Folks, the tide may be turning.
Those who cover and follow the Phillies know the value of Cole Hamels. We know he is a bona fide ace pitcher. We know he is a postseason hero. We know he is at his best in the biggest moments and is one of the most consistent pitchers in the Majors.
We know he would be the perfect fit to join the Boston Red Sox starting rotation, giving them the ace they so dearly need.
We've known all this for months now, but up in Boston, it's been less obvious. They have a solid core of young, homegrown players that would admittedly be tough to give up. Whether it's outfielder Mookie Betts or catcher Blake Swihart, two names most frequently mentioned in trade talks for Hamels, most folks in Beantown haven't thought Cole was worth either of those gents.
But now that Red Sox Nation has gotten a better look at their projected starting rotation for 2015, could that sentiment be turning?
In a Boston Globe column on Wednesday night, Nick Cafardo wondered if the Sox are making a mistake by waiting out Ruben Amaro on a low-ball offer for the Phils' left-hander.
The Phillies lefthander could separate the Red Sox from the AL East pack. And this has been accentuated by a week's worth of bad starts by the Boston rotation, the best of which was Rick Porcello's on Wednesday, when he went four innings and allowed three hits and one run vs. the Twins.
What's evident is that the Red Sox don't have an ace. That hasn't changed throughout spring training. They seem to have a group of pitchers who would slot into the Nos. 3 and 4 spots on most teams.
The Red Sox love their prospects, so they won't succumb to giving up Blake Swihart in a Hamels deal; they don't feel the desperation to do it. Not yet, but they'd better be careful that another team doesn't swoop in and grab him.
And if they're waiting on Reds starter Johnny Cueto, the asking price also will be high, and then he must be signed. Which is why the controllable Hamels makes the most sense.
Of course, we've been saying this here for weeks now. In a winnable division, landing Hamels would absolutely put Boston over the top. Yes, they would have to give up Betts or Swihart in any deal for Cole, but they run the risk of another team, potentially a division rival like the Yankees or Blue Jays getting him, if they try to wait out Amaro for too long.
What was most heartening to see in Cafardo's piece was some long-lost sanity from a couple anonymous GMs. After weeks of hearing nothing but "Cole Hamels is overrated" and "Cole Hamels' Surplus Value Blah Blah Blah" stories all over the interweb, and after hearing one national writer after another chastise Amaro for not dumping Hamels for a pack of Garbage Pail Kids and a ring whistle, it's nice to finally see a couple baseball executives actually admitting the truth.
Cole Hamels is really good, would make the Red Sox a lot better, and Amaro is right for waiting things out.
"To get an outstanding major league starter like Hamels, I'd give Swihart in a minute," said an evaluator from a successful American League team. "Prospects are prospects. A proven ace is a proven ace, especially if you're a team like Boston that just finished last."
"Hamels can pitch anywhere, in any league, against any team," said a National League West GM. "He's one of the best. Proven. Battle-tested.
"Philadelphia is right to hold out for the moon for him. The teams who dance around and don't pull the trigger are the ones who are going to be moaning when he's traded."
I'm assuming Fangraphs was not called with regard to this story.
This was a breath of fresh air to see. Apparently, there are people employed by Major League Baseball teams who understand the value that Cole Hamels represents. Even though Johnny Cueto will be a marque trade chip this July (provided the Reds don't get off to a hot start), his deal expires at the end of this season, and Boston would still have to give up something of great value for last season's strikeout king and 20-game winner.
Any team that trades for Cole gets four years of his service. He's never hurt. He's still elite. And compared to contracts given to other aces on the market, Hamels' deal looks cheap by comparison.
Would it help if the Phillies agreed to eat some of Cole's deal in order to procure the best prospect possible? Yes. The Phils absolutely should eat a sizable enough portion to convince the Sox to give up Betts or Swihart. So far, reports are the Phillies have been reluctant to do that.
It's unlikely the Sox are going to panic based off of one bad week of spring training. And after all, Hamels got blitzed his last time out. That happens in March. In fact, Hamels is a notoriously slow starter, with a career 4.05 ERA in April. But once he gets rolling, there are few in the game better than him.
For the moment, Cole Hamels is still a Phillie. But perhaps now that Red Sox starters are actually starting to throw real live pitches, the tide is starting to turn.