The Phillies have myriad needs this winter as general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. attempts to reload, not rebuild. There is nothing more important than the $35 million on the current roster invested in Halladay and second baseman Chase Utley. They are two players with unassailable work ethic and respect within the clubhouse walls.
And both have realized their own mortality.
Halladay, a veteran of 15 years and 39,341 regular-season pitches, admits that the wear and tear of a heavy workload has consumed his body. He is expected to make his last two starts in 2012.
Utley, who has missed 164 games in the last three seasons, is pursuing a move to third base for what he calls the betterment of the franchise. It is not without personal gain: He hopes to reduce the strain on his knees and prolong his career.
Neither player comes with a guarantee for 2013. The final days of 2012 could provide a window into the future. The Phillies have not internally discussed a shutdown of Halladay, who is "in position" to make his next start, Amaro said Monday. Once the Phillies are eliminated, Utley could see time at third base.
But no matter how well Halladay finishes the season or Utley handles third in limited action, massive expectations are placed on two aging players with questionable health.
Amaro said all examinations of Halladay's shoulder and back have "seemed OK." He said Halladay, at this point, is scheduled to make his next start. That should come Thursday against Washington.
Halladay described his latest injury as "spasms" behind his right shoulder. Amaro said it is "tightness in his mid-to-upper back."
"It's taken a little bit of a toll on him," Amaro said. "We'll talk to the doctors today or tomorrow to see if we're risking any injury."
Their initial belief is that Halladay could finish the season without harm. Halladay expressed a strong desire to make his final two starts in 2012. Is there an advantage to shutting him down now?
"We'll talk to the doctors and see if there is a benefit," Amaro said. "We haven't made any decisions any way or another."
All parties involved have maintained that there is no serious injury, even though shoulder woes have plagued Halladay since spring training. Halladay will make alterations to his throwing and strength programs this winter. He will turn 36 in May, and if there is any pitcher who can reinvent himself (again), it's Halladay.
That requires a healthy body, though. That Halladay's ailments cannot be fixed by surgery only muddles his status.
Utley occupies a similar limbo.
The Phillies and Utley are serious about his move to third. He is driving the ball better than at any point in the previous two seasons. He believes in his knee-strengthening program, and the results have affirmed it.
Left unsaid in this whole plan is that Utley has failed to play a Grapefruit League game in each of the last two springs. The Phillies entered spring training each season thinking Utley would be ready for opening day. Both times they were wrong.
One Phillies official said that if Utley intends to play third, he must play in nearly every Grapefruit League game in 2013. His time at third will be limited, if he sees any time there at all, in 2012.
The move is risky given his history.
Remember when this season turned sour. It was in June, when lineup temps such as Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix, Mike Fontenot, and Hector Luna no longer could shoulder the burden. The starting rotation was shaky without its ace and leader, thus a heavier onus was put on a bullpen that still relied on Chad Qualls.
The Phillies lost nine of 10 at one point and finished 9-19 in June. They played the majority of the month - all but the final four games - without Halladay and Utley.
They need both to slay the demons of time, a battle many athletes before them have fought unsuccessfully.
Contact Matt Gelb at email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @magelb.