Hey guys and gals, long time no talk.
To say this past season has been difficult for me would be an understatement. Between a promotion and relocation, and the overall suckiness of the team in general, I've taken a (semi) forced sabbatical. But I'm back (part time) to give my unbiased opinion on the state of the Phillies, if you'll have me.
Apologies in advance on this rant, and I promise to get back to adding some optimism, humor, and buffoonery soon enough. But for now, I want to focus on the great debate, which is to sell or not to sell Cole Hamels.
Much has been written about this already, and everyone has an opinion, but the general consensus from those both opposed and in favor of moving Hamels boils down to the following:
1. The team won't contend until 2017, when Hamels will be reaching the age of no return.
2. The free agent market is not too deep at the top for SP and this is the ultimate value time for Hamels.
3. If someone is willing to give us 3 young stud "cant miss prospects" we need to do the deal.
Simple in summation, but pretty much the story.
The problem for me (and Ruben, and any GM he's talking to about Hamels) is that no one wants to give up top talent, and at the same time, no one has a crystal ball. So we rely on metrics (okay, THEY rely on metrics, we use an abacus), scouting reports, and such to determine what makes sense and hope for the best.
And if the GOAL is to get three top prospects that are major league ready and can contribute in 2017, then lets look at a best case scenario and compare it to what might have been a best case scenario back in 2011.
Lets just assume, for argument's sake, that a team, say the Cubs, who have top heavy prospects in their system, are willing to deal you any three players you want, as long as they're not named Kris Bryant.
Addison Russell and Javier Baez are both in the top ten. Lets throw in a guy like Albert Almora/Raul Alcantara/Jorge Soler as well here: two top ten prospects plus a top 50 guy.
For comparison's sake, let's say we go back in time and make this same deal with the Kansas City Royals, who had a similarly storied minor league farm then as the Cubs do now. They offer up two of Eric Hosmer/Mike Moustakas/Wil Myers and also give you one of John Lamb (17) Mike Montgomery (18), or Christian Colon (51) That's a HAUL, right? No way you say no to that, right? And WOW, we're set!!!
Until Moustakas puts up a 3 fWAR in 2012 and never repeats that.
Until Hosmer puts up a -1.7 fWAR in 2012, puts up a 3 win in 2013 and is equal to a replacement player in 2014.
And until Myers puts up 2.4 fWAR in 88 games in 2013, then gets hurt in 2014 and puts up 0.1 fWAR in the same number of games in 2014...
And the other three?
Lamb hasn't made it past AAA, with an FIP ranging in the mid 4's through mid 6's through his career so far and is off the prospect radar.
Montgomery is 25 and still in AAA. He's repeated AAA every year since 2012 and hasn't thrown a major league pitch.
Colon is a utility player who was left off the World Series roster in favor of Jayson Nix.
In 2014, the equivalent of 2017 for us, all 6 of these players put up a grand total of 1.9 fWAR at the major league level. Moustakas led the way with 0.9, followed by Colon, the utility infielder, at 0.7, followed by Hosmer at 0.2, followed by Myers at 0.1
1.8 fWAR from the "Haul". 2 top 20 guys faded away and haven't pitched in the bigs.
And the Royals made it to the World Series.
Meanwhile, the four fWAR leaders for the Royals in 2014 were Alex Gordon who was going nowhere in 2011, Lorenzo Cain, who was a 17th round pick who was never ranked higher than 7th in the Brewers system, Alcides Escobar, who also came over from Milwaukee in 2011 and was ranked as high as 12th overall by BBA in 2009, and Sal Perez, who at the time was a 21 year old at AAA that was the teams number 17 prospect post 2010.
And If you made a blockbuster with KC in 2011, and had the chance to go back today and swap out the three players for any other three players that were in the system at the time and are still there, my guess is you swap all three.
So what have we learned here, other than that fWAR probably isn't the best gauge of talent, but I used it anyway?
