GM: “No one is Giving up Elite Talent for Cole Hamels”


Though I know it hasn’t been a popular opinion, I’ve been one of the few in Philadelphia Phillies circles that think the team is vastly overvaluing Cole Hamels in trades. While I’m not a proponent of simply giving Hamels away, I’ve suggested that maybe the Phillies best chance to move Hamels for a fair return is to re-asses what a fair return for him would be.

He’s 31 years-old making a very fair amount of money for his production, but money that still places him among the game’s highest paid pitchers. There’s no doubt that his tremendous 2014 season and a clear market make him an attractive piece, but he’s making a lot and is 31 years-old. And from the sounds of how negotiations have gone thus far, teams don’t value him the way that the Phillies think they should.

The Phillies’ gameplan, over a year into negations, appears to be to continue to wait out the market. Thus far, the Red Sox starting rotation doesn’t look good enough to even get them to the playoffs and season-ending injuries to Adam Wainwright and Brandon McCarthy could put the Cardinals and Dodgers in the market for front of the line starting pitching.

But that doesn’t mean they are going to sell the farm for Cole Hamels. And frankly, unless something drastically changes, I’d bet none of them bite for Hamels at the deadline.

In an in-depth piece profiling why Cole Hamels is still in Philly, one that made it seem that Hamels is growing increasingly malcontent in Philly, Jon Heyman made it seem that the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees and Rangers all have had trouble getting on the same page with the Phillies in Hamels talks. As he points out, the Cubs and Padres have already had fairly in-depth failed talks with Ruben Amaro and company, with the Padres electing to sign James Shields instead.

Will any of the teams give in to the Phillies asking price at the deadline?

"“The Dodgers won’t be blink,” one person familiar with their thinking predicted.Some believe the Phillies are still holding out hope for Boston, which has money, prospects galore, an extremely strong everyday team and the need for a No. 1 or even 2 starting pitcher.“The Red Sox won’t blink, either,” the person said."

Could this source be someone with a vested interest in the Phillies lowering Hamels’ price? Sure, but Hamels has seriously been on the market for over a year now, and the Phillies really haven’t gotten close to trading him. It may just be that no teams are going to want to meet the Phillies’ current price for Hamels.

As I’ve suggested, the Phillies do need to get a bit more realistic on their prospect demands. They still need to make sure that they get impact prospects for him, though. And the best way to do that may be to eat a percentage of the $110 million (if he demands his 2019 $20 million option is guaranteed) he’s still owed on his deal.

Don’t believe me? At 31, still owed a lot of money, the rest of the league appears to think so.

"“I’d give up more for a young less proven pitcher,” one GM said, citing Seattle’s Taijuan Walker as an example. “Maybe (Hamels’ contract) is discounted 15 percent. No one’s going to give up elite talent for that.”"

Walker has been ranked inside Baseball America’s top 20 previously, but has had a very slow start to the season. For all intents and purposes, this example is very weak because Walker is in his first full big-league season, is just 22 years-old and isn’t becoming available anytime soon.

I’m assuming what this General Manager was saying is that if the Phillies were willing to eat 15% of Hamels’ deal, he would become much more attractive. If that’s a hold-up, that’s foolish. If you have to eat in the neighborhood of $15-$20 million to move Hamels for a good group of prospects, then you do it.

Amaro said the team would do as much yesterday in an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

"“We are very open-minded,” Amaro said. “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.”"

Saying and doing are two different things, and I get the sense that if the Phillies ate part of Hamels’ deal, they wouldn’t leave much room to budge on getting a package of the game’s best prospects in return.

Even eating that wouldn’t make the Red Sox want to give up Blake Swihart or the Dodgers want to part with Joc Pederson. It’s become clear teams aren’t going to give up their best prospect in a trade for Hamels. They also aren’t going to give up two of their top five prospects in a trade. But if you get three of a team’s top 12 to headline a deal, you are getting something that will help to build your future. 

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Some will balk even at that type of return, but that’s reality. And if the Phillies don’t meet reality, teams aren’t going to line up just because they need front of the line pitching. And that’s (a handful of seriously interested teams) what the Phillies need to get a top-notch return. One seriously interested team doesn’t make a market for a player. If you don’t have two or three seriously interested teams, one isn’t going to stand there and bid against themselves and give up a big return knowing that the Phillies are under public pressure to move Hamels.

Barring a complete collapse from the Reds, Hamels will very likely be the uncontested best arm available at the deadline. I’m not suggesting the Phillies give Hamels away, but if they consider eating money and taking a slightly lesser return at the deadline, the Phillies could move Hamels at the deadline and still end up walking away with a very satisfied feeling.

If they don’t, they may be in trouble. They struggled to get any traction, for a variety of reasons, on Hamels last off-season. That off-season was a fairly deep market for for front-of-the-line starting pitching, but next off-season has the potential to be even better. Jordan Zimmerman, David Price, Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke and Doug Fister could all be free-agents. Even secondary options like Yovani Gallardo, Mat Latos and Ian Kennedy could be available.

And before you say it, yes teams will overpay for a player like Fister before they give up various elite prospects and take on a big deal in Hamels’ case. Is that a flawed way of thinking? Maybe, but teams covet their prospects now more than ever, and the Phillies need to adjust to that.

Next: Phillies Rumors: Jonathan Papelbon Back to Red Sox?