Cole Hamels Trade Suitors with Chips to Pull off Huge Winter Trade

November 20, 2014 by Mike Rosenbaum  
Filed under Fan News

Cole Hamels is the definition of an ace, having made at least 30 starts in seven consecutive seasons while eclipsing 200 innings all but once during that time frame. During his nine-year career with the Phillies, the left-hander has pitched to a 3.27 ERA (3.48 FIP), 8.53 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.26 walks per nine innings in 1,801.1 innings, good for a 34.4 fWAR.

Hamels, who turns 31 in December, will make $96 million over the final four years of his contract (not including a $20 million vesting option for 2019). He also has a 20-team no-trade clause and nine-team block list in his contract, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. However, as of now, the only team known not to be included on either list is the Chicago Cubs, according to a tweet from ESPN’s Buster Olney.

In the past, the Phillies have dangled Hamels to both gauge interest and make their asking price known. Most recently, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. placed Hamels on revocable waivers last August only to have him claimed by the Cubs. However, the Phillies ultimately pulled him back off waivers after but the two teams failed to work out a deal.

Don’t get me wrong, the rebuilding process in Philadelphia should have begun years ago; however, Amaro did make the right decision by holding off on trading Hamels until the offseason. Now, he is prepared to wait and see how the market for free agents Max Scherzer and Jon Lester unfolds before deciding whether to deal his ace left-hander, per Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.

Unsurprisingly, the Phillies are looking for a flattering return on Hamels (as they should be) in the form of “at least three top prospects,” two of whom are capable of contributing in the major leagues, per Salisbury. At the same time, I’m sure the Phillies might be willing to make an exception if the non-major league-ready players in the proposed deal are that good or play up-the-middle positions.

Most teams lack the talent and depth—and in many cases the payroll flexibility—to meet Philadelphia’s asking price for Hamels, which makes it relatively easy to predict his potential suitors. So far, the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox reportedly have expressed interest in Hamels.

Here’s an idea of what those teams might be able to offer the Phillies for Hamels.

 

Boston Red Sox

The Trade: C Christian Vazquez, RHP Matt Barnes and 2B Sean Coyle

 

The Red Sox possess arguably the best selection of young major league players and prospects among teams that could be interested in Cole Hamels.

Boston is one of the 20 teams on Hamels’ no-trade list, though Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports doesn’t believe it would necessarily be an impediment in a deal between the teams.

“Hamels included the Red Sox on his latest no-trade list, and likely would grant his approval for a deal only if they exercised his $20 million option for 2019,” writes Rosenthal. “At that point, his contract would become less attractive: $110 million over five years.”

The Phillies scouted Boston’s system thoroughly this season, clearly envisioning such a scenario might unfold given the lack of impact arms on the free-agent market. Meanwhile, recent reports have the team looking into three players specifically.

According Rosenthal: “The Phillies are doing background work on [Christian Vazquez’s] makeup, as well as on the makeups of right-hander Matt Barnes and outfielder Mookie Betts.”

Betts appears to be a star in the making as well as a big part of the future for the Red Sox, meaning it’s highly unlikely he’ll be included in any trade this offseason. On the other hand, Barnes and Vazquez, whom both reached the major leagues this past season, are candidates to be moved in a blockbuster deal for Hamels.

Boston has expressed a desire to hold on to Vazquez and top prospect catcher Blake Swihart, per Rosenthal, though neither player has been officially declared off-limits. With Carlos Ruiz entering his age-35 season and lacking internal options behind the plate, it makes sense for the Phillies to target one of Boston’s young catchers. In this case, we’ll say Vazquez.

Vazquez, 24, demonstrated good contact skills as well solid plate discipline with the Red Sox, batting .240/.308/.309 with 10 extra-base hits and 20 RBI over 201 plate appearances.

As you might have inferred from his triple-slash line, Vazquez struggled to drive the ball last season, and based on his lack of power in minor leagues and general tendency to hit the ball on the ground, he’s not going to become a home run threat over night.

Luckily, Vazquez shines on the other side of the ball, as evidenced by his 52 percent caught-stealing rate last season in 54 games behind the plate. Beyond that, he proved to be an advanced receiver—earning his pitchers 103.6 additional strikes—and average blocker.

