Ever since becoming monetary powerhouses in Major League Baseball a few years back, the Philadelphia Phillies have thrown their weight around the free agent and trade markets, reeling in the big names and leaving other teams fighting over the scraps.
That's not going to happen this season.
It's not that the Phillies can't afford to add more salary or move around big contracts, but the landscape for doing so is noticeably bleak. They're not in a position to steal away another ace, so CJ Wilson won't be making this list, and I'm sure that Prince Fielder's .981 OPS would look great in the middle of the order, but there's no place for him on the diamond. In a more narrow sense—the Phillies have a lot of expensive pieces to the puzzle already in place, and there is little wiggle room for squeezing those final pieces together.
Let's face it—though most of us have taken the, "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me," approach to the Phillies' front office, this time when they tell us there isn't much money, we have to believe them. The Phils already have more than $112 million guaranteed to 11 players (including the buyouts of Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge) on the books for 2012. Factor in five arbitration cases, and you can see why money may be tight.
So when we start looking at the free agent market, it is important to remember that while we'd like to think they can pull another rabbit out of a hat and land a top free agent, the Phillies have big holes to fill and limited funds to do so.
For that reason, realize that this list will attempt to be as realistic as possible. This is not a list of the market's best free agents. This is a list of players that the Phillies will look at to fill holes on the roster from a realistic perspective. While it's tempting to throw a bunch of popular names out there, that's not how free agency works.
That's also not how the trade market works. Remember that while there could be a few attractive names on the trading block this winter, the Phillies have limited resources both in terms of money and prospects. The options are limited.
Heading into the winter, the Phillies will look to address specific areas of the club, at the forefront of which will be bench depth and power, the back end of the bullpen, and possible options at third base. Those potential additions will be looked at in much more depth than say, for example, an outlandish suggestion of Albert Pujols signing his mega-deal with the Phils.
So without further ado, let's take a look at the 25 most realistic targets the Phillies will have heading into this off-season.