At baseball’s 2014 Winter Meetings in San Diego, the logjam in the starting pitching market has finally loosened. One result should be that Cole Hamels name will again become a hot trade topic.
Free agent lefty Jon Lester finally has made up his mind, settling on the Chicago Cubs as his destination of choice. Francisco Liriano, another lefty, decided to return to Pittsburgh.
Max Scherzer is now the one frontline arm remaining on the free agent market. There are a few #2-starter types such as James Shields, Ervin Santana, and Jake Peavy, and a host of #3-4-5 type starting pitching arms.
There are also arms available for trade. The Cincinnati Reds reportedly have their entire rotation on the block, but their most valuable arm, Johnny Cueto, would also be at a prohibitive cost, and Cincy appears less inclined to actually pull that trigger.
For any team who wants to not settle for mid-level talent, and add a true ace to its rotation, it’s either pay up in salary to Scherzer, or in a prospect package to the Phillies for Hamels.
The Phillies have talked to both the Red Sox and Dodgers about Hamels already. Each of those teams, runners-up in the Lester sweepstakes, knows what it will take to land him. A 3-prospect package, with at least 2 of those as premium value kids.
Hamels has been characterized as “neutral” regarding a trade, happy to either remain and take the hill as the Opening Day starter next April for the Phillies or pitch for a contender in 2015 and beyond.
Just yesterday, manager Ryne Sandberg stated that Hamels was “game to be a Philadelphia Phillie, and if something came about that was for the betterment of the organization, then he was in favor of that also.”
From the Phillies end, this is easily their most valuable asset, and they are in no rush to make a move. With Hamels signed for years to come, they can wait until into the 2015 season and beyond. They certainly can not settle for a lesser package.
I’ve stated on a couple of recent occasions that the Dodgers would be a perfect fit for a trade involving not only Hamels, but also veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins. We’ll see if any such ideas materialize into reality in the coming days or weeks.