Could Philadelphia Trade Cole Hamels?
The most interesting rumor of the Major League Baseball off-season isn't a big contract being offered in Miami, the lack of urgency after a non-championship season in New York, or where the best player in the sport will land. The big, intriguing idea brought forth thus far? Ruben Amaro Jr. pulling the trigger on a deal that would send Cole Hamels out of Philadelphia.
An idea that seems ridiculous is gaining traction in the baseball community. Much has been made about the finances of the Philadelphia Phillies as they try to improve their team without going much over their $175 million payroll of a year ago. Significant salary raises to Hunter Pence, Ryan Howard, and Cliff Lee, along with the signing of Jonathon Papelbon (4 yr/50 mil) have brought forth questions on how much the team has left to spend this off-season to fill needs at shortstop and leftfield.
According to most baseball people, Cole Hamels -- even at a hefty arbitration raise in 2012 -- is a major piece of the Phillies puzzle both now and in the future. It has been assumed for a while that getting a contract extension done with him before he hits free agency next winter is a main priority. Now, for the first time since his early days in the red pinstripes, there are questions be raised about his future with the team.
Would the Phillies really break up their great starting staff? Ken Roesenthal, FOX Sports analyst, has raised the idea this week that Philadelphia might consider trading Hamels if they can't agree to a team friendly contract extension soon. That is obviously going to be difficult considering that Hamels is only a year away from free agency, and the payday he is poised to receive. You may consider this only a crazy rumor, but remember that it was Roesenthal who first had a "hunch" about the Cliff Lee-Roy Halladay three team deal in December of 2009. Sometimes these guys have hunches that turn out to be whispers of facts.
Should the best pitching staff in baseball move their youngest, most valuable commodity in order to fill other needs and/or create payroll flexibility moving forward? Cole certainly doesn't think so. In an interview with MLB.com's Todd Zoleki, he had this to say: "You don't really think the grass is greener on the other side," Hamels said. "This is the organization I've come up with. We're winning. Why would you ever want to leave? You want to be on a winning team, and the team wants to win."
Should they consider something this drastic? In short, no. Obviously it's much more complicated than a one word answer, but it's hard to imagine a move like this paying off in the short term. I'm against any move that doesn't include Cole signing a long term contract for the Phillies, but if they are considering a major, franchise changing move, here are ten teams and possible deals to consider:
-To New York (AL) for Eduardo Nunez, Brett Gardner, and Phil Hughes: Nunez showed flashes (22 stolen bases, decent power) of being able to be a very good offensive shortstop and could be an everyday replacement for Jimmy Rollins. Gardner would provide a lead off hitter (.360 OBP since becoming a full timer) and Gold Glove caliber defense in left field. Hughes is just two years removed from winning 18 games and could be almost as good as Hamels in the NL if he regained his fastball.
-To Miami for Hanley Ramirez: According to reports out of Miami, Hanley isn't happy about the idea of moving from shortstop to third base because of Jose Reyes. He can play shortstop and be a baby in Philadelphia.
-To New York (NL) for David Wright: I have long thought that Wright would thrive in smaller stadium and without the pressure of being the "man" in New York. He has had down years in two of the last three seasons, but a change of scenery could revive a career that once looked destined for Cooperstown.
-To Washington for Ryan Zimmerman: The Nationals are on the cusp of being a really good team. Zimmerman is up for a contract after the 2013 season and is looking to talk extension. He's currently their franchise player, but pairing Cole Hamels with Steve Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman could get Mike Rizzo's blood boiling. Plus, their first round pick lasts summer was Rice University third baseman Anthony Rendon.
-To Los Angeles (AL) for Eric Aybar and Ervin Santana: Not the world's biggest names, but might be the perfect match for both clubs. Hamels is a Southern California guy who would be receptive to signing a contract extension. New GM Jerry DiPoto is looking to make a mark early in his tenure. Aybar is more of a bottom of the order hitter (Angels manager Mike Scoscia's distaste for OBP forced him to the top of the order), but his defense might actually be an upgrade from Rollins. Sananta isn't great, but the guy has posted a sub-3.92 earned run average in three of the last four years against the American League. Santana has a $13 mil option for 2013 and Aybar is cost effective through arbitration for the next few seasons.
-To Chicago (NL) for Starlin Castro and Matt Garza: This would be a hefty haul for Theo Epstein to give up in his first month on the job, but it would provide him with an ace to build a franchise around. Castro is already an All-Star and better offensive player than Rollins. You can make the case that Garza has the ability to be a #2 starter at 5.95 million next season. Castro and Garza would cost a combined six million in 2012. Hamels and Rollins? At least thirty million for the pair.
-To Boston for Jacoby Ellsbury: Would the Red Sox trade an MVP caliber outfielder for a Cy Young caliber starter? Anything that would allow them to not have to pitch Tim Wakefield in meaningful games would be intriguing.
-To Cincinnati for Yonder Alonso, Zach Cosart, and Bill Bray: The catch here would Alonso, considered among the top, budding hitting prospects in the game. He is a natural first baseman being blocked by Joey Votto in Cincy, though he is learning the outfield. His role with Philadelphia could be insurance for Ryan Howard at first early in 2012, the future left fielder, and way down the line, a potential replacement for Ryan Howard. His .330/.398/.545 stat line in 98 big league plate appearances has scouts all hot and bothered. Cosart could be a decent stop gap at shortstop. Bray would give the team another left-handed option out of the pen.
-To Baltimore for J.J. Hardy and Zach Britton: Much like the proposed Angels deal, what this lacks in excitement it makes up for in quality. While nothing that has happened over the past thirteen years makes anyone believe that the Baltimore Orioles are interested in dealing an affordable All-Star shortstop (coming off the quietest 30 home run season by a shortstop I can remember) and a left- handed rookie starter who won 11 games and was dazzling at times, let's remember who their new general manager is. Dan Duquette is known for making a splash, especially when it comes to aces. This is a guy who traded for Pedro Martinez twice (as GM of the Expos, then from the Expos as GM of the Red Sox). Would Baltimore trade assests and fork over $120 million to Hamels? If Dan Duquette is really in charge the answer is yes.
-To Toronto for Yunel Escobar and Brandon Morrow: Wouldn't it be ironic to see Philadelphia trade an ace to Toronto just a few years after trading for Roy Halladay? Escobar is about as an affordable (5 yrs/22.9 mil if all options are picked up through 2015) as you can find for a shortstop that can hit. Morrow is erratic, but struck out 200 batters in the AL East and is under contract through 2013.