Revere, I would call their interest in Bourjos "fact." His was a name that came up in rumors early in the offseason, but the Angels weren't interested in moving him then.
The Phillies could, hypothetically, still show interest in Bourjos for their outfield vacancy, though he isn't going to help at all in the power department. The Angels also want MLB-ready pitching in return, and the Phillies sent their only legitimate trade chip (Vance Worley) to the Minnesota Twins.
Wait a minute. Michael Bourn is still a free agent? Do the Phillies still have interest?
I'm not going to flat out deny the Phillies' interest in Bourn because they have liked him a lot in the past. One would assume that trading for Ben Revere takes them out of the Bourn "sweepstakes"—if you can call it that.
But is there a sliver of a chance that Bourn could still sign with the Phillies? I could see it happening. His market is nearly bone dry after the Phillies, Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds made trades for center fielders and the Atlanta Braves signed BJ Upton.
Now, most people speculate that the Texas Rangers—losers of the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes—could be Bourn's biggest suitor, but they haven't been seriously linked to the free agent yet.
Is there a scenario in which the Phillies could make Bourn an offer to play center field and move Revere over to a corner? I think so. It is so small that it is barely visible, but it could happen.
As the Phillies watch some of their corner outfield interests sign with other clubs, I took the liberty of adding a few trade targets to this list that have come up in speculation around the league, but have not been tied to the Phillies directly.
One situation to keep an eye on is the outfield logjam in Oakland, where a pair of outfielders could intrigue the Phillies—Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick.
We'll get to Reddick a bit later on, but you have to imagine that the A's would be willing to deal Cespedes if the return was right. The 27-year-old Cuban defector was impressive in his rookie season, showing good, right-handed power, flashes of solid defense and an all-around impressive skill set.
The Phillies would also be intrigued by Cespedes' contract. He is owed $29.5 million over three years, which would fit the Phils' budget nicely.
What would the A's ask for in return? That's the real question here. One has to imagine that they would have some interest in Phillies' shortstop Freddy Galvis, and he could be the center piece of a deal.
This is one of the closest names on this list and the whole "fact" or "fiction" label could really go in either direction. The Colorado Rockies have insisted that they're not trading Michael Cuddyer and instead, are trying to sell high on Dexter Fowler, but if they do, you know that the Phillies will have interest.
In fact, the Phillies pursue Cuddyer aggressively as a free agent before he signed with the Rockies. His preference to play right field was a deterrent that wouldn't exist with the current structure of this Phillies' lineup.
On paper, Cuddyer is one of the best fits for the Phillies. The 33-year-old right fielder has two years and $21 million left on his deal and would slot nicely into the middle of the Phils' order to provide some right-handed power.
But what would the Rockies want in return? Speculation earlier this offseason was that they were interested in Vance Worley, who the Phillies later traded to the Minnesota Twins. The Phillies have solid enough pitching prospects to intrigue the Rockies, so this could be one to watch.
Again, there has not been any indication just yet that Cuddyer is actually available.
Dexter Fowler is a guy that the Colorado Rockies have been shopping all offseason. I don't think it is any secret at this point that the Rockies are trying to score a king's ransom for what is likely to be an unrepeatable kind of year for the center fielder outside of the friendly confines of Coors Field.
The Phillies were tied to Fowler earlier in the offseason, before they had traded for Ben Revere, and one gets the sense that they could have had him if they were willing to pull the trigger, but may have had some concerns about his drastic home and road splits.
Some teams have been tied to Fowler as a left fielder. The Phillies won't be among them.
The Phillies have maintained some level of interest in Scott Hairston all offseason long and a lot of corner outfielders in his mold are still on the market thanks to the clog in the pipe that was Josh Hamilton. Now that the clog has been cleared, however, we should see some of these guys come off the board.
Hairston isn't going to address the Phillies' needs. He does have solid power, which the Phillies could use, but was very mediocre in all other aspects of the game last season—a year in which the New York Mets found themselves playing him as a regular.
If he is cheap enough, Hairston could appeal to the Phillies, but I believe that they'll try and fill their right field void with a player who is more suited to play everyday.
Corey Hart is another outfielder that makes plenty of sense for the Phillies as a trade target, but hasn't been made available by his club—yet. The Milwaukee Brewers are another club that could stand to trade one of their bats for some starting pitching.
Hart, in that regard, makes the most sense. He is entering the final year of his contract and could appeal to some clubs, the Phillies included, as a short term stopgap.
