Several sources reported on Wednesday of a Cubs interest in Hamels (such as this one from CBSsports). It's nothing new as the Cubs tried to trade for him this summer. A quick look at the Cubs farm makes the desire clear: The Cubs have piles of top notch hitting prospects, but only 1 Pitcher that is any kind of serious prospect (C.J. Edwards - and even he comes with the caveat of being really small for a Starting Pitcher). They need to get some arms for their rotation, or learn to win games by football scores on a regular basis. A quick look at their system does show some redundancy among their top prospects. The gold standard of prospect rankings, Baseball America listed the Top 5 Cubs prospects as:
1. Javier Baez, SS
2. Kris Bryant, 3B
3. C.J. Edwards, RHP
4. Albert Almora, OF
5. Jorge Soler, OF
Since that list was produced this Spring the Cubs added two more names worth discussing when they traded for Addison Russell, one of the top SS prospects in baseball, and drafted Kyle Schwarber, a College Catcher. It's safe to say the Schwarber pick shocked everyone, as most projected him to be a late 1st Round pick, but all Scwarber went on to do was hit his way across three levels of the Minors, wrapping up in A+ and likely vaulting himself into discussion among the Cubs Top 5 Prospects.
What did the rest of the Top 5 do?
Albert Almora struggled in AA, proved almost completely immune to Walks (14 in 530 Plate Appearances) and probably worked his way down Prospect lists. He's young and he doesn't K often, but his Power has been middling so far, at best, and his hitting skills leave a good bit to be desired.
Javier Baez made it all the way to the Show, where he struck out 40% of the time, but also mashed 7 Home runs in 31 games. Baez may have some of the best power potential in baseball, any ball could travel 500 feet off his bat and he agrees, swinging at most everything. No, that's hyperbole, he will take a walk and has managed to hang around 6-8% BB rate the last 3 years. Stupid power.
Kris Bryant is a guy who it might seem weird to call a steal. He was a #2 overall pick, after all, but if Baez has stupid power, Bryant has super stupid power. The first thing I see with Bryant is a seemingly unsustainable .400 BABiP, leading to AVG's in the .330 range. Bryant has an almost Joey Votto level of skill in drawing Walks (14.5% rate this year), an absurd .340 ISO and an 84% success rate on his steals (not a big weapon, but he stole 15 last year and can probably swipe a few bags the next few years). It's all so good I kind of ignore the 27% K rate. Bryant will be among the top 10 prospects in baseball on this year's lists, he's that good.
Jorge Soler also made the Show this year. He can hit for Average, he can hit for power, he can take walks, he plays a good Right Field, a pretty low K rate and that power, he hit 3 HR in 7 games during his brief MLB stint. He's had some issues with injuries and anger management, but the tools of an All Star are there.
So why write so much about these guys? Because any trade begins and ends with one or more of these 5 names: Almora, Baez, Bryant, Russell or Soler (you could ask for Schwarber too as a player to be named later, as he can't be traded until one year after he signed his contract, but you run the risk of an injury in the interim that changes the entire trade).
I have to admit I am absolutely giddy about the prospect of a trade here. I love Cole Hamels, he's one of my all-time favorite Phillies, but the Phillies are 2-3 years from contending, at which point Hamels will be 32-33 and past his prime years. He's been remarkably durable and could still be great in 2017, but the actuarial tables would suggest his value is likely highest now (and I don't just mean as a trade piece). The Cubs meanwhile have a surfeit of hitting prospects.
The Phillies were rumored to have pursued Jorge Soler pretty seriously when he became eligible after defecting Cuba. Losing out to the Cubs, but now with a pursuit of Tomas, Soler has to look even more attractive, as both a premier hitter and someone to help ease Tomas's transition to the Pros (they are also pretty close in age, as both will be 23 next season). The idea is really tempting, but I would have to imagine Soler is viewed as a key linchpin of the Cubs rebuild and could be hard to pry loose.
I would think Bryant is similarly entrenched and one of the few immovable prospects in baseball. Anyone who watched the Futures game festivities saw Bryant inflict physical damage on objects well beyond where I think anyone thought any balls would land. That bat in Wrigley? They might have to move the El.
Baez and Russell are interesting thoughts. Obviously the Phillies own top prospect is a Shortstop, but that's not to say someone couldn't swing over to Second or Third or, with Baez, his power would play well at First too. Obviously, the Cubs could similarly swap one over to Second, but it is a position of strength for them to trade from.
A trade here could be one of those rare win-win trades where the Cubs get an Ace and still have plenty to build a premier Offense around (perhaps the Cubs could still pursue Lester or Shields as well to have a killer top 2, with Edwards a possible mid-rotation guy in a year or two). While the Phillies get pieces to fill out their own premier Offense to be supplemented by Crawford, Franco, Dugan and some good parts from our own system. The core of the Royals was built through two win-win trades - The Grienke trade which brought Escobar, Cain and Odorizzi and the Myers/Odorizzi trade which brought Shields and Davis. A Cole Hamels deal could be an even better version of the Grienke trade where the Phillies can start building their own contending core.