It happens to teams all the time. They have a nice playoff run of a few years, then fail to replace their stars as they age, or the stars get old, and they decline.
The Phillies had injury issues in 2012, and still managed to contend for the second wild-card spot until the season's final weekend, and that was after trading away two of their starting outfielders. They've had to remake that outfield this year, and so their idea was: Sign Delmon Young to play right field.
Seriously? Young can hit, but he hasn't played right field -- not even once -- since 2007, and last year with the Tigers he was the DH in 118 games, played the outfield in just 31. Ben Revere, acquired from the Twins to play center field, is fast. He's going to have to be, to catch up with all the baseballs that get past Young into the gap.
So maybe the pitching will hold up. Roy Halladay had his worst year since 2004 last summer, and will soon turn 36. Can he come back? Can Cliff Lee ever post a win (he had six of them last year, despite pitching well, along with nine losses and 15 no-decisions in 30 starts)? Cole Hamels might have to shoulder most of this load himself, after the Phillies signed him to an extension that locks him up through 2018.
Another Young, Michael, was acquired from the Rangers to play third base. He's 36 and had a .370 slugging percentage last year. That's not much of an improvement over Placido Polanco. The rest of the offense returns, as does closer Jonathan Papelbon. The most intriguing player on the roster is backup 1B/OF Darin Ruf, who destroyed Eastern League pitching in 2012, and could give us some idea of what Dan Vogelbach might look like playing first base.
Charlie Manuel is in the last year of his contract and, as he'll turn 70 next January, is almost a lock to retire. Ryne Sandberg gets his first major-league coaching job this year; he'll be the Phillies' third-base coach and the odds-on favorite to succeed Manuel as Phillies manager in 2014.
You'd better set this part aside and remember it, because the Cubs don't play the Phillies until August -- three games at Philadelphia August 6-7-8, then at Wrigley at the end of that month (August 30-31-September 1; I imagine a lot of people will be on Ryno-watch for those games).
I'll wrap up the look at the NL East with a preview of the Washington Nationals, tomorrow.