Free agency starts slowly for Phillies

Major League teams can now officially talk dollars and length of contract with free agents from other clubs. The exclusive negotiating period for teams to deal with their own free agents ended at midnight Saturday night. For the Phillies, they are approaching free agency on somewhat of a slow pace this off-season and are continuing to talk with Jayson Werth and his agent, Scott Boras, about keeping Werth in Philadelphia.

Keeping Werth is somewhat of a long-shot, unless the Phillies can either dump some salary from their roster or ownership decides to pony-up a few more dollars to pay for their free agent right fielder.

In what may perhaps be a sign of an expanding payroll, the Phillies announced raises to most ticket prices over the weekend, taking the top priced tickets from $60 to $65 and raising most mid-priced tickets slightly, as well. Many of the cheaper tickets, like the standing-room only, terrace deck and pavilion deck, will not see an increase in price.

In addition to Werth, there have been some rumblings that the Phillies might at least ask about pitcher Cliff Lee to gauge his interest in a potential return to the city. It’s thought that the Phillies are also interested in left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, who pitched for the Mets in 2010. A clause in his contract allowed him to become a free agent after just one major league season, and so far, the Mets have been unable to re-sign him.

In 53 games – 12 starts – Takahashi was 10-6 with a 3.61 ERA and held left-handed hitters to a .217 batting average. Takahashi, who will be 36 just after the start of the 2011 season, would take the place of J.C. Romero, whose option wasn’t picked up by the Phillies following the season.

The Phillies will be looking for left-handed relief help and possibly for a right-handed bat to platoon with top prospect Domonic Brown in right field, in the event that Werth signs elsewhere. They will also take a look around for other bullpen arms and possibly another starter, although their budget restraints could well hamper them in their pursuit to sign any big name free agents.

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