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Phils aiming for modest upgrades at Meetings

PHILADELPHIA -- Five years ago at the Winter Meetings, the Phillies became the mystery team in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes.

Next week's Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., are expected to be less eventful unless a team is ready to pay for hard-throwing closer Ken Giles.

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The Phillies are highly unlikely to invest $100 million or more into a single free agent this offseason, because one player will not push them into World Series contention. No, the Phils have too many holes to fill and too many unknowns regarding the young talent in their system. Instead, they will use the Meetings to make more modest improvements to their roster, with an eye on competing again in another year or two.

"We really want to raise the floor and add some depth," general manager Matt Klentak said earlier this offseason. "Kind of at every turn, that's what we're going to be focused on. And in the pitching department, I think we really need to work on just -- again, I say 'raise the floor' -- but kind of establish sort of a firm foundation of pitching. That's not going to end when we break camp at the end of Spring Training. That's something we're going to be committed to for a long time."

So far, most of the gains the Phillies have made this offseason are pitching-related. Philadelphia acquired right-hander Jeremy Hellickson in a trade earlier this month with Arizona, and it claimed relievers Dan Otero, A.J. Achter and Michael Mariot off waivers, as well as outfielder Peter Bourjos. The Phils also signed reliever James Russell to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, and they cut ties with outfielder Domonic Brown and right-hander Justin De Fratus.

Expect the Phillies to continue to pursue pitching help. They need at least one more veteran starter. Hellickson, Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff seem like safe bets to make the Opening Day rotation, with Adam Morgan, David Buchanan, Alec Asher and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez competing for the other jobs.

Philadelphia could use a veteran reliever to fortify the bullpen, too.

The Phillies have talked with teams about Giles, who could land them a few prospects, but that's the key: They have to be legitimate prospects. The Phils are under no obligation to give Giles away.

The Phillies could come to a conclusion about the futures of Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, the only two remaining players from the 2008 World Series championship team. They also need to find a veteran outfielder. Free agent Jeff Francoeur remains in play, but the Phils are pursuing other options.

Not expected to be in play are Justin Upton and Jason Heyward. Think along the lines of Ryan Raburn, David Murphy, Rajai Davis and Alejandro De Aza. Chris Young would have been a good fit, but he just signed with the Red Sox.

"Honestly, I think with the present roster, if we needed to field a lineup tomorrow, we generally could do that," Klentak said at the conclusion of the General Managers Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., earlier this month. "That doesn't mean we're going to stop looking for opportunities to upgrade or add depth wherever we can. But one of the beauties, mostly on the position player side, is most of the team that was on the field that ended the year last year returns next year. So, again, that doesn't mean we're going to stop trying to find alternatives or upgrades or just build depth."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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