Meanwhile, right-hander Matt Barnes was Boston’s first-round pick back in 2011, and it seemed as though he’d reach the major leagues quickly after breezing through both Class-A levels the following year behind a 2.86 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 119.2 innings.

After that, however, Barnes, 24, didn’t progress as expected, turning in shaky performances across the Double- and Triple-A levels in back-to-back years.

Thankfully, the 24-year-old figured things out during the final month of the minor league season, as he pitched to a 2.16 ERA and .164 opponents' batting average over 41.2 innings (six starts) at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Barnes’ strong finish earned him a September promotion to the major leagues. The right-hander made five relief appearances and posted a 4.00 ERA with eight strikeouts over nine innings.

In addition to Vazquez and Barnes, the Red Sox might also offer the Phillies one of its middle infield prospects to potentially seal the deal, in which case second baseman Sean Coyle would make sense given his promising offensive profile and the fact he’ll be blocked by Dustin Pedroia for the foreseeable future.

A 2014 All-Star Futures Game selection, Coyle put up big numbers this season in his first taste of the Double-A level, batting .295/.371/.512 with 16 home runs and 23 doubles in 384 plate appearances while also swiping 13 bags. However, injuries impacted the 22-year-old’s development for the second straight year, as he was limited to only 97 games after playing just 48 in 2013.

Coyle’s track record in the minor leagues—specifically his plate discipline and swing-and-miss tendencies—suggests he won’t hit for average or reach base as well as he did this past season. That being said, his power-speed combination should still result in seasons with double-digit home runs and stolen bases, not to mention upwards of 25 doubles.

 

Chicago Cubs

The Trade: OF Albert AlmoraRHP C.J. Edwards and C Victor Caratini

 

The Cubs are in the market for a top-tier starting pitcher this offseason, with free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer as well as trade candidate Cole Hamels atop their list.

As previously mentioned, the Cubs claimed Hamels off revocable waivers last August but failed to strike a deal with the Phillies. However, the Cubs knew a trade wouldn’t happen, especially with Philadelphia asking for “three to four top prospects” and the Cubs aggressively stockpiling them; they were simply laying the groundwork for a potential offseason trade.

After Hamels was pulled back off waivers, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times speculated that the Phillies were asking for shortstop Addison Russell—acquired by the Cubs a month earlier from the A’s in the Jeff Samardzija deal—in return for Hamels. In all likelihood, the Phillies are probably still looking to receive a player package headlined by Russell. That could happen in theory given the Cubs’ depth at the position; however, team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have mentioned on multiple occasions they don’t plan on trading one of their shortstops anytime soon.

Luckily, the Cubs have a deep collection of high-end prospects and therefore the ability to entice the Phillies with an assortment of player packages.

Specifically, the Cubs make a splash in the trade talks by offering center fielder Albert Almora, the team’s first-round pick in the 2012 draft.

Almora, 20, produced a .270/.291/.392 batting line with 40 extra-base hits (nine home runs) in 529 plate appearances this year and spent the final month and a half of the regular season in Double-A. Though his numbers were slightly disappointing—mostly in terms of his approach and on-base skills—after an impressive 2013 full-season debut, Almora still projects as at least an above-average hitter capable of holding down center field long term.

If all goes as planned with Almora’s development, he could be ready to debut during the 2016 season. However, with Arismendy Alcantara now patrolling center field and likely to remain there having already moved off the infield, a case can be made that Almora is the team’s top prospect trade chip.

In addition to Almora, the Cubs would probably have to deal one of their better pitching prospects to get Hamels, and chances are the Phillies, who lack internal candidates capable of stepping into the starting rotation, will prefer a guy already within striking distance of the major leagues.

Right-hander C.J. Edwards fits that bill, and he’s also a sell-high candidate for the Cubs after an impressive final month of the regular season at Double-A Tennessee and a strong showing in this year’s Arizona Fall League.

The 23-year-old made four starts at Tennessee before landing on the disabled list for three-plus months with a shoulder injury, but he returned to the level in early August to post a 2.30 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 27.1 innings. Making six starts in the AFL, Edwards pitched to a 1.80 ERA and fanned 13 batters in 15 innings.

My only look at Edwards in Arizona was in the Fall Stars Game, when he struck out two batters while working a scoreless third inning in relief of starter Archie Bradley. The wiry right-hander was as sharp as his line suggests, throwing a 91-94 mph fastball that jumped out of his hand due to deception and his usual hard-sweeping, swing-and-miss breaking ball in the low- to mid-80s.

