Ruben Amaro Jr. had best already be thinking about how to improve the Phillies through free agency.
Despite what was an entertaining September flurry of wins, the Phillies are about to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The trades of Shane Victorino (soon to be a free agent) and Hunter Pence (arbitration eligible this offseason) brought the Phillies modest returns in terms of prospects and bench depth at the major league level.
What those trades really did, though, was save the Phillies from committing another eight figures to Pence and from a possible fan push to re-sign Victorino for too many years and too much money.
Make no mistake: the Phillies cannot dive head-first into the free agent pool this offseason. Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay are on the books for nearly $100 million in 2013. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Jonathan Papelbon will get just shy of $38 million more among them.
Still, the Phillies' payroll was $174 million entering 2012. There should be room for at least one marquee signing.
Looking at the team, they may need to dig even deeper than that. Here are five players the Phillies should consider signing this winter.