PHILADELPHIA -- There was a definite air of finality in the Phillies' clubhouse following Friday night's season-ending loss to the Cardinals. Many of the team's key pieces will be returning, but the nucleus of the club that won the 2008 World Series might have played its last game together.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, closer Ryan Madson, relief pitcher Brad Lidge and starting pitcher Roy Oswalt are either entering free agency or have contract options for 2012 that could make them free agents. Once the disappointment of a 1-0 loss to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series wears off, the Phils have some important decisions to make.
"I would say in my four years here, this was probably the most talented team we've ever had," said Lidge, who has a $12.5 million club option for 2012 with a $1.5 million buyout. "I know there's a chance there's a few people here that might not be back, so you want to make sure you take advantage of something like this when you can. At the same time, the horses in the rotation will be back, and because of that, this team is going to continue to win, regardless."
The Phillies have about $113 million committed to contracts for next year, not including their arbitration-eligible players. Pitcher Cole Hamels and right fielder Hunter Pence are among two of the players eligible for arbitration, and they will both garner north of $10 million apiece.
Raul Ibanez, also a free agent, is likely on his way out, considering the Phillies have John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown capable of playing left field.
The biggest offseason decision surrounds Rollins, the former NL Most Valuable Player Award winner who just completed a five-year deal that paid him $41.5 million. He'll be 33 years old next season and has said previously he would like to get a five-year deal, something the Phillies would likely be reluctant to do.
The Phils could be willing to give the job to 21-year-old prospect Freddy Galvis, who was their Minor League Player of the Year.
Oswalt has a mutual option for $16 million for next year that comes with a $2 million buyout. The veteran right-hander might try to test free agency and get a multiyear deal, but his history of back problems could be an issue.
Considering starting pitchers Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Hamels are under contract, picking up Oswalt's option probably isn't a priority for Philadelphia, especially at such a high price.
Madson is a different story. With Lidge possibly gone, the Phillies would like to retain Madson after he moved into the closer's role and finished the season with 17 consecutive scoreless appearances. He made $4.5 million this year, but he's going to be looking for his agent, Scott Boras, to help him cash in during free agency.
"I'm comfortable here, and if I am back here, our goal is to go to the same place we are now, and even further," Madson said. "We'll wait and see. All of that is going to take care of itself."
Lidge, 34, was limited to 19 1/3 innings in 25 games after missing most of the season with rotator cuff issues. He said he would like an opportunity be a closer again, but the questions surrounding his health will play a big role in determining where he winds up.
"I don't feel like I ever got to the point I was throwing bad and lost my job because of that," he said. "I was hurt, and Madson did come in and do a great job for us stepping in there. I feel I can still close games. My family is my priority, and where they're comfortable is definitely significant. I don't know what's out there for me."
Lidge, Rollins and Madson were key players on Phillies teams that won five consecutive NL East titles. Whether they're around to make a run for a sixth consecutive division crown remains to be seen. No matter where they wind up, the experience in Philadelphia has been memorable.
"This is the most unbelievable team I've ever been on, with the most unbelievable fans I've ever witnessed," Lidge said. "This is a pretty amazing place, a pretty special place. I haven't had a chance to try and think about anything like that yet. I'll think about it a lot this winter."