The Brewers intend to use Hart as their starting first baseman, but he has played right field for most of his career. Assuming he can stay healthy, he would provide some of that right-handed pop that the Phillies so desperately desire.
Josh Reddick is another player that the Oakland Athletics haven't necessarily made available, but could given the depth of their outfield.
Reddick, of course, was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in the deal that sent All-Star closer Andrew Bailey to Beantown. The A's gave him the opportunity to start in right field and he really ran away with it, even though his numbers aren't impressive across the board.
The biggest draw for the Phillies would be the power. He tapped into the reservoir last season and hit 32 home runs for the A's—and the O.co Coliseum is one of the more difficult places to hit home runs in the MLB.
In any trade, the A's would likely ask for a ton and I'm not sure that the Phillies have the goods to swing a deal. Reddick isn't eligible for arbitration until the next winter.
When the smoke clears and the dust from the offseason exchange has settled, Cody Ross may very well be the guy the Phillies end up with. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently reported that the Phillies were "intensifying [their] pursuit" of the outfielder.
Is Ross the greatest fit for the Phillies? No. He struggled against right-handed pitching last season (though he did hit 10 home runs against them) and doesn't exactly have an arm catered to playing right field.
With that being said, he is a solid defender that has hit left-handed pitching well over the course of his career. He has also had some success in Citizens Bank Park and now that the Phillies are operating on limited funds, could be one of their more affordable options.
With options quickly coming off the board, one gets the sense that the Phillies may have to resort to being creative to fill their void in the outfield, and Alfonso Soriano is certainly a creative fix.
With that having been said, I personally get the sense that the Phillies are using conversations with the Chicago Cubs more as leverage against some of their free agent interests than anything right now. That's why you will hear rumors of a suggested deal too good for the Cubs to pass up.
But what if all of those options sign elsewhere? What if the Phillies are stuck in a scenario that does not involve Nick Swisher, Cody Ross or even a guy like Scott Hairston? If the Cubs are willing to absorb most of Soriano's salary, I believe the Phillies would have more serious discussions about him.
This is a "last resort" type of deal.
I'm not ready to call this one "fiction" just yet, but it sure seems as though we are moving in that direction with each passing day. Given the current state of the market, the Phillies and Nick Swisher almost make too much sense for each other.
Swisher, who would have preferred to play in New York or California, has watched those markets dry up. The Cleveland Indians have been one of his most aggressive pursuers, but they aren't particularly close to contention.
The Phillies make a ton of sense for Swisher, but Ruben Amaro Jr. has been reluctant to sacrifice his club's 16th overall selection in next summer's draft. You have to wonder that if Swisher's price falls far enough, the Phils could overlook losing that pick.
Mark Trumbo makes a ton of sense for the Phillies. The real problem here is that the Phillies do not make a ton of sense as a trading partner for the Los Angeles Angels.
The Josh Hamilton signing has made a few outfielders on the Angels' roster, including Trumbo, expendable, but the Halos are looking for MLB-ready starting pitching in return for one of those available outfielders, and they have been reluctant to move Trumbo or Peter Bourjos.
The Phillies' two best trade chips right now, as far as MLB-ready starting pitchers are concerned, are Tyler Cloyd and Jon Pettibone—neither of whom will land Trumbo.
Now, if a deal could be built around one of the Phillies' catching prospects (Sebastian Valle or Tommy Joseph), we could revisit this.
Given the current state of the Phillies' search for a corner outfielder, you have to assume that they'll have interest in a player who's current team is practically ready to pay him just to go away—even if that player is the much maligned Vernon Wells.
The last two seasons have been horrendously bad for Wells, but you have to wonder if consistent at-bats will help him find some kind of groove at the plate.
I'm not suggesting that a trade for the outfielder is a good idea, but if the Los Angeles Angels are willing to pay nearly all of his salary to clear their logjam in the outfield and the Phillies' other options dry up, it may be worth a call.
I'm calling this "fiction" for now because the Minnesota Twins have not shown much interest (if any at all) in moving him, but when you look at some of the outfielders who could potentially be made available in a trade, Josh Willingham makes a lot of sense for the Phillies.
Willingham, who signed with the Twins last offseason, is under contract for two more years at an affordable rate. He showed above average power in 2012 and was one of the Twins' biggest contributors offensively.
Would the Twins move him after the purge of their center fielders though? What's the asking price for a 34-year-old below average defensive player, but above average offensive player on a relatively team friendly contract? The Twins would surely want pitching in return.