Edwards’ slender 6’2”, 155-pound frame and shoulder injury raises questions about his long-term durability, but the right-hander’s track record of success in the minor leagues speaks to his overall potential.

To round out the deal for Hamels, the Cubs could offer Philadelphia switch-hitting catching prospect Victor Caratini, who was acquired from the Braves at this year’s non-waiver trade deadline in exchange for James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio.

Caratini, a second-round draft pick in 2013, made his full-season debut this year, batting .277/.346/.402 with 32 extra-base hits (five home runs) and a 69-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 423 plate appearances between the Braves’ and Cubs’ Low-A affiliates.

The 21-year-old moved back to catcher this season after playing third base almost exclusively in his 2013 professional debut, and he held his own at the position with a 32 percent caught-stealing rate and only eight passed balls.

The big question with Caratini is whether he’ll develop usable power. Right now, he’s mostly a gap-to-gap hitter from both sides of the plate and stands out for his on-base skills thanks to an advanced approach. If he continues down that path and improves his defense along the way, Caratini could be ready for a crack at the major leagues by 2017.

 

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference or FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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Cole Hamels Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation Surrounding Star Pitcher

November 10, 2014 by Tyler Conway  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels has been the subject of numerous trade rumors and reports, as teams look to bolster their rotations with the lefty's services. 

Thursday, Nov. 13

Amaro Talks Trade Rumors

Bob Nightengale of USA Today talked to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. about the trade rumors surrounding Cole Hamels: 

"He was neutral when I talked to him,'' Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro revealed. "Happy to go. I think he wants to win, but he signed his contract, and he plans on honoring the contract, obviously.''

Nightengale also detailed why the lefty hasn't been dealt yet:

Teams should be lining up outside the hall of Amaro's suite at the Arizona Biltmore to make enticing trade proposals for Hamels.

Yet, the cruel reality is that in today's marketplace, there's a greater chance of the Yankees retiring Alex Rodriguez's number than Hamels pitching in a different uniform on opening day.

The Chicago Cubs covet him. They would rather have him than Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields.

The trouble is that all Scherzer, Lester and Shields cost you is money. They're all free agents.

Hamels costs you money -- four years and $96 million remaining on his contract -- and those coveted prospects.

No one these days wants to part with both.

"You've seen in the last several years that those prospects are highly coveted,'' Amaro says. "It seems like teams are more apt to just spend money, because it's just money. It's not entities that they're giving up as far as players are concerned, or talent. That's kind of the trend we're in.

"At the same time, there's risk with that. You're doling out a lot of money. It's a difficult balance. "But the reality of it is, there isn't that many elite pitchers out there. So we'll see what happens."

 

 

Monday, Nov. 10

The Boston Red Sox have been viewed as a potential landing spot for Philadelphia Phillies ace for months. There's just one problem: Hamels' contract specifically forbids the Phillies from trading him to Boston without his permission.   

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported Boston is one of 20 teams named on Hamels' no-trade clause, though he notes a deal could still be reached:

Hamels, 30, is expected to be one of the biggest names available on the trade market this winter as the Phillies look to retool their aging roster. Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reported management was looking for at least three quality prospects in return for Hamels, who has been a bastion of consistency despite the poor play around him.

Hamels had a career-best ERA (2.46) and had his eighth straight season between 3.5 and 4.6 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs. Despite his consistency, Hamels is only 17-23 over the last two seasons, garnering some of the worst run support in baseball. The Phillies averaged just 3.43 runs in Hamels' starts in 2014 and 3.36 in 2013, per ESPN.com.

Philadelphia has missed the playoffs the last two seasons and had its first losing campaign in more than a decade in 2014. Phillies interim CEO Pat Gillick told Corey Seidman of CSN Philly the team won't contend for at least the next two seasons.

"I think we’re more toward rebuilding than reloading," Gillick said. "That’s my opinion. I think it's hard to ask the fans, it's hard to ask the media, it's hard to ask, you know, anyone, to be patient. Patience is kind of thin these days. But I think this is going to be more of a rebuilding, more of a restructuring than a reloading."

Trading Hamels could help that rebuild. Even with a hefty contract, he could be a Cy Young contender if moved to the right club.

 

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