The top available players are Nick Swisher and Cody Ross. Both are reportedly seeking at least three-year contracts, with Swisher probably looking for four years. A part-time player like Scott Hairston is said to be demanding two guaranteed years.
There is still money for Ruben Amaro Jr. to spend on an outfield upgrade. Amaro said at the winter meetings he expects a payroll similar to that of 2012, which at opening day was near or above $178 million.
Here is a (rough) budget worksheet that accounts for 24 players, leaving one spot for a corner outfielder obtained through free agency:
Remember, this does not account for possible in-season moves, like any recalls should a player go on the disabled list. Payroll, for luxury tax purposes, include average annual values of contracts for players on 40-man rosters, benefits and bonuses.
Time spent on the major-league disabled list counts toward payroll. Phillies players while on the disabled list in 2012 earned $34.96 million.
The Associated Press reported Friday the Phillies finished the season with a $174.5 million payroll, as computed for luxury tax purposes. Payroll is not computed until the end of the season, and the Phillies sneaked under the luxury tax limit by saving money through trades of Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton.
The luxury tax limit is again $178 million in 2013, and the Phillies have previously prioritized being under that. They could surpass that number in 2013 because the limit increases to $189 million in 2014, and it would be easier to stay below that figure.
If the Phillies do hold at $178 million, as Amaro said earlier this month, they could sign an outfielder with an average annual salary of approximately $7 million and be right up against the tax threshold.
Whether they view any of the available options as that valuable remains to be seen.
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.