Buster Olney Thinks Phillies Will Trade Cole Hamels … To Texas Rangers
And you thought the All-Star Break meant baseball was on siesta.
Said ESPN's uster Olney Monday, to Mike Hill and Mike Smith (filling in for Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic) on "Mike and Mike in the Morning":
"I think they're going to trade him. There hasn't been any progress in these talks. At some point last fall, maybe they could have signed him for $85 (million), maybe in the spring for $100 (million), once the season started $110 (million). And now the price just keeps going up and up and up. And when you look at the structure of the Phillies payroll ... it's going to be really, really tough unless they are willing to go over the luxury (tax threshold) to keep Cole Hamels, so I think he's going to walk away, and I think that's why the Phillies will trade him before July 31."
Important conditional there being what, really, it's always been the Phillies' willingness to go over the luxury tax threshold. (Though, as we'll note later today, their short-term financial situation isn't as dire as most let on.) Should be noted: Michael Smith alluded in the question to Cole's apparent openness to sign with the Phillies even if he's traded. So what Olney's really saying, then, is that he thinks the Phils will short-change him out of town.
Also: In saying "they're going to trade him" -- the connotation of which is that a trade would be completed -- Olney's implying that he doesn't think the Phils should have trouble finding a suitor, despite their unbelievably undermined bargaining leverage. (Philly is 14 games out of the division lead, could possibly lose the guy in free agency, and then there's the wrinkle about Hamels warming to the idea of re-signing with them after the season, diminishing any pre-deadline trade partner's hopes to re-sign him themselves.)
So who'd bite?
"When you talk to people with other teams and they handicap this thing, they think the team in the best position to make a deal is going to be the Texas Rangers. They match up best in terms of the prospects the Phillies are working for, some kind of a corner infielder. And we know that the Rangers want to get to the mountaintop after losing the World Series the last two years."
And some commentary there, from Smith.
That makes sense, primarily because the Rangers would be willing to take Hamels on a rental-only basis.
Prospect Olney notes as trade bait was 3B Mike Olt, ranked No. 74 on Keith Law's preseason top prospects list of 2012. Little low -- you'd certainly sooner cozy up to SS Jurickson Profar, ranked No. 2 on Law's updated Top 25 (cracked back and 'roids kind of make Freddy Galvis less than sure-thing) -- but, given the ankle-deep trade market and the Phillies crazy-undercut hand in negotiations, that might be the best they'll be able to get. So yeah. They should probably take it.
And pony up in the winter, of course.