Phillies may look to Carlos Lee with Soriano off board
On a day Ryan Howard was named the National League's Most Valuable Player, general manager Pat Gillick said the team still hopes to find someone to protect their cleanup hitter in the lineup.
Howard batted .313 with 58 homers and 149 RBI in his second season in the majors. The All-Star first baseman walked 108 times, including 33 intentional passes. Many teams pitched around him down the stretch while the Phillies were fighting for a playoff spot.
Soriano, who batted .277 with 46 homers, 95 RBI and 41 steals this year in his first season with the Washington Nationals, would've been an ideal fit to bat behind Howard and force pitchers to go after him.
But the five-time All-Star agreed to a $136 million, eight-year contract with the Chicago Cubs on Monday, leaving the Phillies to pursue other options.
"We have a backup plan," Gillick said.
A host of teams have shown interest in Lee. ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that the Orioles have made serious overtures for the slugger.
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That could be Lee, a right-handed hitter who batted .300 with 37 homers, 116 RBI and 19 steals with Texas and Milwaukee this year.
"He's a nice looking player, someone who would definitely draw some interest," Gillick said, adding he has spoken to Lee's representatives.
Lee earned $8.5 million last season. Soriano's deal, which averages $17 million per year, probably drove up his asking price. Many other teams are also interested.
The 30-year-old outfielder has averaged 33 homers and 111 RBI over the last four seasons. He's also been durable, having played at least 150 games in six of his eight seasons in the majors.
Lee is listed at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds and there have been questions about him being out of shape, but Gillick said his size isn't a concern.
"Lee is a heck of an athlete," Gillick said.
Other priorities for the Phillies this offseason include adding another starting pitcher, a young backup catcher and bullpen help.
Gillick said the catcher probably would come through a trade, while it's still possible the team will re-sign left-hander Randy Wolf to fill the fifth spot in the rotation.
Left fielder Pat Burrell, who batted .258 with 29 homers and 95 RBI, still might figure into the team's plans. Burrell is due to make $27 million over the next two years and was a main target for criticism this season because he batted just .222 with runners in scoring position. However, trading him is difficult because he has a full no-trade clause and wants to stay in Philadelphia.
"He's determined to bring himself back," Gillick said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press