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December 08, 2016

Phils depart Meetings with reliever, 'ripple effect' could lead to more activity

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Joe Esposito’s heroic lyrics from the fighting montage scene at the end of The Karate Kid played over the speakers as a who’s who of baseball decision makers filed out of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center not long after 9:30 a.m. on Thursday morning.

With that, the Winter Meetings came to an end.

The Phillies (and a half dozen others, including both New York teams) were ineligible to participate in the last scheduled event of the Meetings, the Rule 5 Draft. They were at 40 players on their 40-man roster.

The Phils lost left-handed relief prospect Hoby Milner to the Cleveland Indians in the Rule 5 draft.

But after some painstaking decisions last month that led to adding a whopping 11 prospects to said 40-man roster, to protect them from the Rule 5, the Phillies also came away a winner, too: promising hitting prospect Andrew Pullin, unprotected after hitting .322 with 14 HR, .885 OPS between Double-A and Class A last season, did not get drafted on Thursday morning.

“He’s ours,” a proud member of the Phils baseball operations staff said in between the major and minor league phases of the Rule 5 Draft.

The Phillies selected one player in the minor league portion, 25-year-old shortstop Jorge Flores from Toronto’s system, and lost another, 25-year-old right-handed pitcher Jairo Munoz. It was fairly uneventful, other than the aforementioned selection of “You’re The Best” as folks filed out of the ballroom.

At a Winter Meetings that saw a run on closers – Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco, Wade Davis was traded to the Cubs, Aroldis Chapman was awarded the richest contract for a reliever in baseball history with the Yankees late Wednesday night – the Phillies are fairly quiet, although they did add their own late-inning reliever. Joaquin Benoit, whose 0.98 WHIP ranks third among all major league relievers in that span, trailing only Kenley Jansen (0.89) and Craig Kimbrel (0.95), could compete this spring to fill the Phillies' current closer vacancy.

The Phillies did not do much, but they did more than a lot of others, including the Pirates, Mets and Orioles. Not that any team should be judged on what they did or didn’t do in 3 1/2 days of a five-month offseason.

The activity at the Winter Meetings could have a domino effect on the rest of the industry, though, and soon.

Washington, Miami, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, all in the hunt for closers this winter, were left without one, but Jansen remains unsigned. David Robertson could be the latest headed out of the South Side as a part of the Chicago White Sox fire sale. But the closer musical chairs are dwindling.

The Nationals, who also lost out in the Chris Sale sweepstakes, did not come out of the Meetings empty-handed. They traded for underrated outfielder Adam Eaton (no, not that Adam Eaton).

Just as the Chapman signing took one more premium closer off the board, it’ll be interesting to see how the Eaton deal affects the Andrew McCutchen trade front. Less than a week ago, it was widely reported that he was close to being dealt to the Nationals. But now the Nationals have their outfield set.

The Phillies could be benefactors of the flurry of movement at the Meetings. They still have trade chips to put on the table (Hector Neris, Cesar Hernandez, and Vince Velasquez are all names that have been churned through the rumor mill in recent months) and they could take the next step in their rebuild by making another Ken Giles-like swap.

“There’s always going to be a ripple effect,” general manager Matt Klentak said late Wednesday afternoon. “And sometimes, whether you’re an agent or a team looking to make a trade, sometimes you come to the Winter Meetings looking to gather information to help you make decisions down the road. It also happens that sometimes there’s a lot of activities that get finalized here.

“I think it’s reasonable from an industry perspective, and not necessarily a Phillies perspective, that in the following days and in the week after we leave here, that there will be some more activity throughout the industry. Right now there’s not a lot cooking (on our end).”

The Giles rumors were “cooking” a year ago when the Phillies departed from Nashville. The deal officially was announced two days after the Meetings.

“We have had a lot of dialogue on a lot of different fronts here,” Klentak said. “Again, nothing is hot. But it only takes one phone call and then all of a sudden something can heat back up. We’ll see.

“As we’ve talked about, we still have some areas where we can add to our roster. And we’re open to do it. I don’t think we’re going to get to spring training with his 40-man group as our 40-man group. I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater. Who and when remains to be seen.”

There are still 67 days before Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fla.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21