Jimmy Rollins was introduced as a Dodgers last week and Marlon Byrd will report to camp with the Reds, not the Phillies, when spring training begins next month.
Subtracting one-fourth of the regular lineup is a start, but it's difficult to label the Phillies rebuilding efforts this winter as anything more than minor until the biggest hurdle toward fixing the future is cleared.
Ryan Howard remains a Philadelphia Phillie.
The front office would like to change that fact within the next 6 weeks. They've gone on record all winter saying the goal is for the team to get "younger and more athletic."
Subtracting Howard for either Maikel Franco or Darin Ruf would satisfy that objective.
Although Ruben Amaro Jr. wouldn't discuss the conversations he's had with Howard with the reporters that regularly cover the team last month at the Winter Meetings, the embattled general manager was beyond forthright in a recent interview on 97.5 FM The Fanatic.
"I told (Howard) that in our situation it would probably bode better for the organization not with him but without him," Amaro told the radio station.
Perhaps a realistic landing spot for Howard opened this weekend.
The Rays and A's agreed to a trade Saturday afternoon that sent both Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar from Tampa to Oakland; catcher John Jaso returned to Tampa, where he was drafted and began his career.
Could it be a move to clear a spot for Howard in Tampa? It makes more sense than just about any other option.
In the aforementioned Rays-Athletics trade, Tampa cleared more than $10 million in salary. They shed both Zobrist ($7.5 million) and Escobar ($5 million) from their 2015 payroll, inherited Jaso (due to make just over $3 million through arbitration) and also reportedly received $1.5 million from Oakland in the deal, too.
Of course the stumbling blocks in moving Howard are his declining production since battling a career-altering Achilles' injury and the $60 million price tag still attached to the former National League MVP. Howard is owed $25 million each in 2015 and 2016, and he his contract includes a $10 million buyout for 2017.
The Phillies would almost certainly have to eat a very large portion of that salary to move Howard, but won't be against that as it moves the team forward, clearing a spot at first base for Franco or Ruf. They could eat as much as $50 million, leaving Howard's new team on the hook for $10 million.
Suddenly, at that price, Howard might not look like that bad of a gamble for an American League team. And that's a good thing, since Howard's limited no-trade clause, according to ESPN.com, does not include 9 teams that all play in the American League: Detroit, Kansas City, Seattle, Texas, Baltimore, Boston, the Angels, Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.
But, why Tampa? Let's first go through the why-nots for the other 8 teams above.
At this point in his career, Howard should definitely be used exclusively as a designated hitter. Detroit has both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez in its lineup, Kansas City signed Kendrys Morales this winter, the Angels and Yankees both already have more than a few aging vets for the DH role (Carlos Beltran and Josh Hamilton among them), Boston has David Ortiz, and Seattle signed Nelson Cruz.
Baltimore is in need of a bat or two after losing Cruz and Nick Markakis, but they just re-signed Delmon Young and are in discussions with free agent Colby Rasmus, too. Texas doesn't have a great designated hitter option, but they do have the sizable Prince Fielder and 6 years and $114 million left on his sizable contract.
And then there are the Rays.
Tampa would be an intriguing spot for Howard: he works out in the Tampa Bay area each winter, at the Athletes Compound at Saddlebrook Resort, and also has a near-$6 million home being built outside Clearwater Beach, Fla. The Phillies certainly do not have to do Howard any favors, but sending the former iconic franchise player to a desirable destination does ease the blow of basically paying him to go away.
But, again, why would the Rays be interested? Looking at recent history, the Rays have often gambled on older, comeback-type players in filling their first base and designated hitter spots.
They signed James Loney to a one-year, $2 million deal after the first baseman had a horrendous 2012 season (.630 OPS) between the Dodgers and Red Sox. In 2011, they gave a 37-year-old Johnny Damon $5.25 million to be their DH a year after his career looked to be over in Detroit.
In 2012, Tampa signed Carlos Pena to a one-year, $7.25 million deal. Perhaps the Tampa trend began after they met the Phillies in the 2008 World Series: the Rays signed Pat Burrell to a 2-year, $16 million deal before the 2009 season.
Granted, at least a couple of those deals did not work out for the Rays - although it also hasn't stopped them from continuing with the philosophy, either. In Howard, they won't have to give up much in a trade and won't have to invest much in dollars, either. The Rays have a first baseman (Loney) but no obvious designated hitter.
Factor in the $10 million-plus they saved in Saturday's trade, the Rays suddenly have money to take a chance on Howard. Even with all of his faults (defense, base running, strikeouts, declining extra-base hits), Howard showed last season he can still hit between 20-30 home runs and drive in 90-100 runs when healthy.
The Rays, a team not expected to contend after dealing away David Price (among others) in the last six months, can afford to take that gamble.