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Amaro Was Right to Keep Cole Hamels This Long
I actually supported Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. No, I don't think he's done a good job as GM of the Phillies. He's actually done a terrible job or turning a Championship team into the worst team in baseball in just a few short years. But I did agree with his strategy of waiting to trade ace Cole Hamels until the July 31 trade deadline.
The only problem is, the deadline is Friday and the Phillies could be running out of teams to trade with.
The team most mentioned as a trade destination for Hamel was Boston. Unfortunately, the Red Sox have been terrible this season and won't be making any playoff runs until next year, at the earliest. That almost certainly takes them out of the hunt for Hamels services. Or does it?
Boston is seemingly in contention every other year with their high payroll, so trading for Hamels could be the first step towards contending again next season. Hamels is owed $70.5 million over the next three seasons after this one, with a $20 million team option or $24 million vesting option for 2019. He will also be owed roughly $8.5 million for the remainder of this season. That money will look like a bargain to any team looking to sign one of the big name free agent pitchers during the offseason. Johnny Cueto, David Price and Jordan Zimmerman headline the free agent class and then there is the little matter of NL Cy Young front-runner Zach Greinke being able to opt out of his contract with the Dodgers after this season
Speaking of the Dodgers, their trade for Matt Latos doesn't necessarily close the door on their pursuit of Hamels. You see, if Greinke opts out, the only starting pitcher under contract for the Dodgers in 2016 will be Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers have the money to spend on a big free agent arm, but they also have plenty of prospects to trade for Hamels. Just don't try to sell me Yasiel Puig. The last thing a rebuilding club like the Phillies need is bad guy like Puig in the clubhouse with impressionable young players. Anyway, the Dodgers are most certainly still in play for Hamels services. Did I mention that Hamels is a west coast guy?
The next most often rumored destination for Hamels is the Texas Rangers. Again, the Rangers may not be able to make a playoff run this season, but they could use Hamels this season and beyond. The same goes for a Cubs team that is finally starting to see their young players blossom after their lengthy rebuild. The Cubs might not be a legit contender this season, but with Hamels as their ace through 2019 and that young core, they could set themselves up for a nice long run of playoff contention over the next few years. Plus, they just got an up close and personal look at Hamels when he twirled that no-hitter against them in his last start. (By the way, it would be very cool if Hamels last start in a Phillies uniform was a no-hitter)
The other intriguing trade partner is the Houston Astros. If you haven't been paying attention, the Astros are only one game behind the Angels in the AL West and are leading the AL Wild Card chase. The Astros have been bad for a long time, but all those high draft picks are starting to pay off. It doesn't hurt that they fleeced Amaro in a couple of trades either, but that's a tirade for another article. The problem here is that Houston is one of the teams that Hamels can block a trade to and it became known that he didn't want to pitch for the Astros. Maybe Hamels would change his mind if his choices were between Houston and staying on the worst team in baseball in Philly though.
Another team who inquired about Hamels is Toronto, but they are also on Hamels' no-trade list and he has reportedly said he would not waive it to play for the Jays. What a "Hoser", eh?
And of course, you can never, ever rule out the New York Yankees. The Yanks are leading the AL East, but they lack a true ace heading into the postseason. Hamels could certainly handle the bright lights of the Big Apple after spending his entire career in front of the Phillie fans. Even with Big George gone, the Yankees are still willing to take big risks and spend the money necessary to make a run.
Where do you think Cole Hamels will be traded?
Now all of the teams I mentioned above could certainly decide that the price is too high for Hamels and trade for one of the other pitchers available at the deadline. The problem with that is that not only are none of those pitchers anywhere near Hamels's level of talent and production, but they are all free agents after this season. Plus, none of those pitchers are exactly difference-makers. Does Jeff Samardzija, Ian Kennedy, Yovani Gallardo, Dan Haren or Mike Leake make any contenders instant favorites to win the World Series? No. But Hamels just might.
The wild card here is that the Detroit Tigers just let it be known that they might be willing to trade David Price. Price is certainly a pitcher on Hamels' level, but he's also a free agent after the season. Any team that trades for him would have to give up almost as much for him as they would for Hamels. And Price is going to get a long-term contract for around $200 million in the offseason. Suddenly that money owed to Hamels looks like a bargain.
Looking at the stats, Hamels is the far superior pitcher when it matters most, in the postseason. Hamels was the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008. He is 7-4 with a 3.09 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in the playoffs, including a 1.85 ERA and 0.91 WHIP during that magical 2008 run. Meanwhile, David Price is 1-5 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.22 WHIP during the postseason in his career. We can assume all the teams looking to trade for a pitcher know those stats, as well.
I have no doubt that Hamels will be traded by Friday's 4 pm deadline. He has to be. After throwing a no-hitter in his last start, Hamels' value will never be higher. Amaro can't wait until the offseason when there will be other attractive starting pitching options available as free agents. Plus, Amaro won't be the GM of the Phillies in the offseason. The time to move is now. The only problem is, the person who is in charge of trading Hamels is the guy who got the Phillies into their current mess with his horrible trades. That's why he'll be the former GM of the Phillies as soon as this season is over.
The good news is that with current team president Pat Gillick and incoming team president Andy MacPhail looking over Amaro's shoulder, I'm a little less worried that the Phillies will get nothing in return in a trade for their ace. One of those men will make sure Amaro doesn't get fleeced like he did when he traded Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence and got absolutely nothing in return.
Cole Hamels must be traded by Friday at 4 pm. Now it's just a question of where he'll make his next start.