The Phillies, interested in a right-handed batter to hit behind cleanup man Ryan Howard, talked to the Cubs about a swap of Domonic Brown for Alfonso Soriano but may still be slightly more inclined to sign a free agent, such as Cody Ross or someone else.

Phillies people are said to be split over how hard to try for Soriano, who had 32 home runs, 108 RBI and a .262 batting average with vastly improved outfield defense.

They have remained interested in Ross all along. Nick Swisher and Josh Hamilton, even bigger free-agent plays, may be tougher fits for Philadelphia's budget. The Phillies could possibly add two corner outfielders after acquiring speedy Ben Revere from Minnesota for center field.

The Cubs are believed willing to pay all but $10 million of the $36 million remaining on Soriano's deal if they can receive good prospects back. The Cubs are all about gathering assets for the future.

The Phillies like Soriano offensively but appear to have some reservations about his defense, despite great improvement last year. Philly's park would fit Soriano well.

The Astros, who are looking for a DH, also might make some sense for Soriano. More likely, Soriano's market will develop once Ross is off the board.

Soriano has 10-and-5 rights and vetoed a trade to the Giants last summer.