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Phillies rumors: How James Shields affects the Cole Hamels market

San Diego could put their best starting pitcher on the trade block, and that could have an impact on the Cole Hamels market.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres have been a disappointment this season, a collection of mismatched pieces that never quite fit. General manager A.J. Preller was like a mad scientist last off-season, raiding his farm system to assemble a lot of well known names to all play together at the same time.

Unfortunately, many of those names turned out to either not be very good, injured, or just a bad fit.

Which brings us to this year's trade deadline. Going into Saturday night, the Padres were 42-49, 9 1/2 games out in the National League West and 6 1/2 out in the wild card. Their run differential of -46 was tied for third-worst in the National League.

It just hasn't worked out. So it's no surprise that Preller is now selling off some of his veteran pieces to try and recoup some of those prospects he gave away, particularly Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel. But Preller is reportedly also looking to unload his biggest free agent signing of last winter, too.

The emergence of Shields on the market would seem to have an effect on Hamels' market as well.

Both pitchers are top-of-the-rotation starters under team control for the next few years. Shields has three years left on his deal through 2018 worth $63 million, with a team option for 2019. He'll make $21 million a season each of the next three years, starting in '16, and the team option for '19 is $16 million.

Meanwhile Hamels has three years and $70.5 million left on his deal through 2018, with a $20 million team option or a $24 million vesting option that could push the potential deal to $94.5 million dollars through '19. He'll be paid $23.5 million a season each of the next three seasons.

In other words, both players are locked in for the next three years. Hamels costs $2.5 million more per season than Shields. And while Hamels has a reachable vesting option that could put a team on the hook for a fourth year at a big number, a look at the stats shows Hamels is a superior pitcher in virtually every important category.

Here are this year's numbers.

Player W L ERA FIP fWAR K/9 BB/9 HR/FB
James Shields 8 3 3.92 4.21 0.7 10.13 3.25 18.3
Cole Hamels 5 7 3.63 3.40 2.2 9.49 2.85 12.5

Here are their career numbers.

Player W L ERA FIP fWAR K/9 BB/9 HR/FB
James Shields 122 93 3.73 3.79 32.0 7.81 2.2 18.3
Cole Hamels 113 90 3.29 3.48 39.2 8.59 2.3 11.0

And here are their playoff numbers.

James Shields 11 3 6 5.46 1.534
Cole Hamels 13 7 4 3.09 1.053

One other big factor to consider is age. By the end of the guaranteed portion of his contract, Shields will be 36 years old in 2018. Hamels is two years younger and will be 34.

In other words, Hamels is a superior pitcher, a true No. 1 ace, who is two years younger and can be had for just $2.5 million a season more than Shields for the same amount of time (although that pesky vesting option is still out there, and a team on Hamels' no-trade list could be forced to guarantee that fourth year).

But there are reasons to choose Shields over Hamels, with the biggest reason being Shields will likely cost a team less in prospects.

The whole "Big Game James" moniker should have been thrown out years ago, given his lackluster October numbers, but the guy is a legitimate No. 2 starting pitcher. For the Cubs, who already have a couple top-of-the-rotation guys in Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta and are managed by Shields' former skipper in Tampa, Joe Maddon, he might make a lot more sense than Hamels.

Teams are over-valuing their prospects right now, and some may feel they'd rather have the slightly lesser pitcher in Shields if it means giving up fewer high-quality prospects. Before, Hamels was the only pitcher on the market who had multiple years left on his deal, with the ability to help his team long-term. But now, there are two.

Hamels still makes more sense for a team like the Dodgers for two reasons. First, Cole would be a more apples-to-apples replacement of Zack Greinke when Zack opts out of his contract at the end of the season. Shields would be a downgrade. Second, it's unlikely the Padres would trade Shields to a team within their division.

But for a team like the Red Sox, who have been holding onto their prospects like grim death, perhaps Shields is the solution for them as well.

Shields is not an "ace." Hamels is. But James is a decent No. 2 starter, and no matter how it shakes out, Hamels is apparently no longer the only top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher on the trade market with multiple years of team control.

And that alone could affect his market.


It appears that as the clock ticks closer to July 31, the Phils' front office is ramping things up.

And in his latest news update video, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports there are four clubs still interested in Hamels: the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Rangers. In fact, Boston is expected to have scouts at Hamels' start on Sunday against Miami. Their best starter, Clay Buchholz, will see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his strained flexor tendon, and if Boston wants to stay in the AL East race, they may have to make some kind of move.

So Sunday would be a very good time not to throw another clunker in there, Cole.