Cole Hamels was brilliant again last night. And that should only help the Phillies extract as much value as they can from any team interested in acquiring him.
Hamels pitched eight shutout innings against the the Mets last night in New York, giving up just six hits against eight strikeouts and no walks, lowering his ERA to 2.55 on the season. If you're putting together a list of the best pitchers in baseball, it has to look something like this:
Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Adam Wainwright, Yu Darvish, Chris Sale, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, David Price, Johnny Cueto and Jon Lester. He may not be Top-5, but he's at least one of the 10 best pitchers in the game right now.
And before you poo-poo my list...
This was in my story last week, but I'll update it: in last 5 seasons, Hamels has a 3.05 ERA in 148 games. Only 5 pitchers have a lower ERA.— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) July 30, 2014
After reports yesterday that the Phils are willing to move Hamels, with the Dodgers interested in acquiring him, comes reports out of St. Louis that the Cardinals may be interested as well. This, from Derrick Goold from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Reports surfaced Monday that the Phillies would make Cole Hamels available at a steep price. The Cardinals are one of the few teams that has the prospects available to make such a deal. Hamels has $96 million remaining on his contract, and the Cardinals do have some payroll flexibility to add a core-style contract.
The Cardinals are not a team that Hamels can block a trade to.
The Phillies have a scout at Class AAA Memphis' game at Omaha tonight, where lefty Tyler Lyons is pitching. Philadelphia, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer and other outlets, are seeking a substantial package of prospects for Hamels. Outfielder Stephen Piscotty is a top prospect in the Cardinals system that fits the profile several teams are looking for at the deadline.
That same report mentioned the Phillies are taking offers for A.J. Burnett, but did not say if St. Louis was interested in him (more on Burnett in a minute). Joe Strauss, also of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said the Cardinals are likely to make a move for a front-line starter.
General manager John Mozeliak ordered his analytics team and other support staff to San Diego on Tuesday. The Cardinals typically don’t engage in costly window-dressing. Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, A.J. Burnett, Cole Hamels, Ian Kennedy, Justin Masterson and David Price are among the pitchers commanding due diligence.
There’s serious smoke here.
Of course, the Phillies appear to be asking the world for Hamels, as they should be.
Bob Nightengale is reporting the Phillies asked the Dodgers for Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias in exchange for Cole Hamels.— Robert Brender (@robertbrender) July 29, 2014
That is exactly the type of package general manager Ruben Amaro should be holding out for. Of course, it also means this is probably more the truth than anything else...
Source describes a trade of Hamels as the "least likely" of all the deals #Phillies are considering.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2014
Phillies Have Not Had "Meaningful Dialogue" On Hamels http://t.co/jJOjwWzOEZ— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) July 30, 2014
phillies not believed to be serious in efforts to trade star cole hamels. but they should be. http://t.co/F0YQTjKy0x— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 30, 2014
It's becoming obvious that the national writers WANT the Phillies to move Cole Hamels, if for no other reason than it's a great baseball story. Who doesn't love a big trade at the deadline?
But the reality is the Phillies are asking for the moon and, so far, no team has been desperate enough to meet Amaro's demands.
PHILS AREN'T SALARY DUMPING
USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported yesterday the Phillies might consider a lesser return in a Hamels deal if the acquiring team was also willing to take Ryan Howard or Jonathan Papelbon off their hands. That would seem to make some sense, given how Howard is owed $25 million next year and Papelbon is owed $13 million. However, that notion was thankfully shot down as well.
Totally disagree with the notion the Phillies will come down on their demands for Cole Hamels to clear other money. Absolutely not.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) July 29, 2014
At least that is some good news.
WILL BURNETT PROMISE TO RETIRE?
It seems like kind of a tough thing to ask a pitcher to decide right now if he's going to retire at the end of the season so that you can trade him to another team that doesn't want him next year. Yet, one of the reasons the Phils haven't had success dealing Burnett to the Pirates, the team seen as the most interested in acquiring him, is because they don't want to be on the hook for his vesting option next year.
In his Rumblings & Grumblings yesterday, Jayson Stark says the Phils have talked with Burnett about his plans for 2016.
Sources say talks between the Pirates and Phillies about an A.J. Burnett reunion in Pittsburgh are all but dead, largely because the Pirates have been unable to get assurances that Burnett won't pick up his player option for next season, which could pay him as much as $14.25 million if he makes 32 starts. The Phillies have been telling other clubs they expect Burnett to retire. And Burnett has told teammates the same thing. But the Pirates aren't willing to take a gamble that expensive. As an executive of another team put it, "He keeps saying he's going to retire. But he said that last year, too."
If Burnett confirms that he will retire at the end of the season, it's possible Pittsburgh will bite. But they are reportedly also interested in acquiring Jon Lester from Boston. That move would obviously kill any interest in A.J., if it isn't dead already.
BYRD RESTS, NO MOVEMENT
Marlon Byrd was not in the lineup last night against the Mets. When news broke, everyone went on "Hugwatch," but evidently Byrd was just being given a night off after fouling a ball off his foot twice in the last three games. There hasn't been any reported movement on the Marlon front over the last 24 hours (at least not publicly), and perhaps it's because teams aren't wowed by him, even if he is the most productive bat on the market.
Many folks noting that Marlon Byrd is available, as arguably best hitter on market. Still: .321 OBP, 125 Ks in 411 at-bats. Good; not great.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 30, 2014
Frankly, his $8 million option for 2016, which he wants Seattle or Kansas City to pick up, is likely the bigger stumbling block. One would think the Phils could move him if they agreed to eat most of that money, but it's unclear if they are willing to do that.
PHILLIES PRIVATE WORKOUT WITH CUBAN STAR
In what may be the most promising news of the day, the Phillies held a private workout with Cuban outfield prospect Rusney Castillo.
The Phillies are not the only team in on Castillo, obviously. Boston has a private workout scheduled for Friday and Seattle has one scheduled with him on Sunday, and plans for a private workout are also being made with Baltimore, Houston, Minnesota and the New York Yankees.
With the Phils in dire need of outfield help, it's understandable they'd make a huge push for Castillo. But according to the Delaware County Daily Times' Dennis Deitch, they'll have some competition.
Desperation + money + tired of missing out on guys like Puig/Cespedes/Abreu could = insane bidding war between Phils & Bosox on Castillo.— Dennis Deitch (@DennisDeitch) July 29, 2014
@FelskeFiles the problem is that the Red Sox are DESPERATE to make a splash in the Cuban market. They are going to get after him too.— Dennis Deitch (@DennisDeitch) July 29, 2014
Here's a wee bit of Castillo from Baseball America to get you excited.
Castillo is 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, and scouts in attendance at his audition for 28 teams late last week came away noting his speed more than anything else. He projects as a center fielder or left fielder, because of a below average arm, and it was also noted he possessed more power than people had thought, especially to the opposite field. However, he was facing a Division II college pitcher.
Given the rise of Cuban superstars throughout the Majors, it's understandable the Phils don't want to miss out on what could be the "next big thing." But the success of players like Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman could also drive the price up higher for a player that isn't as good as some of his countrymen.
The Phillies should also consider how much they want to spend on Castillo, and how much they want to have left to spend on power-hitting corner outfielder Yasmani Tomas, who recently defected. Tomas is seen as the second best power hitter in Cuba, and could be more of an impact player than Castillo.
Could the Phils make a play for both? Certainly. But that would require a huge expenditure of cash and a Nestea-style plunge off the high-dive into the Cuban player pool like they've never done before.