Numerous teams have been mentioned and thoroughly analyzed as potential trading partners in a deal involving Cole Hamels.
The Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox and Padres have all been tied to Hamels at various points. Some of them have moved on to other options, however, some are still in play. However, as CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury noted today, it looks as though someone is going to have to break in order for a Hamels deal to happen before the start of the season.
Among the teams Salisbury just listed, one sticks out that hasn't been talked about much. The Texas Rangers.
The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo mentioned the Rangers as a potential suitor, but they haven't gotten much attention as Hamels players. That's probably because they went 67-95 in a brutally competitive American League West last year after virtually their entire team hit the disabled list.
Their projected starting rotation of Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez made a combined 39 starts last season. In all, 15 different pitchers made at least one start for the Rangers in 2014, and the one pitcher who didn't get hurt, Colby Lewis, posted an ERA of 5.18 and a bWAR of -0.7.
They also watched their star acquisition Prince Fielder manage just 178 plate appearances, Shin-Soo Choo spent time on the disabled list, their young shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar didn't make it out of camp because of a torn shoulder muscle, and pitcher Alexi Ogando missed most of the season with an injury as well.
It was a veritable M*A*S*H* unit out there in 2014 for the Rangers, and it didn't help that manager Ron Washington abruptly resigned in the middle of the season due to personal issues.
That said, Texas appears to have the pieces in place to bounce back to respectability and at least fight for a wild card spot in 2015. And adding Hamels would certainly be a boon to their chances.
Texas has sported a payroll of over $120 million every season since 2012, and as of January 14, their payroll for 2015 stood at a little over $113 million. Hamels is owed $96 million over the next four years, with an average salary of $23.5 million a season.
Last year, Texas' payroll hit an all-time high of $133.5 million, so the addition of Hamels would push the 2015 payroll to around $137 million. Depending on how deep their pockets are, the addition of Hamels shouldn't hamstring them financially.
Another thing working in Texas' favor is that, as of this Jayson Stark report from back in November, the Rangers are one of eight teams to which Hamels cannot block a trade. That means Texas wouldn't have to pick up Cole's vesting option in 2019 now in order to get him to agree to a deal.
And Texas does have the young players necessary to get the job done. While they certainly won't move their #1 prospect, power hitting third baseman Joey Gallo, there are some high-end pitchers that would meet the Phils' needs, as well as some young position players that could be of interest too.
There is Profar, who is still just 21 years old and can play any infield spot on the diamond. Of course, he missed the entire season last year, and in his one extended look at MLB pitching in 2013 he hit .234/.308/.336 with six homers in 324 PAs. However, he has the makings of a star player, and coming off an injury, perhaps Texas could be persuaded to make him available.
There's the 26-year-old Elvis Andrus. Andrus is young, but he's also signed to a big-money 8-year, $118 million contract that runs through 2022. That seems like an awful long time and an awful lot of money for a guy who .263/.314/.333 last year with 2 homers in 685 plate appearances and was caught stealing a league-high 15 times. He's had solid seasons in the past, but I doubt the Phils are looking to take on that kind of financial commitment.
The Rangers' #2 prospect for 2015, according to Baseball America, is right-hander Jake Thompson, who pitched very well for the team's Double-A affiliate last year. There's also their #6 prospect, starter Alex Gonzalez, who also pitched in Double-A last year for Texas. Both are close to Major League-ready.
As for position players, Texas' #3 prospect is catcher Jorge Alfaro, at a position of desperate need for the Phils. In any deal with the Rangers, one would think Alfaro would have to be a target. In Double-A last year, Alfaro showed a solid hit tool with the ability to get on base and hit with some pop.
Outfielders Nomar Mazara and Nick Williams, their #4 and 5 prospects, are also intriguing young position player possibilities. And there is second baseman Rougned Odor, who was thrown into the fire last year with the Rangers and batted .259/.297/.402 in 386 PAs for the big league club. He was just 20 years old.
Thanks in part to one of the game’s premier international programs, the Rangers have a farm system with both high-end talent at the top and a strong wave of depth behind the first wave. Most teams—such as the Cubs, Twins and Astros—need to lose at the big league level for multiple seasons in order to generate high draft picks and trade away big leaguers for prospects to build a strong farm system. But the Rangers have done it while fielding a perennial contender.
There is a nice variety of young players to choose from Texas' flush farm system. The only question is, do the Rangers feel Hamels is enough of an upgrade to get them past teams like the Angels, Mariners and A's next season? And will they meet the Phils' price?
It takes two to tango, and right now, it feels as if the Phillies are waiting for someone to come across the room and ask them to dance. And so far, everyone is hanging out by the punch bowl.