Phillies sticking to plan of patience in '17

Club has high expectations for young stars as new season approaches

Phillies sticking to plan of patience in '17

With Spring Training fast approaching, will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Phillies squad each day this week. Today's topic -- What's the vision?

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies could have gone bananas and spent truckloads of cash this winter, but they remained true to their plan.

They have a vision.

Every club preparing for Spring Training with own vision

They will enter 2017 continuing to develop the young players in the organization, while maintaining roster and financial flexibility for the future. It is why they signed Michael Saunders, Jeremy Hellickson, Joaquin Benoit and Andres Blanco to one-year contracts. It is why the players they acquired in trades -- Clay Buchholz, Howie Kendrick and Pat Neshek -- are in the final years of their deals.

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Could the Phillies have outspent the Rockies for Ian Desmond, who signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Rockies? Sure, but the Phillies are thinking bigger than Desmond. They see themselves making a huge splash in the free-agent market as early as next offseason. The list of potential free agents in 2017-18 includes: Jonathan Lucroy, Eric Hosmer, Neil Walker, Todd Frazier, Lorenzo Cain, J.D. Martinez, Carlos Gonzalez, Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Wade Davis and Johnny Cueto, if he opts out of his contract. The list of potential free agents in 2018-19 includes: Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones and Clayton Kershaw, if he opts out of his contract.

"One of the advantages that we have as a big market club is that we've been able to take advantage of the past couple of years to trade some key assets to get younger," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said during the Winter Meetings. "Another huge advantage we have is that we have a very dedicated ownership that we know will spend when the time is right. That combination of factors should -- on paper -- put the Phillies in a pretty good spot."

They will be in an especially enviable position if many of the younger players on the big league roster take steps forward this year. That group includes Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, Cameron Rupp, Freddy Galvis, Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos.

Eickhoff's eight strikeouts

And they will be in even better shape if prospects like J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams and others continue to move in the right direction, too.

Do some of the recently acquired veterans limit opportunities for the young players? Yes, but not having long-term commitments to those veterans means they could be traded before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline or jettisoned to make room for a prospect that deserves a promotion.

"One of the critical components of my job is to manage today and look out for Opening Day 2017," Klentak said. "But I also have to be looking one and two and five years out. To successfully balance the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that baseball operations will face."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.