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Phillies quash Upton rumor


Reports had Lee going to Arizona for outfielder

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The B.J. Upton-to-the-Phillies buzz had a nice, long shelf life, especially when compared to how long the Justin Upton-to-the-Phillies speculation survived Tuesday at the winter meetings before being trampled by Ruben Amaro Jr.

“I don’t comment on rumors, but that one is absolutely, unequivocally false,” Amaro said.

That winter-meetings falsehood spread rapidly through the Twittersphere. It had the Phillies discussing a deal with Arizona for the younger Upton brother in exchange for lefthander Cliff Lee. It was squashed by Amaro, but not before it had contributed to the strange vibe surrounding this Phillies offseason.

The Phillies are well aware they need outfielders in general and a center fielder in particular. The younger Upton, who is only 25, would be a great fit, but it doesn’t seem likely that the Phillies could put together enough of a package to get him unless they were willing to trade Lee and eat lots of money. They obviously are not interested in doing either.

Manager Charlie Manuel arrived here Tuesday and he has to be a little antsy about the Phillies’ outfield situation 69 days before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Clearwater, Fla., for the start of spring training. The outfielders on the 40-man roster are Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix, Zach Collier and Tyson Gillies.

All we knew for sure about the Phillies at the end of the second day of these meetings was that Lee was not headed to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Justin Upton. Dealing Lee after Roy Halladay’s injury-riddled 2012 season would be as risky as going into 2013 with Mayberry as the starting centerfielder.

Neither is going to happen.

“I think our best chance is to keep our core together and keep them healthy,” Amaro said. “I probably will not move any of the core players on this club because I think that would weaken us too much and I don’t think I’d be able to get the value that we would need if we moved any of those guys.”