The Time to Trade Cole Hamels was Yesterday

Cleveland Indians v Philadelphia Phillies

We all know what the Phillies need to do. They have to begin the lengthy rebuilding process to help ensure that they can contend in, hopefully, the next 3-5 years. They have successfully started that rebuild with the trades of Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, and, to a lesser extent, Antonio Bastardo. In return for these three players, the Phillies received 4 young and controllable pitchers, a commodity that a team could never run out. Zach Eflin, Tom Windle, Ben Lively are expected to headline a Double-A Reading rotation that could make some ways in the Eastern League, while Joely Rodriguez, the player acquired for Bastardo, figure to be in the pen. Elfin, 20, had been ranked as high as the 10th best prospect in a Padres system that was fairly deep. He has a fastball that sits mid 90’s, a curveball that has great disguise, and a change-up that is a work in progress. Windle, a 22 year old southpaw, has a low 90’s fastball, a slider that could become two effective pitches depending on the velocity, and a change-up that scouts have questioned ever since he was drafted. Lively, a 22 year old righty who rated as high as the best prospect in the Reds organization, sits in the low 90’s with his fastball and has 3 other pitches; a slider, a change-up, and a curveball. These pitchers were a good start to the rebuild. The thing I don’t like is that none of the players that the Phillies traded were named Cole Hamels.

Cole Hamels was supposed to be the big fish on the trading block this offseason. Lefties with his ability don’t just grow on trees, and he is signed for a very team friendly deal that has 4 years and 96 million dollars left on it. With the way that the market is going these days, that is a steal for a pitcher of Hamels ability. The Phillies have learned their lessons trading aces. Cliff Lee was traded for for three prospects: righties Phillippe Aumont and Juan Ramirez, and outfielder Tyson Gillies, with Aumont being the only one left in the organization, just barely. The Phillies have to be careful in dealing Hamels because they do not want to make the same mistake again, but in waiting so long, I believe that Ruben Amaro is making the same mistake over again, just in a different way.

Amaro has been pretty open this offseason about pretty much everything, how he believes the team would be better off without Ryan Howard to what the trade market looked like for Cole Hamels. Amaro has been pretty public in his search for the “perfect” deal for his prized lefty. In looking for the perfect deal, the Phillies are just disregarding the slight decrease in value that Hamels will go through every minute they hold on to him. The most reported teams to be interested in Hamels have been the Rangers, Padres, Red Sox, and Cubs. The Phillies have been pretty adamant in trying to work out a deal with Boston, who they believe to match up with them the best in a trade for Hamels. They have been asking for, unsuccessfully, either catcher Blake Swihart or infielder/outfielder Mookie Betts. A deal headlined by either player paired with other prospects would be a good haul/value for the left handed hurler, but Boston will not budge. They would rather build a package around left hander Henry Owens and third baseman/left fielder Garin Cecchini. Both are very good prospects, but the Phillies want more. This brings me to a trade offer that I believe the Phillies should have taken into consideration.

The San Diego Padres have completely revamped their lineup this offseason, acquiring Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers. They had been searching for a pitcher to pair with Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross to form one of the best top three in the MLB. Their search led them to Cole Hamels, who originally hails from San Diego. In the Padres aggressive pursuit of Hamels, it is believed that they offered a package centered around catcher Austin Hedges and outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Phillies. The Phillies rejected that, clearly, while internally believing that the Padres did not have enough. DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH?! Austin Hedges is widely regarded as the best catching prospect in the minor leagues. He is well developed defensively, but lacks on the offensive side of the diamond, have a slash line of just .225/.268/.321 in 113 games at Double-A San Antonio. That looks very deceiving though, as it is believed that catchers develop much later at the plate than players in the field. Having mastered the hardest part of the position, Hedges should have ample time to fully develop his hitting tool. Hunter Renfroe is one of my favorite players in the minor leagues, hitting .267 with 21 dingers and 75 RBI at High-A and Double-A. The Mississippi State product was rumored to be of interest to the Phillies in the 2013 MLB Draft, which made this trade seem very possible. The Phillies would have gotten two players that play positions of weakness in the system. This was a very good deal that the Phillies past up, and the Padres went on to sign James Shields, possibly ending the Hamels pursuit all together.

By looking for the perfect deal from a team, built with just the right formula of prospects, the Phillies are missing their chance to optimize the value of Hamels. The value will continue to drop, due to the years of control dropping every waning second the Phillies hang on to Hamels. The Phillies can really not fully start their rebuild until the likes of Howard, Cliff Lee, and the rest of the veterans are off the team, but with a Hamels trade in the near future, they can sure as hell get a head start in getting there. Philadelphia fans are hungry for another championship team anywhere, and a Hamels trade could bring the Phillies back to the promise land.

 

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