The Phillies have committed $24.5 million to players who will not play for them in 2017. Ryan Howard is due a $10 million buyout for his expensive option that will not be exercised. It will cost $1 million to buy out a mutual option on Charlie Morton and another $500,000 for Carlos Ruiz's buyout.

Lefthander Matt Harrison is due another $13 million in 2017, much of which will be covered through insurance because of chronic back injuries that have reduced the chances of his ever throwing a pitch for the Phillies.

The Phillies have committed zero dollars to everyone else.

This winter will be an interesting point in the franchise's rebuilding process. The Phillies have money to spend, the free-agent class is a weak one, and the team has considerable minor-league talent that could be ready for seasoning in the majors.

It could lead to one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Freddy Galvis, who is making $2 million in 2016 and is owed a raise through arbitration, could be the team's highest-paid position player in 2017. Faced with a lack of free-agent talent amid high demand across the game, the Phillies could ride the kids. And why not?

The outfield mix could include Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, Dylan Cozens, Roman Quinn, Tyler Goeddel, and Cody Asche. The left side of the infield is set with Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford. Second base is either Galvis or Cesar Hernandez. The options at first base include Tommy Joseph, Darin Ruf, and Rhys Hoskins. Cameron Rupp could split time at catcher with whichever prospect is deemed ready - Jorge Alfaro or Andrew Knapp.

Those 17 aforementioned players will be an average of 24.9 years old on April 1, 2017.

The Phillies could target an Edwin Encarnacion or Josh Reddick in free agency to boost the offense. But Toronto's Encarnacion, 33, benefits from the luxury of the designated hitter. And Oakland's 29-year-old Reddick, in a weak free-agent class, could command more than a three-year commitment. The Mets' Yoenis Cespedes, the best hitter on the market, could sign for more than $100 million.

The likelier scenario: The Phillies add a veteran outfielder or catcher, someone who has a mediocre 2016 season, on a one-year deal as a potential trade candidate for next summer.

The rotation could be formed from a collection of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Adam Morgan, Ben Lively, and Mark Appel. Another trade, like the ones for Morton and Jeremy Hellickson, is possible.

The top free-agent starting pitchers are Rich Hill, Bartolo Colon, Hellickson, Andrew Cashner, Edinson Volquez and Ivan Nova. Once Stephen Strasburg, who was slated to become a free agent this winter, re-signed with Washington, the pitching market crumbled. The Phillies can let other teams bid against each other for the mediocre pool.

That is the balance the Phillies will have to strike this winter: The team has ample financial resources and a strong core of young players who have not yet reached their prime. Does it make sense to devote millions to a veteran player who will potentially steal time from a younger one, or force that younger player to spend more development time at triple A than needed?

There will be cries of thriftiness, and it is true: If the Phillies are to eventually contend, they must spend. Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan noted that, entering last week, 18 teams had a .500-or-better winning percentage, and 16 of them had payrolls that exceeded $100 million. The correlation between winning and spending is far stronger than it had been in recent seasons.

While attendance and merchandise sales are down, the Phillies have an infusion of cash through their TV-rights deal with Comcast. Every indication is the Phillies will spend when closer to contention.

Maybe they will lavish Cubs ace Jake Arrieta - who has ties to the many ex-Orioles executives now in the Phillies' front office - with money after the 2017 season. Or, perhaps everything is building toward a monumental run at Nationals superstar Bryce Harper, who will reach free agency after 2018 having just turned 26 years old. Among the other potential free agents that winter: Clayton Kershaw, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones, and David Price.

So this is about playing the long game, which is a hard sell to an anxious fan base. Given the dearth of talent in this winter's free-agent class and the minor-league talent within the Phillies system, it could be easier to justify a frugal winter.

mgelb@philly.com

@MattGelb