What's ahead in Phillies offseason?

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Ryan Howard. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

THREE KEY PLAYERS

Ryan Howard. Just about everything the Phillies want to accomplish this winter hinges on Howard's future. He is owed $60 million. The Phillies will look to trade him, but could an outright release serve as a much-needed olive branch to disillusioned fans?

Cole Hamels. Three teams have the prospects and the mind-set to execute a Hamels trade: the Cubs, Red Sox, and Dodgers. The Phillies will listen, but that does not make such a deal probable. Trading Hamels would admit a rebuild of at least two seasons, something the Phillies are reluctant to push.

Jonathan Papelbon. Is there a player whose on-field performance is less congruent with his off-field value? Papelbon did his job in 2014 with a 2.04 ERA and 39 saves in 43 chances. But teams will not touch his volatile personality and unfavorable contract. One thing is sure: The Phillies will try everything to jettison Papelbon, whose replacement (Ken Giles) awaits.

PHILLIES' FREE AGENTS

Mike Adams. He pitched in just three games after June 6, and the Phillies paid him $12 million for 432/3 innings over two seasons. He could retire.

Kyle Kendrick. No matter your opinion on Kendrick, he was an organizational success story in a time when so few have developed into regular contributors.

Wil Nieves. A quadriceps injury limited the veteran backup catcher, but the pitchers liked throwing to him.

Grady Sizemore. He proved his value as a bench bat to potential contenders.

Jerome Williams. The Phillies could offer Williams a swing role to bolster both the rotation and bullpen after his late-season renaissance.

ARBITRATION CANDIDATES

Antonio Bastardo. The Phillies will tender him a contract and then look to trade the lefthanded reliever, who held batters to a .188 average.

Andres Blanco. All he did was hit and play stellar defense. He'll go to camp with someone on a minor-league deal.

Domonic Brown. Could the Phillies sell low on Brown this winter? Maybe, but it will hurt if he thrives elsewhere.

Tony Gwynn Jr. It was a trying season for Gwynn, who will seek a minor-league deal.

Cesar Jimenez. He is the epitome of a quad-A pitcher. Too many walks in brief major-league time.

Ben Revere. His salary should top $3 million through arbitration, although the Phillies could still seek a center-field replacement.

BIG NUMBERS

.695: Ryan Howard's OPS as a cleanup hitter in 2014. There are 318 players since 1914 who had a season of at least 600 plate appearances in the No. 4 spot. Howard's OPS ranked 316th.

521: Walks by Phillies pitchers. Only Colorado's staff walked more (531) than the Phillies did.

1,306: Strikeouts by Phillies hitters. That was the most by any Phillies team ever.

TOP FIVE AVAILABLE FREE AGENTS

1 Jon Lester, LHP. Look for Chicago to make a huge push for Lester, who would bring a strong pedigree to the young Cubs.

2 Max Scherzer, RHP. It's not hard to envision him

in Yankee pinstripes.

3 James Shields, RHP. He's older than Lester and Scherzer, but his track record (eight straight seasons with 200-plus innings) is superb.

4 Yasmany Tomas, OF. Just about every team will bid for Tomas, a 24-year-old Cuban import with power.

5 Nelson Cruz, DH. He was the best signing of last winter, but his market is limited to American League teams because of his age and defensive limitations.

IMPORTANT DATES

Five days after end of the World Series: A.J. Burnett must exercise his $12.75 million player option or become a free agent. Teams must extend qualifying offers to former players who became free agents.

Twelve days after the end of World Series: The deadline for free agents to accept qualifying offers.

Nov. 10-12: General managers' meetings, Phoenix.

Dec. 2: The last day for teams to offer 2015 contracts to unsigned players.

Dec. 8-11: Winter meetings, San Diego.

Jan. 13: Salary-arbitration filing.

Jan. 16: Salary-arbitration figures exchanged.

Feb. 1-21: Salary-arbitration hearings.

Feb. 19: First workout for Phillies pitchers and catchers.