The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Todd Zolecki writes there’s been conversation between the Dodgers and Phillies regarding a potential trade of OF Bobby Abreu for either Derek Lowe or Brad Penny.

There are hurdles to clear before the trade with the Dodgers could happen.

First, Lowe and Penny are at the beginning of lucrative multiyear contracts, and the salaries might be too high for the Phillies to afford. Second, Gillick indicated it was unlikely Abreu would be traded, because the Phils couldn’t get enough in return. And third, any trade would be subject to Abreu’s approval.

The Phillies have three outfielders available: Abreu, Pat Burrell and Jason Michaels. One agent said the Phils had been “trying like crazy” to trade Bell, and another source said the Phillies might be willing to take on some of the $4.5 million Bell will make next season to make that happen.

The Phils also have lefthanded arms in the bullpen in Rheal Cormier, Aaron Fultz and Eude Brito. Cormier, however, has the right to refuse any trade because he is a 10-year veteran who has been with the Phillies for five seasons.

The Dodgers would trade lefthander Odalis Perez, but the Phillies might not be interested.

Gillick said he was not willing to take a substantial hit in his lineup to acquire a pitcher.

“I wouldn’t think that we’d take that hit right now,” Gillick said of the effect Abreu’s departure would have. “If you look at the numbers that Abreu puts up, if you do a deal involving him, you really have got to get a lot back. And there are clubs that just don’t have much to give back.”

The Phillies would prefer to move Burrell, but there isn’t much of a market for him. Michaels also remains in play. Abreu and Burrell have no-trade clauses.

The Kansas City Star’s Jeff Passan reports the Mets’ proposed trade of Kris Benson to the Royals is not only far from complete, but is unlikely to include both of the K.C. pitchers previously mentioned.

Unless they were blown away by a proposed trade, the Royals did not plan on packaging Mike MacDougal and Jeremy Affeldt (above) together in a deal, a Royals source said.

MacDougal, the Royals™ closer last season, and Affeldt, a left-handed setup man who could also start, have been the Royals™ two biggest trading chips during the trade-talk-heavy winter meetings. With relief pitching at a premium on the free-agent market ” and second-year pitchers Ambiorix Burgos and Andrew Sisco large parts of the Royals™ future plans ” trade talks with the Royals centered on MacDougal and Affeldt.

Both pitchers were commodities Tuesday. The Royals have discussed a deal including one of the relievers for Toronto second baseman Orlando Hudson. Another proposed deal included a twist: One of the relievers and shortstop Angel Berroa going to Atlanta for one of the Braves™ young corner outfielders ” either Kelly Johnson or Ryan Langerhans ” and another top prospect.

The Royals™ pursuit of Benson stemmed from the pitching market growing beyond their means in some cases. Pitchers such as Kevin Millwood, Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver and Matt Morris are seeking four-year contracts. Even 41-year-old Kenny Rogers is looking for a three-year deal.

The Fort Wort Star-Telegram’s T.R. Sullivan writes the Rangers have talked with the Mets regarding Benson, but appear poised to offer Brett Tomko a contract — a far more economical strategy than pursuing the likes of Matt Morris or A.J. Burnett (and one likely to reap equally modest dividends in the pitching hell that is Arlington, TX).

The New York Daily News’ Adam Rubin delivers the following analogy from Mets GM Omar Minaya.

While Mets fans still might dream about Manny Ramirez, Barry Zito and Javier Vazquez, they could sooner see Jose Valentin, Mark Sweeney and Octavio Dotel in Flushing – even if they shouldn’t permanently eliminate the front-line players from the radar. Minaya indicated Carlos Delgado’s signing settled the lineup and is allowing him to let things develop with big-name players while he surveys the landscape.

Even with Aaron Heilman in the bullpen, the Mets still have six starters – Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Kris Benson, Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano and Jae Seo. Still, Minaya said he would like to add a front-line pitcher, then worry about dealing with the excess. He wouldn’t mind having as many as seven capable starters at spring training.

Minaya likened his pursuit of another top-of-the-rotation starter to a bachelor seeking a date at the bar. Keep asking, and ask enough people, and someone might just say yes – though get used to rejection.

“I’ve been around long enough, ” he said. “That’s where patience comes in.”

I believe that was Ugly George’s strategy for many years, too.