What many believe to be the final domino in the Cole Hamels sweepstakes fell on Monday, after James Shields signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres.
While the Shields signing could spur other teams to now get more serious about dealing for Cole, it could also hurt.
Shields' signing doesn't necessarily preclude the Padres from staying in the Cole Hamels sweepstakes, but it certainly lessens their urgency, and allows general manager A.J. Preller to sit in the comfort of the driver's seat in any future negotiations. But still, there are whispers the Padres could make a play for the Phils' ace lefty, even after landing Shields.
However, it's unlikely to happen.
So is there any team that appears both willing and able to acquire Hamels, with teams just weeks away from reporting for spring training?
Alrighty then. So let's break this down.
BOSTON RED SOX
Boston still seems like the most logical fit here. They have prospects that are coveted by the Phils, including catcher Blake Swihart, which seems like the guy the Phils want most. Boston has done a tremendous job rebuilding their roster and have a team that is loaded with quality position players.
And while their rotation looks OK, they clearly do not have an ace.
It's crazy that a deal hasn't been worked out between these two teams yet. The Red Sox have a clear need for Hamels, have the money to pay a good portion of his salary, and have the prospects to make it work.
Perhaps now, with Shields off the table, Boston will be ready to strike and offer Swihart as part of a package for Cole. Because putting Hamels at the top of that rotation suddenly makes the Red Sox a juggernaut, and the likely favorites to win the American League pennant.
Hey, remember the Cubs? Yeah, we figured they had lost interest in Hamels after they signed Jon Lester a couple months ago, but after the Nationals signed Max Scherzer to a thousand-year contract and thus formed the "Super Rotation of 2015," it's possible Chicago might feel the need to jump back into the Hamels conversation in order to keep up.
Is it even possible to have a rotation with Hammel and Hamels in it at the same time? I'm not sure this will be allowed by the new commish.
When you compare the Cubs' rotation with that of the Nats', Washington has a clear advantage. Of course, those two teams will not be battling it out for a division title, but come playoff time, the Nationals would have a distinct advantage in the third and fourth games of any series.
Perhaps it's too early to start thinking like that, but if Chicago feels it has to join in the National League "arms" race (see what I did there?), trading for Hamels could be their next move.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Of all the teams left as trade partners, the Dodgers seem like the one with the least need to acquire Hamels.
The only real impetus for Los Angeles to go get Hamels is if they feel Greinke will opt out of his contract after this year. If they do decide to get aggressive, the Dodgers have the prospects with which to part, and they certainly watched what Washington did when they signed Scherzer, and know the acquisition of Hamels would give them their own Super Rotation.
The Dodgers also are not threatened by this thing called "money." I'm convinced Magic Johnson just compulsively burns $100 bills behind him as he walks around.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
The Cardinals are an interesting team. They've been quiet this off-season. Almost... TOO quiet...
Wainwright and Lynn are money atop the rotation, but raise your hand if you REALLY trust John Lackey to be a productive pitcher. Wacha and Martinez are both quality young arms, but Wacha has injury concerns and Martinez is still pretty raw.
That said, in any deal for Hamels, one would hope they were asking for either Wacha or Martinez as part of any deal.
Oh, the free agent signing of Yovani Gallardo didn't do enough to convince you the Rangers were going to fight in an ultra-competitive American League West this season? Yeah, I don't blame you.
After Darvish, there isn't much to get excited about, and yes, I'm including Gallardo in that.
Texas probably needs Hamels more than any of the teams listed, and they also have some exciting young players that could interest the Phils, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago.
So there you have it. Those are the contenders, and it's possible that if a potential playoff team sees one of his starting pitchers go down this spring, another team or two could enter the conversation.
But the clock is ticking.