Could the Phillies bring back former hero Cole Hamels?

As the month of June draws to a close, this weekend also marks the exact halfway point to the 2018 Major League Baseball regular season.

One month from this weekend, the MLB non-waiver trade deadline will arrive. The Philadelphia Phillies, emerging from a half-decade of irrelevance, are once again emerging as playoff contenders.

The Phillies have a number of holes which need to be filled in order to remain legitimate contenders in the current season. As that trade deadline draws closer and rumors begin to heat up, Phillies fans find their team has been frequently involved in the gossip.

The most glaring need may be at least one proven run producer for the middle of their batting order. That hitter would preferably play on the left side of the infield, or at a corner outfield spot. Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles, who could slot in at either shortstop or third base, is the biggest name being tossed around.

The club also could use help in the bullpen. A pair of 23-year old right-handers, Seranthony Dominguez and Victor Arano, are the only currently healthy members of the bullpen who have been consistently reliable.

I also believe that the Phillies are going to need one more strong, proven veteran starting pitcher for their rotation. Behind Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta, and possibly Zach Eflin if he remains healthy and effective, one more veteran would really solidify them for the second half.

I’ve written previously that a good option moving forward would be an immediate move of Vincent Velasquez to the bullpen. Adding that veteran starting pitcher could allow this switch to happen. I believe it would strengthen the back of the relief corps as well, taking care of two needs.

One option who has frequently been linked to the Phillies, especially among the fan base, is former World Series hero Cole Hamels. The Texas Rangers, to whom the Phils traded the lefty three years ago, are actively shopping the now 34-year old.

Hamels is 4-6 this season with a 3.61 ERA and 1.274 WHIP. He has surrendered 87 hits over 97.1 innings pitched across 16 starts with a 97/37 K:BB ratio. Those are all solid numbers, and would certainly upgrade the current Phillies rotation.

However, there are some red flags with Hamels. His current FIP mark of 5.22 is well above the 4.09 MLB average. That mark ranks him just 87th of 91 pitchers who have recorded at least 80 innings pitched and a dozen starts.

His biggest problem this season has been the long ball. Hamels has already surrendered 20 home runs, two more than he allowed all of last season. He has never given up more than 28 in any full season previously.

Corey Seidman for NBC Sports Philadelphia addressed the possible reasons for those troubles in a recent article regarding a possible reunion between Hamels and the Phillies:

“Some of that is because he’s around the plate often with a fastball that averages 91 mph; some of it is because the Rangers’ home park is among the most homer-friendly venues in baseball.”

Citizens Bank Park is no picnic for fly ball pitchers either. Globe Life Park in Texas ranks as the second-toughest for pitchers as far as surrendering home runs. Citizens Bank Park is 10th among the 30 ball parks in Major League Baseball.

However, Hamels won 114 games here over a full decade between 2006-15. He certainly is comfortable here, and knows how to make adjustments at the South Philly park.

The Phillies are already paying $2.5 million of his $23.5 million contract for this year. With the season halfway over, they would be on the hook for the rest of that money, roughly $11 million. There is also a $20 million team option for next season, which they would presumably pick up.

That money wouldn’t hurt the Phillies in any way. The club has plenty to spend both this season and next. But bringing back Hamels would not only cost some cash, it would also cost the Phillies something from their minor league system.

That is where the answer can be found as to whether or not the Phillies should consider bringing Cole Hamels back to bolster their rotation for a couple of years. What would that prospect package look like?

You also have to factor the possibility of the Phillies going after a big bat such as Machado. That deal would certainly involve more, and more valuable, prospects than would be needed in a Hamels trade.

The Phillies do have the minor league talent to get a Hamels or Machado deal done. In fact, they have enough to get both deals done. But should they pay the price? That is the big question for GM Matt Klentak and owner John Middleton to decide in the coming days and weeks.

I believe that the return of Hamels would not only be a great story, it would also help the Phillies. The money is not an object. And I also believe that the price in prospects would be reasonable.

Should the Phillies bring home Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series and NLCS Most Valuable Player? As long as that prospect package is indeed reasonable, you have to vote ‘Yes’ on this proposition.

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