As the offseason started, the Phillies seemed primed for a good old fashioned Massive Overpay to a High Profile Free Agent. Their needs were/are clear - outfield help; bullpen arms with even just a hint of reliability; and rotation depth to make up for the presumed loss of Roy Halladay.
Naturally, focus turned to the best possible free agent to fill each hole, and in the outfield, that was Jacoby Ellsbury. A true leadoff hitter, a versatile outfielder, a powerful hitter - my god, he's all that matters. Opinions poured and split over the normal outlets: Ellsbury was the big grab the Phillies needed; or, no - he was an expensive, aging injury risk, playing on a stress fracture in the World Series.
Nevertheless, the Phillies signed an outfielder before anybody at the general managers' meetings in November could even thumb through their orientation pamphlets. Only that outfielder wasn't Ellsbury, it was Marlon Byrd, a name somewhat lower on everybody's cheat sheets.
Ellsbury, like most of the more blockbuster names on the market, is still seeking a suitor. And the field appears narrow - narrow enough that the Phillies are not in it.
Mariners: Seattle is the most consistently named contender for Ellsbury, despite their lack of major signings in recent years and their low market status and their lack of recent success. But the sea captains do have one thing on their side - desperation.
It's their location at the end of their ropes that makes them so in on Ellsbury, and so willing to drag him to the Pacific Northwest with a slightly insane offer. Ellsbury isn't the only free agent they're after, either, though he appears to be the one they want the most on their crusade to establish an effective offense.
Cubs: The Cubs haven't shown a lot of visible interest in Ellsbury, but ESPN's David Schoenfield pointed out that they would be a good fit - he'd slide neatly into a position, offensively and defensively, that would fill a lot of holes, and even compared the hypothetical deal to the nationals signing Jayson Werth as part of a building process in 2011, rather than directly trying to contend immeidately after a big free agent signing.
Rangers: Texas already lost out on their boy Brian McCann to the Yankees, with Ellsbury being their follow-up offseason crush. But, as time went on, the Rangers became more interested in Shin-Soo Choo as an outfielder, presuming Nelson Cruz departs.
Nationals: Casting aside last offseason's signing, Denard Span, the Nats could bring Ellsbury onboard. And shockingly enough, a week after Jon Heyman first stated Washington could be involved, they were suddenly willing to listen on offers for Span.
Ellsbury's team for his entire career thus far, the Red Sox, handed him a qualifying offer, which he rejected, and are not pressuring him, or any of their free agents, to come to any sort of decision. They did, however, tell one of their free agents that they are on the verge of a decision between outside options. With no idea of which free agent it is (They've also got Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Mike Naopli out there), this is, of course, meaningless.
The Phillies, now, seem to at least on the surface be part of that first round of castoffs, like the Mets and Yankees, who were interested from the start but couldn't keep up due to finances, timing, waning interest, or Marlon Byrd.