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Thursday, November 8, 2007
Phillies need to focus on upgrading staff

By Bob Klapisch
Special to ESPN.com

You could divide the Phillies' 2007 season into three parts. April's self-mutilation, the thrilling September, catching and passing the Mets, and October's anti-climax, getting swept by the Rockies. In all, it was a productive year for the Phillies, who made it to the postseason for the first time since 1993. But it sure didn't last long.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Phillies GM: Pat Gillick
Manager: Charlie Manuel
'07 record: 89-73, 1st NL East
'07 payroll: $89.4M, 14th MLB
Runs scored: 892, 1st NL
Runs allowed: 821, 12th NL
OPS: .812, 1st NL
ERA: 4.73, 13th NL
Fielding percentage: .986, 2nd NL
The Phillies' domination of the Mets (8-0 down the stretch) will be a rallying cry for '08. The myth of the Mets' supremacy has been punctured, at least at Citizens Bank Park. But there's still work to do.

Primary needs

Starting pitching: The Phillies are looking for someone to anchor the rotation along with Cole Hamels, although the front office concedes finding that starter won't be easy. "I don't know where [that starter] is at, but we'll look for him," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Center field: Assuming Aaron Rowand leaves as a free agent, the Phillies will be shopping for a center fielder. One possibility is moving Shane Victorino from right field and using the $10 million a year Rowand will likely command in his next contract on pitching.

Closer: This would be a possibility if the hunt for a front-line starter fails and closer Brett Myers is moved back into the rotation. The Phillies would prefer not to take this route, but with Mariano Rivera potentially available, who knows?

Free agents

RHP Antonio Alfonseca, C Rod Barajas, RHP Freddy Garcia, 2B Tadahito Iguchi, RHP Jon Lieber, RHP Kyle Lohse, RHP Jose Mesa, 3B Abraham Nunez, LHP J.C. Romero, CF Aaron Rowand, RHP Julio Santana

The Phillies need more offense out of third base (they had the NL's lowest slugging percentage at that position) and could take a run at Mike Lowell or Hank Blalock, or perhaps Miguel Tejada, if he's ready to end his days at shortstop. Garrett Atkins would have strong appeal, as well, although it's hard to imagine the Rockies wanting to move him.

Pat Burrell

Burrell

Trade bait

Pat Burrell: He's making $14 million a year, and has full no-trade powers. But the Phillies wouldn't mind moving him (and his 1-in-4 strikeout to at-bat ratio) to a team looking for home run production, especially if it means securing a starting pitcher.

Farm aid

RHP Carlos Carrasco: He'll start the year at Triple-A, but the meteoric rise of rookie Kyle Kendrick blazed a trail for other Phillies prospects. Carrasco was the named the organization's top prospect in 2006 by Baseball America.

Outlook

It'll be a busy winter, although the Phillies will likely stay close to their 2007 payroll of $103 million. With Rowand's departure all but certain, it's likely the club will make a strong effort to re-sign J.C. Romero, another free agent-in-waiting.

Bob Klapisch is a sports columnist for The Record (N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.