Inbox: Do Phils have target date for being playoff-ready?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers Philadelphia fans' questions

Inbox: Do Phils have target date for being playoff-ready?

Do the Phillies have a target date for when they think they'll be playoff-ready? Are they looking for short-term free agents or building blocks this year?
-- Bill S., Centennial, Colo.

Matt Klentak has been asked a lot of questions since he became the Phillies' general manager, but it seems no question has been asked more than this one. People want to know when the Phils will be good again. It is understandable, but it also is impossible to answer. Why? Because nobody truly knows.

Hot Stove Tracker: Free agents and trades

The Phillies can hope they can contend as early as 2017, but that hope could crumble if players like Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff experience setbacks, or if prospects like J.P. Crawford, Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro sustain injuries or don't pan out. So why would Klentak or anybody else with the Phils give a definitive date for when the club will be a contender?

The Phillies first need to see improvement from their young players and prospects in 2016. And that is why they will probably acquire more short- than long-term solutions this offseason. It just doesn't make sense to sign a few players to lucrative multiyear deals when the Phils aren't certain about where their building blocks will be in a couple of years.

Franco's solo blast

How does Jeremy Hellickson help the Phillies next season?
-- Jimmy C., Philadelphia

Simply put, Hellickson provides depth to the rotation. He is a veteran, but he also is just 28. So it isn't like Hellickson is at the tail end of his career. He went 22-27 with a 4.86 ERA in 72 appearances (71 starts) the previous three seasons. That isn't good -- consider that Aaron Harang posted a 4.86 ERA last season -- but the Phillies are rolling the dice, hoping that Hellickson can have a bounce-back year as he enters free agency. If he does, great. If he doesn't, they didn't lose much by trying.

The Phillies didn't commit to more than one year of Hellickson. Based on Twitter and email, fans seemed to respond pretty positively to this acquisition. The ones that didn't either want the Phils to go out and get pitchers like Zack Greinke (which makes no sense, in my opinion -- see my answer to the first question) or they believe Philadelphia should be able to acquire young, controllable aces by Klentak performing some sort of Jedi mind trick on opposing GMs. That just isn't reality.

Phillies acquire Hellickson

Is trading Ken Giles this offseason really a good idea? I know he could net a huge return, but what if the Phillies pull a miraculous worst-to-first and make the World Series next year? Who's going to nail down that ninth inning? Would he be as good as Giles?
-- Brett L., Broomall, Pa.

First, trading anybody is a good idea if the return is right. It's not like the Phillies are going to trade Giles for a marginal player. They would only trade him if they believe they are getting a significant return. In my opinion, it's negligent not to be open to those possibilities.

Second, you have to play the percentages here. You don't stop yourself from trading somebody on the very, very small chance the Phillies go from worst to first. In that scenario, nearly everything would have to go much better than expected next season. And if everything goes much better than expected, it probably means they already found somebody to replace Giles. I wouldn't worry about it. Giles won't get traded unless the Phils like the return.

Giles notches the save

I've never been to Clearwater. Is it worth a trip this spring?
-- Chelsea D., Philadelphia.

Absolutely. Spring Training is fun for fans, regardless of the team's expectations. Clearwater, Fla., is a great place to visit in March. The ballpark is fantastic, and there is something cool about leaving home and being surrounded by fellow Phillies fans. Did I mention the weather and the fact the ballpark is great? Just make sure to get a grouper sandwich at Frenchy's while you're there.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.