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To trade Cole Hamels or not?

The Phillies may have picked up a big win keyed by a late-inning scoring outburst against the New York Mets, but the five-time reigning NL East champions remain 14 games back in the loss column against the Washington Nationals with a record of 36-46. That record also keeps the Phillies eight games out (nine games back in the loss column) of either of the two National League wild card spots in this year’s postseason, with six teams to jump before cracking the top two wild card spots.

While getting Chase Utley back in the line-up is nice and the possibility of having Roy Halladay return to form once he returns and possibly having Ryan Howard back seems to be a positive thought, the reality is this team has shown their weaknesses and may have too many to dig out of the hole they currently are in right now. With the Phillies struggling the conversations about trading Cole Hamels have gotten hotter by the day (and by the loss). It is no surprise of course. Hamels is a free agent to be at the end of the season and it is unknown if the Phillies will make a commitment to retain the 2008 World Series and NLCS MVP that grew up through their farm system to become one of the dominant left-handed pitchers in the game.

So, if the Phillies are not destined to make a run for the postseason, and there is still time to get a feel for whether that could happen, should the team trade Hamels in exchange for some prospects, or even a player that can contribute now?

First and foremost, there is one key decision that absolutely needs to be made. Do the Phillies have a realistic shot at retaining Hamels, either by the end of the season or through free agency? If there is a strong feeling the Phillies, Hamels and his agent can agree to a new contract then it would be unwise to trade away Hamels unless the Phillies bring in a star player. This is unlikely because teams just do not give up on quality left-handed pitching that easily. Hamels is among the best lefties in the game and still at a good age in his prime.

If the answer is no, then the answer should be relatively simple. Trade him now and see what you can get in return from a team that is ready to make a postseason run right now. Hamels is going to cost whoever signs him a pretty penny and the Phillies already have a lot of money tied up in starting pitching between Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. What the team lacks right now is a quality bat in the outfield. Would that money going toward a free-agent left fielder be a more worthwhile investment? Perhaps. Take a look at some of the potential free agent outfielders that could be on the market…

  • Josh Hamilton
  • B.J. Upton
  • Andre Ethier
  • Torii Hunter
  • Michael Bourn
  • Marlon Anderson
  • Aaron Rowand
  • Delmon Young

Or maybe the team could be in search of a third baseman…

  • David Wright
  • Kevin Youkilis
  • Brandon Inge
  • Geoff Blum

Keep in mind that Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco could each be available as well, but the chances either return at this point look to be diminishing. If the Phillies want to make a push for a player like Josh Hamilton, Andre Ethier (doubt he leaves Los Angeles under the new ownership) or David Wright (unlikely Mets let him slip away), then the decision to trade Hamels seems inevitable. The team would need to sacrifice one of their big three starting pitchers in order to create wiggle room in the ledger to even think about it.

Keep in mind that Hamels is going to be one of the top players in free agency this off-season, at least among starting pitchers. But if the Phillies could sign a top-notch player for the outfield and/or third base and then pick up a quality starting pitcher to slot in to the rotation behind Halladay and Lee (Worley likely to remain in rotation), would it be something to stay excited about?

If the Phillies can find a way to get within reach of the wild card spot before the end of July, then do not expect Hamels to be traded. But expect plenty of phone calls to be made to Amaro in the meantime.

Photo: Getty Images

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