Phillies not Panicked About Cole Hamels, Preaching Patience


Two evenings ago, I did a radio spot with a show based out of Chicago, and one of the questions I was asked was along the lines of “what the heck are the Phillies doing?”. It was a reasonable question, because despite the Phillies having moved on from Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo this off-season, the three that they entered the off-season looking to move the most–Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon–are likely going to begin the 2015 season with the club. Howard and Papelbon come with baggage and poor contracts, and while Hamels has a big contract and would require a big return prospect-wise, it is hard for many to wrap their heads around how Ruben Amaro and Pat Gillick haven’t managed to flip Hamels for a franchise-infusing return considering he is coming off of a career-year.

Many, myself included, are perfectly fine with the Phillies holding out for a return they deem to be worthy of moving Cole Hamels for. That said, none of us know exactly what that is, and given the Phillies history of overvaluing players that played on the 2008 World Series team, it’s kind of scary to imagine exactly what it would take for the team to move the 31 year-old.

The Phillies do have some wiggle-room with Hamels, just perhaps not as much as some would lead you to think. At the trade-deadline, there will be a market for Hamels. If the Phillies are still unable to move him at that point, then things really become risky. Not moving him now already carries an injury-risk, but not moving him at the trade deadline carries the risk that he won’t pitch as well in 2015 as he did in 2014. That’s dangerous, because the free-agent market next off-season could include David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmerman and Zack Greinke, among others, and teams don’t have to give up prospects to go get any of those pieces. And Hamels is a year older, and the Phillies will still want a large prospect return for him while expecting the team landing him to take on a majority, or all, of his remaining contract.

So are the Phillies panicked? Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says not at all.

"I asked a Phillies executive Thursday if he was frustrated that the team had not received an acceptable trade offer for left-hander Cole Hamels.“Patience,” the executive said.The unspoken message: Injuries will occur once camps open, creating fresh opportunities for trades."

Hopefully, the Phillies understand that it’s fairly unrealistic that things will fall their way enough that a market for Hamels will redevelop in the Spring. Perhaps, injuries to the Rangers, Cardinals and Giants, with the Red Sox still involved in trade talks, would help for a market to re-develop before the season. Short of that, and the Phillies are probably looking at trying to re-sell Hamels to teams before the July 31st trade deadline.

Some have argued that the Phillies don’t need to trade Hamels, and if they are talking about right now, I agree. But expecting Cole Hamels to keep pitching at the level he is at now, and the Phillies to get an infusion of talent at the same time is unrealistic. Competing in 2018 or 2019 is a long-shot as it is, but if the Phillies don’t move Hamels at some point for pieces that are going to be ready to seriously contribute in two or three years, well the idea becomes even more unrealistic.

Hamels, 31, is coming off of a year in which he posted his fifth straight 200 plus inning season, while posting a career-low in ERA (2.46) and missing his career-low in FIP (3.05) by two points (3.07). Hamels has four-years and $90 million remaining on his contract. The deal also features a vesting option for 2019 that is worth $20 million, and a $6 million buyout clause. Hamels does have a limited no-trade clause (21 teams are blocked) and it is widely expected that to be moved to one of the 21 teams on that list he would require is 2019 option to be guaranteed, which would bring his deal total to five-years and $110 million, still well below what he would get on the open market. The biggest issue appears to be that the Phillies seem intent on not taking on money from teams in a potential trade, and receiving their organization’s top prospect and probably at least two other top-10 prospects.