That plays well with the fans, but it's also a little misleading. The Phillies saved $5.95 million by not exercising the option on closer Jose Mesa. Another $9.9 million will be off the books if RHP Kevin Millwood leaves as a free agent.
That leaves the team with glaring openings for a closer and a No. 1 starter. To address those needs, they'll have to spend on free agents or trade for established players who are likely to have big contracts.
Still, the Phillies figure to be one of the few teams in baseball whose payroll will rise again this winter. They are well-positioned because they have money to spend in a buyer's market.
"We're prepared to be aggressive," said general manager Ed Wade.
Meanwhile, the bullpen is a jigsaw puzzle that may not be completed until spring training, because identifying a closer is only part of the issue.
The Phillies did not exercise their options on RHPs Jose Mesa and Mike Williams and LHP Dan Plesac is leaning toward retirement. RHPs Terry Adams and Turk Wendell can be free agents. Wendell didn't waste any time filing for free agency, signing up for free agency on the first day that players were able to file.
"Right now we're in the trade phase of the offseason, and that will soon give way to the free agent phase, which will be followed by what we think will be a significant non-tender phase," Wade pointed out.
Oh, by the way…
The Phillies' chances of trading for Expos RHP Javier Vazquez or Diamondbacks RHP Curt Schilling were dim as the World Series ended. Montreal and Arizona both immediately responded with the names Cole Hamels and Gavin Floyd. Of course, that could change as the offseason progresses.
RF Bobby Abreu attended the World Series games that were played at Pro Player Stadium in Miami. He'd like to see the Phillies sign Marlins free agent closer Ugueth Urbina, a close friend from his native Venezuela.
There have been reports that the Phillies have zeroed in on free agent RHP Tom Gordon as their first choice to close next year. Sources say they've convinced themselves that he's completely healthy after a series of arm problems.
LHP Randy Wolf was named to The Sporting News postseason All-Star team.
According to the Phillies, construction of Citizens Bank Park remains on schedule and the facility will be ready for the scheduled opener on April 12, 2004.
He said what?
"It's possible that it won't be a prototypical No. 1 starter but someone we think would fit in well." -- General manager Ed Wade, warning fans not to be disappointed if he doesn't obtain a high-profile starter this winter.