Jimmy Rollins boldly proclaimed the Phillies the team to beat in the National League East before the 2007 season.

Philadelphia made Rollins look prophetic by winning five straight division titles from 2007-11.

But the Phillies now have missed the playoffs two years in a row. They finished 73-89 this season and in fourth place in the East, 23 games behind the division-winning Atlanta Braves.

Can the Phillies quickly rebuild and again be the team to beat in the division?

"The team that we had in the past definitely was (the team to beat)," Rollins said after the Phillies' final home game on Sept. 22. "The team going forward, we'll figure that out. We have a bunch of new pieces, and we haven't had that around here for a long time. I'm excited about it."

In interviews during the final days of the season, the Phillies expressed optimism about the future despite the dismal 2012.

"I think we have a very nice core of veteran players to help lead the way," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "The bullpen has come a long way with the nice arms."

The bullpen could be a bright spot next year. The young players bring energy and athleticism to the team."

But there's no denying changes are needed.

"What we've been doing the past couple of years with the guys we got hasn't been working," pitcher Cliff Lee said.

Here is a look at the issues that confront the Phillies this offseason.

The manager and coaches: The Phillies answered one question when they named removed the interim tag from Sandberg and gave him a three-year contract with a club option for 2017.

Sandberg, who went 20-22 as a manger this season, communicated well with the players.

"He hasn't forgotten how difficult it can be to play this game," second baseman Chase Utley said. "There are times when the further you get away from the game, the easier it gets."

The Phillies began to remake their coaching staff Monday. The team announced that it did not renew the contract of pitching coach Rich Dubee.

"Rich was a big part of a wonderful era here and in his nine years he served our organization very well," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. "We believe it is time for change as we move forward.

More coaching changes are likely.

The young players: Sandberg pointed to the development of the organization's young players as one of the season's positives.

Third baseman Cody Asche, 23, batted .235 in 50 games but excelled defensively. Cesar Hernandez, 23, played center field and hit .301 in September. Infielder Freddy Galvis, 23, hit six home runs in 205 at-bats.

Relievers B.J. Rosenberg, 28, Justin De Fratus, 25, and Jacob Diekman, 26, struggled during the season but pitched well in the final 50 games.

Outfielder Darin Ruf, 27, hit 14 home runs but struck out 91 times in 251 at-bats.

The young players must continue to develop, but Galvis, Hernandez and Ruf appear at this point to be role players who each should get 350-400 at-bats next season.

"We'll have a bunch of young guys with that energy to start the year," Rollins said. "This is their team."

Free agents: The Phillies must decide to whether to re-sign free agents catcher Carlos Ruiz and starting pitcher Roy Halladay. The Phillies have said they want Ruiz back. The 34-year-old batted .268 with five home runs and 31 RBIs after the All-Star break.

Halladay, 36, is a different matter. He underwent shoulder surgery in May and threw just 83 mph in his final start in September. His time in Philadelphia could be over.

Starting pitcher: It seems strange, considering that just two years ago the Phillies featured the Four Aces staff, but the team needs starters.

Lee and Cole Hamels will lead the rotation. Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is unproven but should be in the starting rotation at the start of the season.

Then there are the question marks.

Do the Phillies want to bring back Kyle Kendrick? He finished the season on the disabled list and had a 6.91 ERA after the All-Star break?

Young starters such as Jonathan Pettibone haven't proved themselves yet.

To fill out the rotation, the Phillies might have to bring in some veteran pitchers to spring training on minor-league contracts and hope they get lucky.

"They key to winning is pitching," Lee said. "You can score as many runs as you want, but if you don't have the guys to keep the other team from scoring, you're going to lose a lot of games."

The biggest need: The Phillies haven't been the same since Jayson Werth took his right-handed power bat to the Washington Nationals after the 2010 season. The Phillies finished 13th in the 15-team NL in runs scored this season. They were No. 2 in 2010.

There are few marquee free agents this winter. The Phillies might have to pursue a trade for a player, such as Matt Kemp off the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The core: The Phillies remain committed to Rollins, 34, Utley, 34, and Ryan Howard, 33.

The Phillies need all three to be healthy in 2014. Howard is a big question. He didn't play after July 5 because of knee surgery, and he's played in a combined 151 games the past two seasons.

"To have Ryan back would be very big," Rollins said. "A healthy Ryan on his legs we know what he can do.

But even though they remain Philadelphia mainstays, Rollins, Howard and Utley now also serve as transitional figures while the club waits for its younger players to develop.

"They're big-eyed with a lot of hopes and wishes," Rollins said of the young players. "It's fun seeing that energy every day. The world is still there's. They can change it. I was that guy. Now it's up to me and Chase and (Howard) to make sure they do change it."

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