Jerad Eickhoff is one of the Phillies starting pitchers that needs to improve in 2018.
The free agent market opened a little more than a week ago, yet things across baseball have been relatively quiet as the General Manager Meetings reach their conclusion in Orlando, Fla.

The Phillies enter the off-season proceedings with the most payroll flexibility in baseball and have the ammunition to land nearly any big name on the market. That probably won't happen though as general manager Matt Klentak reiterated this week the organization's objective to avoid inheriting burdensome contracts.

The Phillies aren't ready for the winter limelight. At least not yet. Instead, the club intends to nurture the young core already in place with an eye to the free agent bonanza that'll happen in 2018 when superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado hit the open market. That's when the checkbook will open.

Positionally the Phillies are pretty much set for next season. Questions surround playing time and some starting jobs, but - barring a trade - the core on paper now will be the same come February.

"We're pretty comfortable with our position-player group right now and determined to let those young players play and continue to get at-bats,” Klentak told reporters this week. “So to do something to compromise that would take a pretty unique set of circumstances."

The part of the roster in need of an overhaul over the coming weeks is the starting rotation where questions abound behind Aaron Nola. The Phillies already have been connected to veteran hurlers Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, and Lance Lynn. Other potential options include Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner. All five of these pitchers will likely command a hefty contract and each has dealt with health and arm issues in the past, so it's tough to envision any of them in Philadelphia in 2018.

The Phillies have also miscalculated in the past when signing free agent starters (Clay Buchholz), so it's understandable if Klentak and Co. are hesitant to commit to anything beyond a one-year deal and that's likely going to be too little to land a big-name addition to the rotation.

The likely scenario is the club inks a starter or two in the vein of Jeremy Hellickson - an innings eater - and looks for the combination of Jerad Eickhoff, Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez to progress into reliable starting options.

The Phillies also have some trade chips with Tommy Joseph and Cesar Hernandez depending on how they situate the offense, so the club could potentially land a mid-tier starter with cost certainty to hold down a rotation spot until the next wave of pitching prospects is major league ready in late 2018 or early 2019.

Klentak is in an enviable position, but patience and calculated risk are what will make for a successful off-season for the Phillies.

Welcome to the final stage of a rebuild.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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