INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - This market opened like so many before it. Baseball's general managers met for a few days at a resort and publicly downplayed an industry awash in disposable cash while player agents made hefty initial demands.
In his public comments, Ruben Amaro Jr. spent much of the time downplaying the whole exercise. "I've had a lot of really interesting discussions," the Phillies general manager said, more than once. But, no, Amaro claims he does not want to trade more young talent and sees few difference-makers in free agency.
He's right. There is not one player on the market who instantly makes these Phillies the World Series favorites. There is no panacea for 81-81 in one, two, or even three moves this winter.
The Phillies can strategically add, but this team's fate is bound to its seven players already earning $10 million or more per season. The two with cloudy health - Chase Utley and Roy Halladay - are the most important. No acquisition can overcome diminished production from them.
"There are a couple of guys who separate themselves," Amaro said when evaluating the free-agent market. "But I don't know how many real impact guys there are, a guy who will absolutely change your club.
"I don't know how many impact guys we need. What we need to do is have guys who impact our club. There is a difference. I don't think we necessarily need impact players. I'm paying a ton of guys to be impact players. If they don't perform for us, we'll be in trouble."
It's a difficult notion for many fans, who often clamor for change and avidly track the hot stove rumors. A speedy and defensively reliable centerfielder absolutely would improve the Phillies. So would a corner outfielder or third baseman with power.
In reality, though, the Phillies have made their investments and must win or lose with them. The massive splash was locking up Cole Hamels in July for $144 million to prevent a bidding war on their homegrown ace. Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee are $20 million per year players. Jonathan Papelbon is the highest-paid closer in baseball history. Jimmy Rollins will make $11 million in 2013.
That leaves Halladay and Utley, both of whom enter contract years and are undisputed leaders inside the clubhouse. The Phillies are operating as if both will be completely healthy and productive, but that's impossible to assume.
Halladay ended the season with an optimistic outlook after a trying year, and has many challenges ahead. His numerous meetings with doctors and trainers provided a new plan for winter preparation.
No one knows if that can delay the unhinging of a great career caused by the unnatural act of throwing a baseball.
"I feel confident about how Roy is going to bounce back," Amaro said. "He's feeling good. I talked to him. He's feeling positive. We won't know until he's throwing, but he's feeling positive."
That last statement is the most important. Halladay's shoulder started barking in spring training, and while the pitcher and his superiors did everything possible to calm fears, it was a harbinger of trouble. The Phillies should have a good idea what to expect once Grapefruit League play commences.
The same could be said for Utley, who has not appeared in a spring training game since 2010. The Phillies have promised to keep closer watch on Utley's winter work after his chronically injured knees failed him yet again. Amaro has said head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan will visit Utley at least once this winter. Other team officials could make similar checkups.
The increased due diligence is welcomed, especially when the Phillies' blind trust in Utley last spring looked silly. But even if the Phillies know sooner that Utley or Halladay is disabled, it still hurts. There are no other Utleys or Halladays to be acquired.
The counter view, of course, is that if the Phillies are blessed with a productive Utley and Halladay, they have made the best acquisitions of anyone. Halladay was the Cy Young winner in 2010 and runner-up in 2011. Utley is one of the most productive second basemen in baseball and at times in 2012 drove the ball the way he did in past seasons.
Amaro can build around the edges to form a better overall team. A lack of depth harmed the Phillies in 2012. But depth can do only so much. Like Amaro said, he's paying his core players to be just that. The equation persists no matter whom the Phillies add.