Cliff Lee has sent Ruben Amaro Jr. his much-needed wake-up call.

Now it is up to Amaro to actually wake up.

Lee is the Philadelphia Phillies former ace and currently a 36-year-old left-hander whose balky elbow has him face to face with the end of his successful career. Amaro is the Phillies’ general manager and currently the man who still has not traded his one strong bargaining chip and current left-handed ace, Cole Hamels.

But Amaro should not be that guy for much longer. He should move Hamels in the near future if not immediately. And if he keeps Hamels longer than that, then he should cease to be the team’s GM. Either way, Amaro should not be that guy for much longer.

Don’t hold any precious breaths waiting for that to happen, though. Lee’s career-threatening elbow injury is not going to push Amaro into trading Hamels, and apparently, neither is any other injuries to pitchers on other clubs.

“Nope,” Amaro told’s Jayson Stark when asked if his asking price on Hamels has softened after Lee’s injury. “Why would it change? No reason to change it.

“I don’t know what our ‘stance’ on Cole is. Others have ‘stances,’ I guess, for us. I guess other people must think we have a ‘stance.’ Our ‘stance’ is that we’re open-minded. And that hasn’t changed one bit.”

But open-minded in Amaro’s world seems to differ from common folk.

Here is the Cole Hamels Situation, or “stance,” as we have come to know it since last July at the non-waiver trade deadline: Amaro has refused and will continue to refuse any trade offer for his ace that does not completely knock him off his designer loafers.

The inherent injury risk of hanging onto Hamels does not even register into Amaro’s thinking.

“There’s no lesson learned from Lee’s situation because it’s a totally different situation. One guy is hurt. The other guy is completely healthy,” Amaro dissected to Stark.

“All pitchers can get hurt. All players can get hurt. It can happen any time,” Amaro later added. “That has nothing to do with the way we go about our business, [by] planning for a player to get hurt. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Understandable. You do not “plan” for a player’s injury without any pre-existing knowledge that he is prone to having one, which is Hamels’ situation. Still, trading your most valuable asset at his highest value in order to fully kick-start your team’s rebuild is not the same as planning for injury.

It is just wise, especially when we have now learned over the last eight and a half months that Amaro’s dream package is not dropping onto his doorstep. And if it does between now and next July 31, it likely means that the pieces he covets have significantly lost value to their current organizations, which also does not bode well for the Phillies.

The teams the Phillies have flirted with—the Red Sox, the Rangers, the Yankees, the Padres—have aggressive but analytical front offices. If they are unwilling to part with key prospects at this point, especially when they lack a true ace (Red Sox) or have just lost one for the season (Rangers), their minds are unlikely to change. This becomes particularly true next offseason when you consider the crop of available starting pitchers might be the deepest in the history of free agency.

And if Amaro hangs onto Hamels beyond this coming July, his value drops dramatically with three years instead of four on his contract, another year of age and mileage on his arm and plenty of other options on the market that do not cost high-end prospects.

“Again, if there were deals that we felt were appropriate for us to move forward, then we would,” Amaro told Todd Zolecki of last month before Lee was hurt and before the Rangers lost Yu Darvish to Tommy John surgery. “So far some of the deals that we’ve discussed with some of our players have not yielded what we’ve wanted to do. And in some cases, we feel like we’re better off staying with the players that we have for a variety of different reasons. We’ll move forward accordingly.”

But what forward is there to move toward without a trade for Hamels? The team has no other pieces worth salivating over, and it is clearly not in a position to win anytime soon, with or without Hamels. Hamels understands this and has stopped barely short of asking for a trade to a contender during this spring training.

So instead of waiting for the eye-popping prospect package, which is just not available these days like it was when the Rangers traded Mark Teixeira in 2007, the Phillies ought to seek their best available offer as soon as possible and be done with this cloud of constant speculation.

At one point this offseason, we all saw Lee, if healthy and effective, as a trade piece at some point before August. That option has been erased.

Now, Lee is a simply a reminder of one of the possible risks of hanging onto Hamels too dearly. His injury is not the reason Hamels should be traded but more of a notice of what could happen in a worst-case world.

The reason for a Hamels trade has long been upon us considering the Phillies have lost 259 games in the last three seasons. And until now, Amaro has engaged in the kind of hardball no other MLB executive is willing to play, and it is costing his franchise valuable time in its attempt to regain relevancy.

Lee’s elbow is Amaro’s alarm sounding. The Phillies now have to hope his snooze button is broken.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

Read more MLB news on