Yeah, it was ugly.
Cole Hamels suffered his second straight horrible outing, lasting just three innings and giving up five runs on eight hits with no walks and one strikeout, a game that was ably capped right here. It came on the heels of an even worse start in San Francisco right before the All Star Break in which Hamels went 3 1/3 innings and gave up nine runs on 12 hits against the Giants.
Over his last two starts, his ERA is 19.89. Over his last seven starts, it's 6.10 (with a 2.49 FIP, by the way). Those are not the kinds of numbers you want to see if you're Ruben Amaro or Pat Gillick right now, mainly because it gives other league "executives" an excuse to circle the Phillies like a vulture looking to peck apart a dead carcass from the roadside.
It's not good for the Phillies that right now, one of the most asked questions in the industry is: Is there something wrong with Hamels?— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 19, 2015
Most of these people "asking questions in the industry" are probably the ones who are trying to get Hamels away from the Phillies for as little as possible, thinking that muddying the waters might bring down the Phils' asking price.
Guess what? It won't.
But Hamels was not terribly sharp once again, on a brutally hot day, in front of a number of "high-level" scouts. How do you achieve these different levels, by the way? Is it like Scientology, where you have to pay a lot of money to move up the ladder?
The #redsox have a high-ranking scout in Philadelphia for Cole Hamels' start today. Just sayin.'— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 19, 2015
scouts from dodgers, red sox, rangers, cubs and orioles in philly to see cole hamels. http://t.co/pYFujNrVQ2— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 20, 2015
So, what'd ya think, fellas?
A scout at today's #phillies game on Hamels: "He looked hot -- and not very interested in being out there.'' (95 degrees here).— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 19, 2015
I've never tried to pitch against Major League hitters from inside an oven, but I would imagine it isn't a pleasant experience, especially in front of 450 fans on a team that never gives you runs and is steaming towards 100 losses.
Of course, that didn't stop the HOT TAKES from rolling in.
Then again, if Cole Hamels struggles, skepticism about him will increase. And Marlins lead 1-0, with runners on corners and 0 out in 2nd.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 19, 2015
Yes. That's right. He's bad now. Let's just get a canister of tennis balls for him and call it a day. Not the crappy ones, though. Nice ones.
After the game, Hamels said he's not too worried and tried to remind everyone that he's pretty much been a rock star since 2007.
"I think my track record speaks for itself," Hamels said. "But sometimes you can get yourself in a rut and you've got to get yourself out, and sometimes you get on a hot streak and you can go for months, so it's just being able to start back over and see what I can do from the first pitch."
As MLB.com's Todd Zolecki noted, Hamels has the eighth-best ERA among the 101 qualified starters from 2010-2015. And it's not like truly elite pitchers don't go through rough patches every now and then.
Great pitchers never have this happen, like this would never happen to a great pitcher like Felix Hernandez: pic.twitter.com/9U19MbKn37— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) July 19, 2015
Hamels will get one more start, against the Cubs in Chicago next Saturday afternoon, to make an impression before the July 31 trade deadline. Although, he really shouldn't have to.
Back in November, I ran down a number of Major League players who could work as the centerpiece of any Cole Hamels deal. Looking back, some of them were not terribly good ideas, but one was.
I mentioned it on Twitter a few weeks ago as well, and in Sunday's Boston Globe piece by Nick Cafardo, he shared this nugget about Puig's lack of popularity in L.A. and whether it could mean they'd be open to trading him.
The noise is growing louder on Puig and his low favorability among teammates, according to a major league source. The Dodgers were able to purge their team of Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp and are better for it. Is Puig next? Where Puig used to be untouchable because of his tremendous ability, the Dodgers don't seem to feel that way now. Would they move him for a pitcher? And would the Phillies take him in a Cole Hamels package?
Los Angeles appears pretty adamant that they're not going to trade any of their top three young players, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias. That could leave them without the type of premier prospect that would be needed for the Phils to deal Hamels, as Jose DeLeon would not be a slam-dunk "yes" for the Phillies.
However, a trade for Puig makes a lot of sense.
Puig is just 24 years old, with a presumably long future ahead of him. He has just 199 plate appearances this season and is hitting .278/.362/.432 with four home runs, 11 doubles and two triples, with a wRC+ of 126 and an fWAR of 1.1.
Last year he hit .296/.382/.480 with 16 HRs, a wRC+ of 147 and an fWAR of 5.3, and the year before that he hit .319/.391/.534 with 19 HRs, a wRC+ of 160 and an fWAR of 4.1 in 432 PAs.
He's really good and he's still very young, but is also reportedly a pain in the butt. He's had a number of run-ins with manager Don Mattingly and team officials, and his teammates apparently hate his ever-breathing guts. That is certainly something to consider as the Phillies try to build a brand new clubhouse around young guys, and one wonders if having a problem child in the clubhouse will prevent the Phils from landing a top managerial candidate.
But on talent alone, I'd take Puig as the centerpiece in any Hamels deal.
FRANCOEUR INCREASES HIS VALUE
While Hamels' trade value shouldn't be influenced by a couple bad games, one guy whose surprisingly competent play could make him a very popular trade target over the next couple of weeks.
Jeff Francoeur did it again on Sunday, this time sending the Phils home 8-7 winners after this walk-off blast.
Frenchy is never going to be an on-base guy, so it isn't shocking to see a batting average of .257 accompanied by an on-base percentage of .288. But his slugging percentage is attractive (.449) as are his eight home runs in 198 PAs this year.
Francoeur would be perfect as a platoon player for a team like the Kansas City Royals, who could pair him with Jarrod Dyson in left field while Alex Gordon recovers from his knee injury. Or he could help the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have reportedly had interest in him as well.
He won't bring back a stud, and he's not as good a player as Marlon Byrd was when the Phils traded him. But he is far less expensive than Byrd was (now owed less than half of his $950,000 contract), and so he probably should be able to bring back a half-decent pitching prospect.
SCOUTING BEN REVERE
The Angels were also reported to have a scout in attendance in Philly, but word is, they continue to scout Phillies hitters, including Ben Revere and others, not Hamels.
Ben Revere has flaws in his game, and there are times you question his baseball IQ. He's not as good a defensive outfielder as you'd like, especially in center field, and he has no power and no ability to draw walks. However, the dude does get lots of base hits and steal lots of bases.
He went 2-for-4 with a double on Sunday, increasing his batting average to .299, with an OBP of .338. He's been worth 1.7 fWAR so far this season, best among all position players on the Phillies.
Aside from the Angels, the Mariners are desperate for a lead-off hitter-type, and the Pirates have been kicking the tires as well.
PAPELBON JOINS FLOODED CLOSERS MARKET
And while we all know Jonathan Papelbon wants to get traded, and we all know the Phillies are desperate to trade him, the market for closers is suddenly flooded.
It's a very robust market of available closers--Aroldis, Kimbrel, Papelbon, K-Rod -- and Jim Johnson a cheaper alternative, making $1.6m.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 19, 2015
Obviously, there's no one better than Aroldis Chapman and, despite his stats not being quite what they usually are, Craig Kimbrel is a better closer than Paps, too. Throw in Francisco Rodriguez and Jim Johnson, there are a lot of closers available to contending teams.
So as badly as Jon wants to get moved, the market may simply not allow it to happen.