Friday, May 22, 2015

As Cole Hamels Heats Up, So Do Trade Rumors

Well, Phillies fans, it's Memorial Day weekend, and Cole Hamels is still here, plugging away in red pinstripes for your Fightin' Phils.
The ace lefty will take the mound on Saturday opposite Stephen Strasburg in a marquee pitching matchup that will give him yet another opportunity to shine in the spotlight for possible trade suitors.
Hamels has allowed two or fewer earned runs in six of his nine starts thus far in 2015. In four of his last five outings, Hamels has gone at least seven innings, and allowed six or fewer hits each time.
For the season, he has a 3.24 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, and a 4.12 FIP mark. He has allowed just 46 hits in 58.1 innings, has a 62-23 K:BB ratio, and possesses a winning 4-3 record for a losing team.
Cole Hamels is better in every way than any starting pitcher on the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, and Los Angeles Angels, all teams who are contending and/or expect to contend this season. He could be a legitimate difference maker in every American League divisional race.
For teams already possessing at least one strong starter who can match his talent and experience, he could push them over the top. 
Here I am talking about adding him to the Kershaw-Greinke combo with the Los Angeles Dodgers, to the Shields-Cashner combo with the San Diego Padres, to Bumgarner with the San Francisco Giants, and to Price with the Detroit Tigers.
"there's only one true seller with legit starting pitching, that being the Phillies" ~ Jon Heyman
The Phillies, for their part, are playing this one perfectly. The only real roll of the dice on their part is with Hamels' health. But he has never had a major injury, is healthy and strong now, and he is in his prime physical peak years.
As long as Cole Hamels health holds up, and there is no reason to suspect that it won't, then some team is going to break down and pony up.
It will take at least two, and probably three, really strong prospects to land the former World Series and NLCS MVP.
Hamels is absolutely worth it. He is a workhorse. He is a stopper. He is an ace. They don't grow on trees. This is absolutely a case of a bird in the hand, in this case a big, strong bird, being worth 2-3 in a bush.
The Phillies are even willing to pay some of the $23.5 million that Hamels is due over each of the next three guaranteed seasons in his contract, particularly if it means landing a better prospect package.
In late April, Mark Lancaster with The Sporting News quoted Phils GM Ruben Amaro: "We are very open-minded. We're not afraid to subsidize contracts. We never told a club that we would not absolutely subsidize his contract. That is not a realistic way to do business. If there's a deal to be made, and we have to subsidize part of it, we'll do it."
The Toronto Blue Jays are just 19-24 thus far during a season in which they were expected to contend. That is barely ahead of the Phillies own 18-25 record.
The difference is that the Jays play in the AL East, where they are just 4 1/2 games out of first place in a division that no one seems talented enough to run away with at the moment.
The Jays recently approached the Phillies regarding Hamels' availability. Toronto would seem to have some interesting young pieces that might get a deal done. 
But according to Jon Heyman, the Jays were informed that Hamels would not waive his 20-team, no-trade option for Toronto:
"According to sources, the Blue Jays inquired about Cole Hamels but were told Hamels would not waive his 20-team no-trade clause to go to Toronto, as is his right...That Hamels call was a blow to the Phillies, who likely saw Toronto, with all its young pitching talent...as a potential landing spot, especially considering their frustration in landing the marquee prospect they desire and these two teams' solid trading history."
Heyman went on to cover the Jays' pitching troubles, which are mirrored by a number of other contenders: "The problem is that so far there's only one true seller with legit starting pitching, that being the Phillies, plus the very real possibility there will continue to be a paucity of sellers considering all the bunched divisions and hopeful contenders."
Not only is Hamels on the trade blocks, but righty Aaron Harang has made himself extremely valuable, and should come at a much cheaper price. 
The Phillies would also most certainly deal Jerome Williams, were anyone to step forward with interest. 
And closer Jonathan Papelbon, also previously discussed with Toronto, continues to remain a valuable trade chip on the blocks.
The possibilities are wide-ranging on a Hamels deal, involving any contending team that thinks it has the pieces. 
Justin Heinze with Patch speculated just yesterday that the Pittsburgh Pirates might be a perfect fit: "The Cole Hamels sweepstakes are limited to teams that can a) afford him, b) need starting pitching, c) are in playoff contention, and d) have the prospects needed to satisfy Phillies General Manger Ruben Amaro Jr.’s high price tag. The Pirates fit the bill on all four fronts."
There is no need for the Phillies to rush this. There are enough teams in the preferred Hamels destination zone, either his native Southern California, or his wife's native Midwestern US, or with deep-pockets, heavy-tradition, prennially-contending teams that the list of acceptable suitors with needs will remain large.
There is also no need for the Phillies to even do this at all, in the end. If no team is willing to meet their price, the Phils can just stick with Hamels. 
He brings them competitiveness every time out, carries himself with a high degree of professionalism, and gives fans the one link back to the recent glory days who is still young enough to be relevant over the next few years while they rebuild.
Toronto made their play, and were shot down by Hamels. There remain a number of teams who he likely would not shoot down. 
Now it's up to one of those teams to decide that they want to take a major step forward, and push themselves ahead of their own opposition. All it takes is guts, and a few good-looking kids.

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