PBR - Charlie Manuel spoke with reporters in Nashville on Wednesday and said if forced to choose he would prefer a strong defensive option over a slugger in center field.

That preference may explain Wednesday's increased chatter linking the Phillies to free agent center fielder Michael Bourn. The club and the 29-year-old are beyond initial talks and have begun discussing details of a potential contract, according to a source close to outfielder.

Bourn is believed to looking for a contract similar to B.J. Upton's; 5 years, $75.25 million. 

On paper, Bourn doesn't seem to be a strong fit. He's another left-handed bat and not much of a power threat. The only remaining top-tier center fielder on the free agent market is Josh Hamilton, but he is looking for a four-year deal worth somewhere near $25 million a season; a contract far too rich for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr's liking.

If discussions with Bourn deteriorate the club may look for another center field option via trade. As reported by the Review earlier this week, Dexter Fowler of the Rockies and Curtis Granderson of the Yankees are potential targets. Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox is another name that's surfaced as a possible fit. 

Amaro said prior to the Winter Meetings that he wasn't going to be pressured into forcing a deal that didn't make sense contractually and financially - so far, he's held true to that statement.

If nothing else Amaro has exercised patience, allowing the Red Sox to overpay for Shane Victorino and the Giants to overpay for Angel Pagan.

True, the holes in center field, third base, and the bullpen still exist, but no one has ever accused Amaro of not being creative.

- Patrick Gordon is the editor of the Philadelphia Baseball Review. Contact him at pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com or @Philabaseball on Twitter.

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