Now that the pages have turned and the book has closed on the Philadelphia Phillies' 2011 season, one that was supposed to lead them to a World Series title with their ace-studded rotation and dangerous offense, the only thing remaining between this season and the next for the Phils is the offseason.
While the offseason isn't necessarily the most interesting part of baseball to fans, it is arguably one of the most significant. Impending free agents are re-signed or move on to new teams, and players can sign mega contracts bigger than a lottery payday. The free agency process can bring out either the angels or demons within players, agencies, and teams alike.
In the case of the Phillies, they will have an offseason that could be more important than any in recent memory. For the last few years, the Phillies have made few moves, albeit surprising. In 2008, they signed outfielder Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $31.5 million contract. After the 2009 season, they traded deadline acquisition Cliff Lee in a series of moves that netted them eventual-NL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. And last season, they brought Lee back in a move that endeared both Lee himself and GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. in the hearts of Phillies fans.
Whether a free agent signing or a trade, whether at the trade deadline or in the offseason, the Phillies have made moves that they believe are necessary to make the team better. This season the Phils had a gap in right field; they filled it by acquiring Hunter Pence from the Astros. Four years before revolved around starting pitching; Kyle Lohse, Joe Blanton, Lee, and Roy Oswalt were acquired in the years that led the Phillies to division titles.
This offseason will be the same as those in the recent past, as the Phillies will be looking to fill the holes potentially left by impending free agents, specifically in left field, at shortstop, and in the bullpen, namely the closer's role, and also first base with Ryan Howard possibly being out for a good chunk of next season. How the Fightins handle their newest challenge is impossible to predict, but there are always possibilities as to who they could bring to the City of Brotherly Love.
But who could be on the Phillies' radar? Here are some possibilities.