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Inbox: Should Phils deal Howard, Hamels?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers Phillies fans' questions

Is there really value in selling Ryan Howard's contract when the Phillies will likely have to swallow most of it? I want a winner, but a healthy Howard is still worth 100 RBIs.
-- Eugene C., Richmond, Va.

The Phillies are trying to get younger and more athletic, and they believe moving Howard is one way to make that happen. The Phils also see Howard's power and production on the decline, which is another reason why they are willing to eat a significant portion of his contract. Of course, the trouble is other teams see the declining production, too.

It is going to be a difficult sell. But about those RBIs. Howard had 90 RBIs in 613 plate appearances in the cleanup spot this year. From 1914-2014, there have been 316 hitters with 600 or more plate appearances in the cleanup spot in a season. More than 85 percent of those hitters (217) had 90 or more RBIs. In other words, hit fourth every day and the RBIs typically will come. Interestingly, Howard's .695 OPS ranked 314th in that group, with the Cardinals' Orlando Cepeda in 1968 (.687 OPS) and the Yankees' Wally Pipp in 1917 (.683) the only two hitters behind him.

Left-handed starters in their prime are the players a club needs most. Why trade Cole Hamels? Remember Sandy Koufax and Steve Carlton. These pitchers come along once every 10 years or so.
-- Mark P., Liverpool, N.Y.

Quite simply, it's the fastest way to improve. If Pat Gillick is correct and the Phillies are unlikely to contend until 2017 or '18, then why hold onto your one truly valuable asset when there is no guarantee he will be just as valuable three seasons in the future? Especially when that asset can jump start the rebuilding process.

It is not going to be easy to trade Hamels with free agents Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields available -- teams can sign them without giving up prospects, albeit committing much more money than the $96 million remaining on Hamels' deal. But if a team falls short in free agency, Hamels makes a very attractive alternative, if the organization has the prospects to trade to Philadelphia. It is something the Phils must and will explore.

Video: ATL@PHI: Hamels strikes out seven over eight innings

The Phillies were reportedly scouting the Red Sox's Minor Leagues pretty hard near the end of season. Possibility of Hamels to Boston?
-- Bret V., Smithville, Ark.

The Cubs and Red Sox have been mentioned the most. It just depends how much those teams are willing to give up to acquire him. The Phillies need some bang for their buck. They cannot suffer through Cliff Lee 2.0, when they shipped Lee to Seattle for Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez. They need to hit big if they trade Hamels.

What can the Phillies expect from Lee this year?
-- Jack M., Valencia, Calif.

The Phillies say Lee will be ready to go come Spring Training. I think the best-case scenario is he comes into camp healthy, he pitches great and the Phils trade him to a contender before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The worst-case scenario is Lee's left elbow problems linger, and the organization pays him $25 million this season, plus a $12.5 million buyout on a $27.5 million club option for 2016. Then he just walks away.

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Todd Zolecki is a reporter for
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