The Philadelphia Phillies face a season of urgency in 2013.
They also face a season of transition.
The urgency to win comes because many of the Philadelphia's core players are in their mid- to late-30s. Ace pitcher Roy Halladay is 35. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley will be 34 when next season begins. Ryan Howard turns 33 on Nov. 19.
It also promises to be a season of transition because the Phillies must get younger if they are to remain a perennial playoff contender.
"I think we're going to be transitioning into some younger players in certain areas," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said during a news conference to wrap up the season last week. "But there is urgency. Our core guys aren't getting any younger."
Philadelphia's streak of five straight National League East titles ended this season. The Phillies finished 81-81 and in third place, 17 games back of the first-place Washington Nationals.
The Phillies have gone backwards each season since winning the World Series in 2008. They lost the 2009 World Series to the New York Yankees. The Phillies lost the 2010 NL Championship Series to the San Francisco Giants. The St. Louis Cardinals beat Philadelphia in the division series last year.
Citizens Bank Park was the place to be the past five Octobers. Fans roared, whipped rally towels over their heads and watched the Phillies win plenty of postseason games.
What do the Phillies need to do to bring that excitement back to Citizens Bank?
Here is a review of 2012 and a preview of 2013.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz turned in the best performance of his career. He batted .325 with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs.
Ruiz had 128 at-bats as the cleanup hitter. That in itself was not a good sign. The catcher batted mostly eighth when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series.
The Phillies showed in August and September they can play as well as any team in the NL. Philadelphia played 13 games better than .500 (44-31) after the All-Star break.
The biggest problem with the Phillies was injuries.
Utley made his season debut June 27 and Howard on July 6. Halladay didn't start a game in the month of June because of a sore shoulder. The Phillies began that month 27-25 but went 9-19 and never really recovered.
But beyond the injuries, the Phillies played poorly in 2012. They committed 101 errors, their most since they committed 104 in 2006 - the last season they didn't make the playoffs. The Phillies batted .235 against left-handed pitching, which ranked 13th among the 16 NL teams.
"I look at our team this year and I complained every day," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I complained every day about our defense, I complained about our hitting."
The Phillies must rebuild their outfield after trading Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence this summer.
The ballclub does not seem to have many every-day outfielders on its current roster.
John Mayberry Jr. (14 home runs, 46 RBIs) played inconsistently. Juan Pierre (37 stolen bases, .307 average) played well but realistically is a fourth or fifth outfielder - not a starter - on a playoff team.
Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf remain intriguing but still raw prospects.
"I can't sit here and tell you - and I don't think Charlie can sit here and tell you - that we have a left fielder or a right fielder or a center fielder," Amaro said. "We have pieces to be able to put it together. But we have some work to do in the outfield. I think center field is something that we have to address."
Ideally, the Phillies would like to add a right-handed hitting outfielder to make the Phillies less vulnerable to left-handed pitching.
The free-agent outfield prospects this season are slim. Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, Michael Bourn of the Atlanta Braves and B.J. Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays are the most intriguing names on the market.
"I think it's OK," Amaro said of the market. "It's not fantastic, but there are people there who can help us. That being said, there might be some people on the trade market who are better for us."
Who is coming back?
The Phillies will continue to rely on their core of Rollins, Utley and Howard.
Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee will again lead the starting rotation. There has been media speculation that Philadelphia could trade Lee for an outfielder.
The Phillies hope that these core players are healthier in 2013 than they were in 2012.
But at their age is that realistic?
"The bottom line is this," Amaro said. "If our players who we pay a great deal of money to do not perform next year, we're going to be in trouble."
Contact Michael McGarry: