Every salesman's dream is to find a client that is three things: motivated, rich and desperate.
Right now, the Phillies are salesmen. They are trying to sell Cole Hamels, among other veterans, to a team in need of an ace pitcher, who is under team control for the next 3-4 years (depending on the vesting option) and at a reasonable financial price for a No. 1 starter.
Whoever is running the Phils right now (Amaro? Gillick? MacPhail? Santa?) is looking for a team that has a lot of money, is rich in prospects, and is so desperate to win a World Series that they would do almost anything to get it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Going into Thursday's finale against the Phils, the Dodgers were 48-38, with a five-game lead in the NL West over the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants. It's a comfortable lead for early July, and no one really doubts that L.A. is going to win the division.
However, the Dodgers need to do more than win the division. A $271 million payroll mandates that this team win a World Series this year, but even with all that money being paid out, they are still weak in the rotation after Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu are both out for the season, and relying on Brett Anderson to last through an entire season is a bit like asking Jeff Francouer to last more than four pitches in any single plate appearance. Their replacements, Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias, are not guys you want making too many regular starts in the heat of a pennant race.
And consider, the team that has been their chief obstacle in getting to the World Series the last few years, the St. Louis Cardinals, are once again a juggernaut. Even without Adam Wainwright, a playoff rotation of John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez gives the Cardinals a leg up in Games 3 and 4 of any series against the Dodgers.
But if you add Cole, instead of Brett Anderson vs. Michael Wacha, suddenly you've got Cole Hamels vs. Wacha. That's much more palatable.
And with a $271 million payroll, adding Hamels' money, which pays him $23.5 million dollars a year through 2018, with a $20 million team option or $24 million vesting option for 2019, isn't a huge deal. Especially since it's more than likely Greinke will opt out of his contract at season's end.
It is that potential for a Greinke opt out that could make Hamels a better option for the Dodgers, rather than a rental like Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija or Scott Kazmir. Any free agent starter they want to pursue over the winter (and there are a plethora who will be available), will all cost more in terms of dollars than Hamels will be owed.
Of course, the Dodgers would not just be paying out money. They'd also have to fork up at least one major prospect, someone they really would rather not relinquish. Certainly Joc Pederson is untouchable, and it sure sounds like shortstop Corey Seager is a lock to stay with L.A. as well.
Left-handed starter Julio Urias is also said to be untouchable, but the Dodgers recently stocked up on pitching in the draft, and have a few other young starters in the minors, specifically last year's first round pick Grant Holmes, as well as Jose De Leon, that could make Urias expendable. Heck, De Leon may even be good enough to headline a package for Hamels.
Another name that has been rumored as a secondary piece is Cuban outfielder Alex Guerrero, who has 10 home runs this year in only 159 PAs but is hitting just .252 with a .277 OBP and is 28 years old. One sticking point is that Guerrero has an opt-out of his contract if he's traded, meaning if the Phils acquired him, they may only have him for the rest of this season and not through 2017.
If Guerrero was guaranteed a starting spot, he could probably be persuaded to waive that opt-out clause for a certain financial consideration, a.k.a., a briefcase full of cash. Or the Phils could even offer him an extension that takes him beyond 2017. After all, do we expect the Phillies to be a wild card contender by the time 2017 rolls around?
If the Dodgers want to get Hamels, Cueto or Jeff Samardzija, they're going to have to give up Urias or De Leon. It's just that simple. And then, they're going to have to sign a big free agent pitcher in the off-season anyway, so why not have Hamels for the next three to four years for less?
Of course, Los Angeles could trade for Kazmir or Mike Leake or Kyle Lohse, but that doesn't give them the same kind of impact in September and the playoffs that Hamels would.
Ranking the other contenders, I think Boston's resurgence puts them in the conversation once again as the second-most likely destination spot, although not if they don't come off their reluctance to trade prospects. Toronto would be third, although their prospect package may not be enough for Philadelphia, and it's unclear if Hamels would want to play there. After that, some combination of the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and New York Yankees makes sense.
The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates probably don't want to pay out the kind of cash or prospects it would take to get Hamels if they're only going to be fighting for a wild card and that one-game playoff. Any team that is willing to make the kind of investment it's going to take to get Hamels has to be a team with a realistic shot at winning the division.
Otherwise, you could trade the farm for a guy you never get to use in the playoffs in 2015 because you lost a one-game playoff. The risk is too great.
All that is why the Dodgers make the most sense as Hamels' landing spot, if he's traded before the July 31 deadline, which I still think is less than 50-50.