Feliz and Polanco usually provided steady defense, although both suffered a decline near the end of their tenures. But, as the Phillies' infield ages and the outfield is populated by unknowns, offensive production from third base is again a priority.
It remains an enigma, even with the acquisition of Young. The 36-year-old former batting champ is reeling from a career-worst season that prompted the end of his 13-year stint in Texas.
The Phillies will be hard-pressed to perform worse offensively at third than a season ago. But Young's .682 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) was a mere 10 points better than all of the Phillies' third basemen combined.
This was not an anomaly. The numbers are staggering. Since Rolen left, the Phillies' third basemen have ranked higher than 11th in the league in OPS just once. That was Bell's aberration of a 2004 season, in which he posted career highs in OPS at age 31.
In the span of a decade, Phillies third basemen have ranked in the bottom two of National League teams for OPS five times. Third base is traditionally a power position; the Phillies have not cracked the league's top 10 teams in home runs by third basemen in Rolen's absence.
Third basemen hit a grand total of five homers for the Phillies in 2012, which is the franchise's fewest since at least 1949.
It's all relative, of course. The Phillies enjoyed atypical production from shortstop and second base when Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were in their prime. Now, with so much uncertainty across the lineup, Young is suddenly crucial.
Charlie Manuel has never relied on offensive production from his third baseman during his time as Phillies manager. It could create a different dynamic, and one that allows the Phillies to be patient with their makeshift outfield construction.
Young's slugging percentage dropped 103 points from 2011 to 2012. His .474 clip from 2011 would have trailed only Carlos Ruiz on the 2012 Phillies. If Young recaptures just a fraction of his power stroke, Manuel could have his No. 5 hitter. Manuel will salivate if Young, a career .304 hitter prior to 2012, nears that mark. The Phillies have not had a .300 hitter with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title since Utley and Aaron Rowand in 2007.
Those are enormous "ifs," of course. The Texas Rangers, so desperate to win after being tantalizingly close to the top, decided their best course of action was to trade Young for pennies on the dollar. Young has not regularly played third base in two years. It is totally reasonable to wonder if 2012 represented the twilight of his career.
He is viewed as a stopgap with promising minor-league talent in Cody Asche and Maikel Franco developing in the Phillies system. Asche has one quality season to his name while Franco is 20 and has yet to reach single-A Clearwater. Maybe one of them closes the black hole at third base. Maybe not.
Considering recent history, Young will have to be a total flop at third to equal what the Phillies are accustomed to. But they expect more from him - especially given the myriad questions dogging Manuel's lineup.
The Phillies can tout this: They enter 2013 with a third baseman who possesses a better hitting resumé than any since Rolen was traded more than a decade ago. Predicting performance from aging stars, though, is impossible. The Phillies know that all too well.
Inside the Phillies: Third Watch
In the decade since Scott Rolen vacated third base, the position is a veritable black hole for the Phillies. They have ranked near the bottom of the National League in offensive production.
2012 .672 15th
2011 .665 11th
2010 .697 14th
2009 .686 12th
2008 .695 15th
2007 .688 16th
2006 .684 15th
2005 .692 13th
2004 .828 6th
2003 .632 15th
2012 5 16th
2011 8 14th
2010 10 15th
2009 14 12th
2008 20 13th
2007 11 15th
2006 7 16th
2005 12 12th
2004 21 10th
2003 12 12th
Contact Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @magelb.