The Phillies want to trade Cole Hamels for a collection of super-duper prospects.
Obviously, with the team rebuilding, that is a smart plan. While our very own Joe Catz laid out a convincing reminder that even the very best prospects often don't pan out, if the Phillies are going to deal Hamels this winter, it doesn't make sense to do it for a player whose best years aren't in front of him.
Aside from the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel deal for Addison Russell, teams just aren't trading away young prospects. The Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester trade was the first indication of a shift in the market. Monday's deal that sent Jason Heyward to the Cardinals in exchange for Shelby Miller is a continuation of the trend.
Teams aren't giving their best prospects up anymore. It's just not happening.
However, that's what the Phillies have been looking for. Can they get Boston to give up Mookie Betts? Can they pry Javier Baez, Jorge Soler or Kris Bryant away from the Cubs? Can they get Joc Pederson, Corey Seager or Julio Urias from Los Angeles? What about the Cardinals' Kolten Wong?
Apparently, the Phillies are continuing to ask too much, according to some.
Many Rival evaluators find PHI asks on their players to be greatly overpriced within the context of the current market, as they did in July.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 19, 2014
If you want to see Cole Hamels continue to pitch in a Phillies uniform next year, this is good news. But if you're looking for the team to make a bunch of deals this winter, this information, if true, is pretty maddening.
Deals in which veterans are traded for prospects just haven't been happening lately. Instead, teams are looking to trade from their Major League pool of talent.
If the Phillies are going to go down this road, they need young players whose best years are still ahead of them. They can't be super expensive, either. And any team willing to trade a player like that has either soured on that player or is about to lose him to free agency.
With that in mind, here are some potential names that could surface in any future deals involving Hamels.
STARLIN CASTRO - CUBS (SS)
Castro has had his share of attitude issues with Chicago, but there's no denying his talent. He is just 24 years old, is a three-time All Star, and last year hit .292/.339/.438 with a bWAR of 2.0. He's also signed to a very team-friendly deal, through 2019, at which point he'll turn just 29 years old, with a $16 million team option for 2020.
Next year he's slated to earn $6 million, which goes to $7 million in '16, $9 million in '17, $10 million in '18 and $11 million in 2019. That's $43 million over the next five years.
The Phillies do have a stud shortstop prospect in J.P. Crawford, and Maikel Franco appears to at least be in the team's long-term plans at third base. And Jimmy Rollins is still signed for one more season.
I have no idea if Castro can play second base or one of the outfield positions, so while his contract, age and offensive production would seem to be a fit, finding a place to play him could be the big challenge.
YOENIS CESPEDES - RED SOX (LF)
Cespedes just got to Boston, but the outfield there is a bit crowded. They have Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig and Cespedes all vying for jobs. That's a significant log jam.
Cespedes is 29 years old, so he's not a super-young guy, but he's not old, either. Last year he hit .260/.301/.450 with 22 HRs and 36 doubles, although he walked in just 35 of his 645 plate appearances. Patience is not his virtue.
The big question is whether the Phillies would be able to sign him to a long-term deal. He's slated to earn $10.5 million this year, his final season before free agency. It's doubtful the Phils would trade for him knowing they could lose him in a year.
Again, it's not a perfect fit. But in any deal with the Red Sox for Hamels, it's a name that is sure to come up.
MICHAEL WACHA - CARDINALS (SP)
This is pure speculation on my part, but if St. Louis is interested in acquiring Cole Hamels, perhaps they'd be willing to part with fireballer Michael Wacha, who is coming off a stress fracture in his pitching shoulder.
Wacha is still a baby, just 22 years old, and has a career 3.04 ERA and 3.08 FIP in 171.2 career innings. He's a terrific young pitcher, and if the Cardinals are uninterested in dealing their prospects for Hamels, perhaps they'd be willing to deal a young hurler who is coming off an injury to his pitching shoulder.
This one might be a stretch.
YASIEL PUIG - DODGERS (OF)
Could it? Would it? Hear me out.
Certainly the team would love to be free of Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier over Puig. But even though Kemp had a good bounceback season this year, he's still owed about a jillion dollars through the year 2067. Ethier is a one-dimensional player whose one dimension, hitting right-handers, isn't all that good anymore.
Puig is their best trade chip at the Major League level, and it's clear he rubs manager Don Mattingly and some team officials the wrong way. They don't like his over-aggressiveness and some off-the-field stuff as well. Could they be looking for a way to be free of him, even though he's under team control for the next four years at a meager $30.8 million?
I can't imagine it happening. He's a phenomenal player, worth 5.4 bWAR this season and is only 23 years old. But the Dodgers keep messing around with him, and perhaps if the Phillies are willing to eat some of Hamels' salary, they'd be willing to talk about making Puig a part of a deal.
MATT KEMP - DODGERS (OF)
Speaking of Kemp, this is not someone I want the Phillies to consider. But here are some things to at least think about.
First, he put up an OPS of .852 last year and played 150 games, the most he's played in a season since 2012. Second, his .346 on-base percentage was terrific, and he hit 25 homers while playing all three outfield positions (although he's pretty terrible defensively).
Here's the downer. He's owed $107 million over the next five years and has a history of injury trouble. For a rebuilding team looking to start competing in 2016 or 2017, he'll be in his early 30s, which is probably counter-productive to dealing Hamels in the first place.
Yeah, I don't like this option. I'm sorry I brought it up.
ELVIS ANDRUS - RANGERS (SS)
Andrus had a down year in 2014, posting a bWAR of just 1.0, coming off seasons in which he posted bWARs of 3.7, 4.0, and 4.2. The two-time All-Star hit just .263/.314/.647 with two homers last year and was caught stealing a league-leading 15 times.
Although he's only 25, he's owed $118 million over the next eight years. In the final year of his deal, 2022, he will be 33 years old. The Rangers are reportedly looking to move him.
Again, the Phillies already have their shortstop of the future in the minors, and it's unknown whether Andrus would be willing or able to move somewhere else. Until last year, he had been a superb defensive player, worth 7.2 wins above a replacement shortstop defensively. However last year, he had a dWAR of -0.4.
JUSTIN UPTON - BRAVES (OF)
It's almost impossible to imagine the Phillies trading their ace pitcher to their division rivals. There's no way they want to face him over and over again if they deal him, and watching him pitch in an Atlanta uniform would be excruciating. Nevertheless, Atlanta is apparently in the market for Jon Lester, which means they're on the hunt for an ace starter.
New general manager Jon Hart is doing things, but it's not quite clear what those things are yet. Upton is on the trade block, and they just traded Heyward, so it feels as if a rebuild is happening. Yet they're talking to Lester so, who knows? Maybe there is a potential deal to be made with the Braves for Upton.
Justin had a terrific 2014 season, hitting .270/.342/.491 with 29 home runs, 102 RBIs, 34 doubles and a bWAR of 3.3. He would definitely fit the Phils' need for a power hitting outfielder, but is also on the last year of his contract. He's slated to earn $14.5 million this year, and again, it's doubtful the Phillies would trade for a player they don't have any control over past the 2015 season.
As you can see with so many of these players, there are lots of reasons none of them make sense for either side. A deal for prospects makes the most sense from the Phils' perspective, but it just seems like general managers are hoarding those prospects like children and Halloween candy.
That's why I think it's more likely that Hamels will be pitching for the Phillies at the start of next season.