As of this writing, Cole Hamels is still a Phillie. By the time you read this, he will most likely still be a Phillie. And it's possible that, after July 31 has come and gone, Cole Hamels will still be a Phillie.
The thought of Hamels staying with the organization past the trade deadline has a lot of people freaking out. After all, the Phils are a team that is rebuilding and probably aren't going to be good for at least another two years at least. It could be even longer than that.
Hamels clearly has more value to the Phillies as a trade chip than he does as an actual pitcher of baseballs right now. He is the one player that could net the Phils the type of franchise-altering prospect they could really use to help springboard this rebuild.
But this week, ESPN's Buster Olney and Jayson Stark both mentioned that they were hearing the Phillies were considering holding onto Hamels until the off-season in order to give the new architect of the team, president Andy MacPhail, time to make the deal that he wants.
Those reports were supported by a new report by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, in which he basically said the same thing.
This would be a major bummer to everyone who is desperate to see Hamels moved to a contending team. Some are worried he could get hurt, which is certainly a real, if not, overblown concern. And if Amaro and Co. wait until the winter, he will have to compete with a plethora free agents, which might mean we're right back here going through this very same dance in 2016.
Folks, I'm prepared to go through this every year until he reaches the Hall of Fame. Why? Because there is one reason, and one reason alone, why you trade Cole Hamels at all.
You only trade Hamels if he can give you the one or two prospects that could potentially change the future of your franchise.
That's it. There are no other considerations here.
Hamels' contract is not a burden to the Phillies. Their Comcast deal and the pockets of ownership and John Middleton are deep. They have publicly told MacPhail he has no budget constraints when it comes to putting a team together. Money is no object.
Hamels is not a pending free agent. They do not risk getting nothing for him. He is still an elite pitcher and is under team control for the next three years at least. He is rarely injured and is almost always effective. They are not under the gun in any way here.
The Phillies say they have not gotten an offer good enough to trade him. Other teams say the Phils' asking price is unrealistic. There is no way to know who is telling the truth here. But at the very least, the Phillies should be asking for a big return in exchange for their ace left-hander, and should not lower their asking price, provided it's not ridiculously unrealistic.
Otherwise, what's the point? If a team is not offering the Phils the type of prospect that can truly make an impact in the near future, why trade him? Even if you lose Hamels to an injury, the net effect is the same. In either case, you're not getting an elite prospect back, which is the only thing that matters.
The only way a Hamels trade makes sense is if that elite prospect is included, and no one should be mad at Ruben Amaro, Pat Gillick or Andy MacPhail if they decide to hold onto him until the winter if they don't get one of those elite prospects they seek.
However, there is one thing the Phillies could do that would make everyone go nuclear, and justifiably so.
Suppose a team offers a top prospect for Hamels, a real game changer, along with two or three other pieces. And suppose that team asks the Phils to pay a significant portion of Hamels' salary going forward, say, 40-50%.
If the Phillies say no to a deal like that, the world should come crashing down on the organization.
The team has money and should leverage that cash in any way they can to obtain the type of player or players that they seek. If they don't, Phils fans have every right to scream from the mountaintops, and it will be proof that this franchise really hasn't changed all that much.
But barring that scenario, trading Hamels just for the sake of trading him makes absolutely no sense. The Phillies should not settle. They should not capitulate. They should stand strong. They should demand what they want, within reason. And they shouldn't budge until they get it.
Doing anything else makes absolutely no sense, despite what you might read on the national blogosphere.