For me, what I take from this exercise is that even the closest guys, even the highest ranked guys, bust more often than they break out, and more often than not, they're league average guys, 2-3 fWAR upside guys, and every now and then you hit the lottery. They call it potential for a reason. It's dubbed Ceiling for a reason. It's rare that they turn into superstars. But in most cases, you regret taking one guy over another guy, and the guys you do take rarely accomplish what you hoped they would.
We also learn that in reality, 2017 isn't when these guys will break out if they do, they'll have a break out year in 15 or 16, go through some trials and tribulations and HOPEFULLY pan out by 2019.
Anyone else feel like waiting five years to win? I doubt the Phillies do. Seriously.
Now, I can sit here and come up with trade poposals for Hamels until I'm blue in the face, and I guarantee that if he is dealt I'll be wrong, and so will you. But here's one thing I believe with my soul:
The reason you trade Cole Hamels is NOT to restock the farm system, or to improve your minor league system in any way. The reason you trade Cole Hamels is because the return for him is guaranteed to be worth MORE to the major league team in 2017 to 2019, along with his SALARY to use in other ways, than it would if you kept him for that period. If his return happens to net you a player you can control PAST 2019, that breaks out, fantastic.
But if you believe that the Phillies organization is going to be CONTENT waiting five years to compete, and won't be looking to SPEND money once the current obligations come off the books, I have a few bridges I'd like to sell you. They won't be patient, they won't let the kids develop, and frankly, any prospects they DO get for Hamels are more likely to end up traded for a superstar than they are being given the opportunity to develop.
Does that mean that the Phillies shouldn't make a silly deal if Theo Epstein suddenly became not as good at his job as he is?
Absolutely they should. But in 2016, when whoever is running this team goes out and trades one or two of those guys for a real impact major leaguer? It's probably the right move, if that guy is controlled, and money shouldn't come into play.
If you are a big market team,and you trade a superstar, you do so with the hopes of getting another superstar in return when you need one, or you do it because you don't think your superstar is going to be one much longer.
The sad reality here is that while most of us dream of potential in a Hamels trade, What we should be dreaming on is how the chips can help acquire his 27 year old replacement in 2017. And it's much more likely that if he is dealt, the guy coming back who has the most impact in the deal is probably The Guy you haven't heard much about.
Perhaps the time to move Hamels ISN'T right now. Maybe the time to move him is in July or next off-season... Who knows.
The Phillies will never be a team that stockpiles cheap talent, and plays it. They CAN be a team that tries to acquire it and use it as a different form of currency in the future, because the cycle won't change. Ownership won't put up with more than a season or two of rebuilding or losing. There's too much at stake. And frankly, they shouldn't. Not with the market they have, not with the fanbase they have, and not with the money they have. They just need to be smarter about how they spread it around.
One last parting shot.
If you look at that list from 2011, Dom Brown, Jesus Montero, and Jeremy Hellickson were all in the top 6. (Hellickson was just traded for two Diamondback prospects who now rank 9th and 10th in their system. one was Arizona's 17th ranked guy last year, the other unranked.)
Trout and Harper were 1 and 2, and that's not normal to have two absolute sure things like that in the same class. In most years, those three guys would be 1 to 4. If you could go back in time and move Brown for Justin Upton, you do it in a heartbeat. Hell, if you could move Brown for HUNTER PENCE, and still have Cosart, Singleton and Santana or a combination of them you'd do it. At the time? People rioted that we traded for Pence BECAUSE we had Brown.
So be careful what you wish for, in most instances, the prospect haul is the side that loses.
If you don't believe me, just play this game.
2. Sort by teams
3. Ask yourself if you'd trade Cole Hamels for anyone's top 3 prospects from that year today and be happy. Then ask if that team would give up the guy you would be happy with. When you realize the answer (RIzzo, Trout, Harper, etc..) is usually no, add THE NEXT HIGHEST RANKED GUY.
4. Let reality sink in.
5. Sob slowly into your cheesesteak and go buy some krimpets.
6. Get on the major league talent bandwagon and hope that Starlin Castro is available :)
I look forward to you all shredding me apart on this, even though I'm right. and It's good to be back.