In reading along my Twitter feed, following comments on Facebook, and in fielding questions via DM and email, the question keeps popping up, now with a bit more regularity: when are the Phillies going to trade Cole Hamels?
There is really a very simple answer to that question, though I doubt that it will be satisfactory to everyone.
That simple answer is: when someone meets the admittedly and deservedly high price for his services.
The Phillies are very publicly involved in rebuilding their team, so that high price will be in quality prospects. Not just one prospect, but multiples.
A team who wants Hamels should expect to pay with two of their very best prospects, as well as another 1-2 possible mid-level prospects tossed in for good measure.
Before we examine the possible trade partners, and some prospects who should be involved in any discussions, let’s take a look at what the acquiring team will receive.
Cole Hamels is a 31-year old, left-handed, 9-year veteran of MLB. He has made at least 30 starts in the last 7 consecutive seasons.
He has just one season (2009) in which he has allowed more hits than innings pitched. He has struck out at least 194 batters in 6 of the last 7 seasons.
In the current season he is 5-5 for the worst team in baseball, with 70 hits allowed in 87.1 innings, and a 91-30 K:BB ratio.
Also, Hamels is payroll certainty. He is signed through 2018 at $23.5 million per season, with a team option for 2019 at $20 million even. So an acquiring team has an ace for at least four more years beyond the current season, at current day rates.
With a number of big name free agents pitchers hitting the market this off-season, the cost of such a player is sure to skyrocket. All that, and the Phillies have said they would pay part, most, or all of the contract, depending on the return package.
With all that in mind, we’re back to “but when will he be traded?”
The answer is, he may not be. Or the answer is, in the next few days. Or the answer is, in a month or so.
Again, the bottom line answer, if you didn’t get it earlier, is this: when someone meets the admittedly and deservedly high price for his services.
Let’s take a look at some of the obvious and rumored potential suitors, and what they might have to offer (alphabetical by organization): I left out teams like the Tigers, Yankees, Royals, and 1-2 others simply because I don’t think they have the pieces to get it done.
Early line favorites stretching back to last off-season, Boston is seriously struggling, in last place in the AL East and 6 games below the .500 mark.
However, in a division where no one is running away, they are just 6.5 out, and just 5 out of the 2nd Wildcard.
Problem? A number of teams ahead of them, not all of them will fade. Boston needs to do something, and do it fast, if they want a shot in 2015.
The Red Sox have a pair of position prospects who should be on the “must” list in Rafael Devers and Manuel Margot. The add-ins then could include an arm such as Brian Johnson or Matt Barnes, maybe even centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Currently holding an NL Wildcard spot, still within range of Saint Louis in the NL Central, the Cubbies are hotly rumored to be after closer Jonathan Papelbon. Could there be a package deal discussed?
Pitcher C.J. Edwards probably has to be the centerpiece coming back. The others in the package would come from among pitchers Duane Underwood, Pierce Johnson, Jake Stinnett, and Carson Sands, and outfielders Billy McKinney and Albert Almora.
Suddenly the darlings of MLB, are the Astros for real, or are they a year or two ahead of realistically contending? Acquiring an ace like Hamels to front their rotation for the next 4-5 years would be a perfect move.
Houston holds a 2-game lead in the AL West, and is right in the battle for the AL’s best overall record.
There are a ton of interesting pieces here for the Phils to assemble a package from among pitchers like Vincent Velasquez, Josh Hader, Lance McCullers, and Michael Feliz, outfielders Domingo Santana, Teoscar Hernandez and Brett Phillips, and infielder Colin Moran. This could be a perfect fit.
Some have speculated that the Halos don’t have the prospects to get such a deal done. I beg to differ, but maybe that’s because I like their young lefty arms Andrew Heaney and Sean Newcomb more than those naysayers.
This might even require the Phillies receiving both of those young arms in return. If the Phils think a bat like Kyle Kubitza could hit enough to win a corner outfield spot eventually, this might work.
Would the Angels be willing? Big market, competition from Dodgers, divisional competitor in Houston getting much better. They need something like a Hamels deal. Kids may be worth it to them.
The Dodgers are in first place in the NL West, but they lead arch-rival and defending World Series champion San Francisco by just a single game. This is a team with Series aspirations of their own, and a budget to match.
Sure, they have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke already. Still, SoCal kid Hamels would really make them difficult to beat in the regular season, the first step towards that goal, and a matchup nightmare in the playoffs.
Keeping him from crosstown Angels and division rival Giants and Padres also important.
Julio Urias likely has to be the linchpin in a deal, though the Phils might go for LA’s top two draftees, Walker Buehler and Kyle Funkhouser. Toss in an outfielder such as Alex Verdugo, maybe a pitcher like Zach Lee or Joe Wieland. There are pieces here to do a deal.
Any interesting match from both sides. The Bucs could package one of their two top prospect arms, either Tyler Glasnow or Jameson Taillon, along with catcher Reese McGuire, and perhaps an outfielder such as Austin Meadows or Harold Ramirez, and get this one done.
Whether Hamels would want to go to Pittsburgh is another matter. But the pieces are here for a deal, and the Pirates, who have made the playoffs each of the last two seasons only to quickly disappear in them, should be looking for a next-step type move. This would be it.
Another interesting team, the Cards are again doing their perennial World Series contender thing. However, the loss of ace Adam Wainwright may prove a longterm, or playoff, crippling blow.
Picking up Hamels would be the perfect fit. And with his wife being a Midwest gal, and their history of winning, it’s likely Hamels would find it a fit.
There are enough pieces, but they would have to include outfielder Stephen Piscotty, pitcher Marco Gonzalez, and likely another arm such as Alex Reyes, Rob Kaminsky, or Jack Flaherty. Perhaps catcher Carson Kelly as well, depending on the arms combo.
Along with the Red Sox, one of the leading contenders for a Hamels deal going all the way back to winter. The main reason? It’s Hamels’ hometown. It’s also a great place to pitch, the antithesis to Citizens Bank Park.
The Padres went out and improved their lineup this off-season, but are still sitting just at the .500 mark. They are just five games back in the NL West, trailing both the Dodgers and Giants, but are also just 3.5 out of the 2nd Wildcard.
This season is still there for the hometown faves. If they part with catcher Austin Hedges, an outfielder from among Hunter Renfroe, Rymer Liriano, or Michael Gettys, and an arm or two such as Casey Kelly or Colin Rea. There is a deal to be made here as well.
This would appear to be another good match, need and prospects-wise. The Rangers need a big arm like Hamels at the front of their rotation. Just 2.5 games behind the Angels, Hamels would likely be the difference in this division race for either team.
Texas is still also just a game out of the 2nd Wildcard. So this is a difference maker for them.
The pieces are definitely here: catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitcher Jake Thompson, outfielder Nomar Mazara, perhaps a secondary arm like Luke Jackson. Would Hamels take a deal to the Lone Star State?
This is another deal where the pieces are there, and where the need aligns up perfectly. The Blue Jays may already be the best team in the AL East. They have begun to make a run, moving over the .500 mark in recent days. They are right in the middle of both the division and Wildcard races.
But everyone around the team and across baseball knows, they don’t have the starting pitching to sustain this run. Adding Hamels answers that question, and this is another team in on Papelbon as well.
If the Jays give top pitching prospect Daniel Norris, outfielder Dalton Pompey, catcher Max Pentecost, and perhaps another arm such as Miguel Castro, they could have a perfect deal for both Phillies pitchers.
But would the Phils’ arms go to Canada to pitch for a contender? HUGE question, that might be answered with money.