PHILADELPHIA -- Entering the most important offseason of his tenure as the Philadelphia Phillies' general manager, Ruben Amaro Jr. knows he might have to be creative in his retooling of the roster for 2013.
After the Phillies were dethroned as National League East champions by the resurgent Washington Nationals, Amaro and the rest of the Phillies' front office face the tough task of filling holes in multiple key positions, whether it be by free agency or via trade.
"I think that we have to keep our minds open and try to figure out ways that we can be better, whether it's by working a little differently, by getting a different message from our staff, by acquiring someone either by trade or by way of free agency," Amaro said in an end-of-the-season press conference with manager Charlie Manuel on Thursday afternoon. "We'll try to do everything we can and try to leave not too many stones unturned to do that."
Here's a look at what Amaro had to say about the upcoming offseason on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.
Amaro said the Phillies have yet to sit down and assess the outfield situation as a whole but noted that, at the moment, there are no definitive starters penciled in at any of three outfield positions.
"I think we have pieces to be able to put together at least some foundation of that," he said. "But we have some work to do in the outfield. I think center field is something that we have to address. And it will be one of our priorities and we'll see where we can go from there."
Amaro deemed the free agent market for outfielders as "OK," but also said, "I think there are people there that can help us."
"I think there may be some people on the trade market that may be better for us," he said. "The free agent market offensively overall is not fantastic, but that doesn't mean that we can't get better. We are going to have to try and be creative to improve our club. That's what I've been asked to do and that's what we'll try to do."
The Phillies got a long look at Domonic Brown after trading Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino just before the July 31 trade deadline. In 56 games, Brown, who played both corner outfield positions, hit .235 with five home runs and 26 RBIs.
The jury is still out on the 25-year-old, though.
"We don't know what Domonic Brown is yet," Amaro said. "I think Domonic made some strides in some areas for us, but he's not a finished product, either."
Arguably the most intriguing name for the 2013 outfield is Darin Ruf, the Minor League home run king who impressed in his brief audition in the big leagues. Following his September promotion from Double-A Reading, the 26-year-old hit .333 with three home runs and 10 RBIs over 12 games, tallying at least one hit in eight of his nine starts.
A first baseman by trade, Ruf's defense in left field is still a question mark. He is set to hone his fielding skills in winter ball in Venezuela. However, his offensive productivity cannot be denied.
John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix and Nate Schierholtz are other outfielders under contract for next season, but like with Brown and Ruf, their roles remain to be seen.
"We have some work to do in the outfield, and we have some work to do on our offense and preferably from the right side," Amaro said. "Hopefully we can put together the players and/or the ideas that our scouts will come up with to formulate a much better outfield."
The pitching staff:
The Phillies seem to feel pretty good about their pitching.
The starting rotation appears to be set, with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley returning in 2013. They also have depth with Tyler Cloyd and prospects Adam Morgan, Ethan Martin and Jonathan Pettibone among the pitchers Amaro noted.
Philadelphia's bullpen was a big point of contention this season, as its first-half falters were a big part of the Phillies' struggles. But the young and inexperienced group of relievers improved as the season wore on, setting up a good foundation for Amaro to work with entering the offseason.
"I think this is as good a position as we've ever been in with regard to young bullpen guys and young starters," Amaro said. "I feel pretty comfortable. You can never have enough pitching, because I can say that today and five of them could drop off tomorrow. But the fact of the matter is, I don't think we've ever been in this position where we've had this many quality arms as close to the Major Leagues, and hopefully we can capitalize on that."
Monitoring Chase Utley:
Chase Utley has already altered some of how he will handle his chronic knee condition in the offseason and the Phillies have a plan in place to further monitor him in preparation for Spring Training. Several times throughout the winter, Amaro said, the club will have someone visit Utley, who has missed the beginning of each of the last two seasons.
After he returned on June 27 this year, Utley hit .256 with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs in 83 games.
"We feel that based on how he played at the end of the year this year, and how he felt at the end of the year this year, we think that he has a reasonable chance of playing hopefully every day next year at second base," Amaro said. "We can't necessarily go into the season thinking that's going to be an absolute, obviously. That would be foolish. But at the same time, we have some pretty reasonable expectations that he can."