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Phillies say you will get no free agents this year

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If you were expecting the Phils to sign a big-name free agent this off-season, I have a nice bucket of ice cold water for you to wear.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

I know, I know, I know. That list of free agents getting ready to hit the market in a couple weeks is awfully enticing.

You want starting pitchers? There are a slew of them, and many are high quality, top-of-the-rotation arms. There's Jordan Zimmermann, David Price, Zach Greinke, and Johnny Cueto, all guys who can front a rotation, and there are a bunch of mid-range guys, like Jeff Samardzija, Marco Estrada, Doug Fister, Scott Kazmir, and John Lackey.

You want position players? There are some enticing young outfielders, namely Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Yoenis Cespedes. Heyward and Upton are especially exciting as both are under 30 years old, with Heyward hitting free agency as a youthful 26. Colby Rasmus, Gerardo Parra, Dexter Fowler, Alex Gordon, and Denard Span will also be out there.

Baltimore's Matt Wieters is a young catcher who could really help some team out, Chris Davis had a monster power year and could be some team's answer as a first base/DH bat. Daniel Murphy is going to make a lot of money after a ridiculous postseason, Ben Zobrist will be available as well, and if you want a shortstop, Ian Desmond should be a highly sought after player.

So there are a lot of free agents that will be out there, and most of them aren't fits for the Phillies.

But for anyone holding out hope that perhaps the Phils may be secretly planning on making a big offer to Heyward or one of the top-line starters on the market, I have some bad news for you.

It ain't gonna happen.

While the next few free agent crops will not be flush with this kind of talent, and a young stud like Heyward certainly won't be on the market, Phillies officials said this week now is not the time for the franchise to go all-in for a free agent (quotes via Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News).

"I think as a rule of thumb the free-agent market is not the best place to invest your money . . . that's the last place we should focus," new general manager Matt Klentak said. "But I do think there's a lot of good players in free agency every single year. The different stages of development will dictate that you take a different route in free agency every single year. The route we take this offseason may differ from the one we take next offseason and the one after that."

In other words, they're not bringing in Heyward, Price, Upton or Zimmermann. Owner John Middleton echoed those sentiments on Monday.

"As Matt suggested you look at free agency different today than you might in two or three years," Middleton said. "Hopefully if these prospects come up and if the guys you brought up last season continue to improve and mature the way we hope they do and expect they will, we will have a different attitude about free agency."

Pining for a player like Heyward, in particular, does make sense. He just turned 26, and even if the Phillies signed him to a 10-year deal, he'd finish his career in his age-35 season. Talented outfielders with his ability don't often hit the market this young, and even if the Phils aren't ready to compete for two or three years, signing Heyward still makes a lot of sense.

Inking a free agent pitcher in his early 30s to a big, long-term deal doesn't compute, and neither does signing someone like Cespedes or Upton, both capable power bats who may not be effective long enough to pay dividends when the Phils are ready to be good again.

But there is a reason the drumbeat for Heyward is loud in some circles. He is a special case.

However, it's clear the club really doesn't have much of an appetite to add more long-term, big money contracts to the payroll, even with the new Comcast money coming in starting next year. The team, as stated on Monday, is committed to building through the draft and the farm system, and when those pieces are in place, supplementing that talent with a free agent here and there will be the plan.

The timing doesn't seem right for the Phils to outbid the market for Heyward, which they would have to do.

And so, don't expect anything major in free agency this off-season. Look for the Phils to sign one of the lower-tier free agent starters to help support what will be a young rotation. Someone on a one, two or three-year deal like Fister, Yovani Gallardo, J.A. Happ, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ian Kennedy, Mike Leake or Alfredo Simon are more probable.

And don't expect any position player signings, other than for depth. The Phils will likely want to see more of Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, Darnell Sweeney and Cody Asche next season, and guys like Nick Williams and Roman Quinn aren't too far off, either. Jeff Francoeur should be returning as well, and if the Phils do get someone for the outfield, it will be a minor part, like Drew Stubbs, Chris Young, or Alex Rios.

Heck, maybe even Shane Victorino in a part-time role to finish out his career, if he's healthy

Whatever goes down, a big name will not be coming to the Phillies in 2016. So kiss those Jason Heyward dreams goodbye.

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