The Phillies don’t have to trade Cole Hamels, not the way the Dodgers felt they had to move Matt Kemp. It depends on the ownership situation, and if there is going to be a change in ownership, and it depends on exactly where the Phillies want to go.
Trading Hamels isn’t as simple as offering a guy with four years of control for three or four players. Whoever trades for him has to take on $100M, or at least $120M if you’re the Red Sox. While Pat Gillick has stated that it will be 2017 before they are contenders again, Ruben Amaro seems intent on something good for show-and-tell at midwinter banquets and the opening day of spring training.
Maybe Hamels-Wil Myers would be his kind of trade, although it seems odd that a 24-year old player has already been in three organizations before even thinking of getting a condo in Clearwater. And while the Pads have failed to draw 2M once since Petco opened, can they afford to take on $100M and trade Myers and possibly a young arm and make it all work in their five year prospective?
The Red Sox made it clear when they opened talks about Hamels that they will not deal Mookie Betts, who is clearly a regular and he who wills the vital role of leadoff hitter (check Bill James’ 2015 projection on Betts, over .400 OBP, 500 slug, just 22 years old); in 37 games, Betts’ WAR was 2.1, in 175 Myers’ was 0.9. They will also not trade catcher Blake Swihart. Now, Charlie Manuel saw more games in the Boston system than any other team and believes Garin Cecchini is a rising star and loves several others, but while Manuel is one of the best evaluators—particularly of hitters—in the game, his voice is not heard by Amaro. Nor is the voice of Pat Gillick, who would look at this list of the nine big trades for “ace” pitchers in the last seven years, thought out building to 2017 and gone immediately to outfielder Manuel Margot, third baseman Rafael Devers or shortstop Javier Guerra. Get one, the way the Cubs got Addison Russell, two pitchers in the Anthony Ranaudo generation and use the $100M to build internationally.
This is the history lesson in front of the Phillies:
Nine “Ace” Pitcher Trades Since 1978
The Brewers were desperately trying to make the post-season for the first time since 1992, and LaPorta was the top ten list prospect. Yet in his fourth year with the Indians, Brantley became an all-star-level player.
The Twins got an all-star player in the deal for Johan Santana, who at the time was the best lefthander in the sport. Unfortunately, Carlos Gomez became an all-star with the Brewers after the Twins traded Gomez for J.J. Hardy, then released Hardy. Four years after trading Zack Greinke to the Brewers, Lorenzo Cain and Jake Odorizzi became quality major leaguers, Odorizzi for the Rays.
The Blue Jays got no use out of the deal for Roy Halladay. The only player of value in three Cliff Lee deals was Carlos Carrasco, who in the second half of his sixth season after the trade emerged as a major league starting pitcher.
The prospect pitchers in these deals won 48 games and lost 69 for the teams to whom they were traded. At 26 apiece, Odorizzi and Smyly well may slot into the Rays rotation next season behind Alex Cobb and Chris Archer.
Garza, incidentally, was considered a B list “ace” who has been traded three times. Archer in his fourth year with the Rays, may be a legit front-end starter and all-star. The Cubs traded him in 2013, have a prospect remaining in C.J. Edwards and two useful bullpen pieces, Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm. But the Cubs were smart; they went for upside in Edwards, not show-and-tell.
We don’t yet know what the A’s really got for Jeff Samardzija from the White Sox, and whether those promises match Russell and Billy McKinney.
The Phillies are on landfill with this Hamels deal. First, there aren’t many teams that can take on his contract. Oh, the Dodgers can, but they will not trade Julio Urias, Corey Seager or Joc Pederson. Period. Same way the Red Sox will not trade Betts or Swihart. Perhaps the Padres can take on the $100M and we know Hamels would love to go home, but are the Phillies so bent on showing off what’s under the Hamels Tree that they forget building for ’17 the way the Braves are clearly doing? If, as several GMs think, the Giants are going to trade prospects for Ben Zobrist, would they hold into what’s left and sign James Shields as a free agent? Brian Cashman has made one astute longterm deal after another, and isn’t going to trade Luis Severino and a position prospect to have three $20+M pitchers on his roster. Don’t expect the Cubs to have two $20+M pitchers in their thirties, especially when the second one also would cost prized prospects, who have tremendous value.
The Cubs and the Astros are Top Eight markets that knew what time it would take to get to the point of sustained contention, and haven’t lost sight. Perhaps the Phillies fear the rebuilding process, can’t wait for 2017, and while the Marlins and Mets begin their ascent towards the Nationals and the Braves are willing to build for the opening of their new park, the Phillies, if they will not seek ceiling in 19-to-22 year old prospects and be willing to wait for the timetables of a Brantley, Gomez, Archer or Russell, then they can hold onto one of the best pitchers in their history and hope for either 82 wins or a major breakdown in St. Louis, San Diego or Boston.