Tag: Cole Hamels

MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Mets, Angels, More

It remains to be seen if the activity before this year’s MLB trade deadline will contain dramatic shifts of talent around the league. In a season where a lot of teams have remained within sniffing distance of a wild-card berth, there may not be many sellers on the market. 

But the teams in the hunt will still attempt to work out whatever big moves they can. 


New York Mets

One of this year’s surprise teams, the Mets started the second half just two games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East and in position to make a serious run for the second wild-card spot. They’ve accomplished this on the strength of their pitching and despite injuries to top offensive contributors David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Daniel Murphy.

In the first half of 2015, the Mets put up a staggeringly horrible slash line of .233/.298/.363. In fact, their offensive numbers rank at the bottom of the National League across the board:

Runs BA OBP Slugging
13. Miami 330 13. Chicago .239 13. New York .298 13. ATL/SD .368
14. New York 310 14. San Diego .238 14. Philadelphia .297 15. Philadelphia .363
15. Philadelphia 308 15. New York .233 15. San Diego .294 15. New York .363

It’s remarkable that the Mets have won so often this year while hitting so poorly. Give them a bat or two, and it would be interesting to see what they could do. 

Newsday’s Marc Craig wrote on July 16 that sources have told him the Mets are “not ruling out a trade for an outfielder.” New York could use help everywhere, but the outfield is a good enough place to begin.

The Mets’ outfield production has been wretched for a team with playoff aspirations:

  HR BA OBP Slugging
Michael Cuddyer  7  .244  .294  .367
Juan Lagares  3  .256  .284  .339
Curtis Granderson  13  .243  .340  .417

General manager Sandy Alderson has never been an executive who is shy about opening up a checkbook, so with the Mets suddenly relevant and in the thick of things ahead of schedule, I would not be shocked to see him go in big on any decent bats that become available, regardless of where he would end up needing to make room for it. 


Los Angeles Angels

A late first-half surge brought the Angels to the top of the AL West heading into the All-Star break. The Angels had gone 7-3 in their last 10 prior to the All-Star Game, while the Houston Astros were scuffling at 2-8, allowing the Halos to tie them in the standings.

A team anchored by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols has been built with the intention of winning right now. According to the L.A. Times‘ Mike DiGiovanna, the Angels are looking to muscle up even more, adding another bat:

Mike Trout is the second coming of Mickey Mantle in center field, but at the corners, Kole Calhoun is merely dependable (.265/.320/.407) and Matt Joyce is an open wound (.190/.281/.319) with twice as many strikeouts as walks.

The Angels are a team with a shot to win it all this year, next year and for the next several years if they handle their roster correctly. They could potentially add either a second-half rental or even a player who might require a multiyear commitment.  


Cole Hamels

No player is garnering as much attention nor is the source of as much speculation as Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels. One team that seems like a potential destination for him is the Texas Rangers

It would offer him a chance at pitching in the American League, and the Rangers could use an arm. Pitching was supposed to be a strength for the Rangers, but Yu Darvish has been lost for the season to injury and the rest of the rotation, with the possible exception of Yovani Gollardo, has been at least somewhat on the disappointing side of mediocre this year:

Yovani Gallardo 2.62 3.54 1.1226 79 40
Colby Lewis 4.77 3.97 1.257 80 24
Nick Martinez 3.43 4.66 1.371 57 34
Wandy Rodriguez 4.07 4.14 1.452 68 33
Chi Chi Gonzalez 3.74 4.74 1.246 15 19
Cole Hamels 3.63 3.41 1.217 123 37

Hamels’ arm would obviously bolster the Rangers’ rotation instantly, and given the 31-year-old pitcher’s resume as a top-of-the-roation talent, he’d be an investment in the future. Aside from the dismal campaign they turned in last season, the Rangers have been consistent contenders in recent years. 

However, he may not be an investment they are interested in making. According to a source for T.R. Sullivan on MLB.com, the Rangers don’t like the structure of Hamel’s contract or the asking price. 

With few sellers on the market this year, the action could be generally slowed down by the fact that teams that are looking to trade are looking to load up heavy with prospects in return. 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Ideal Destinations for Top 5 Players on the Market

For the next few days, it’ll be All-Star season in Major League Baseball. And that’ll be fun.

But after that comes the really fun part: trade season. The July 31 trade deadline is fast approaching, so we should see the top players on the market start flying off the shelves in the very near future.

Our purpose here is to ponder the ideal destinations for the five best players on the market. That means establishing a profile for each player and narrowing his suitors down to the best possible fit.

Another thing: When we say “five best players on the market,” we mean realistically on the market. As fun as it would be to talk about destinations for guys like Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gomez and Aroldis Chapman, a careful study of MLB Trade Rumors leads one to believe they’re likely staying put.

We’ll start with the least desirable of our five players and work our way to the most desirable player. Step into the box whenever you’re ready.

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Identifying the Perfect Fit for Each Coveted MLB Trade Chip

One of Bud Selig’s primary goals in adding a second wild-card playoff spot to both leagues was to put more teams in postseason contention, creating more excitement and fan interest throughout the summer.

A consequence of achieving that goal has been tamping down the trade buzz heading into the All-Star break, one of the game’s most exciting and heavily debated portions of the regular season.

Before the second wild-card spot was implemented for the 2012 season, as many as 10 teams could easily be declared sellers at this point, as they’ve fallen well behind each league’s best second-place club. But in the era of the second wild-card berth, more teams are willing to hang onto their assets and reach for the play-in game.

As a result, only five teams can realistically declare themselves sellers right now, and even that number is arguably too large as some of those teams still see themselves as a hot streak away from contending. And, unfortunately for the trade season, those teams are correct in assessing their chances.

That leaves only two teams as true sellers at this point—the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers. However, teams are scouting pieces of several other clubs in case those hot streaks never come.

While many of the trade chips are good fits for several contending teams, we will look at the perfect fit for each player based on production, cost, value and need.

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Cole Hamels Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Phillies Star

Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels has been the subject of trade rumors for quite some time, and that figures to continue as Major League Baseball’s July 31 trade deadline draws closer.

Continue for updates.

Hamels Not Pushing for Trade From Philly

Saturday, June 6

It is clear that the Phillies are a long way from contention, but their 31-year-old No. 1 starter is in no hurry to be dealt elsewhere despite that.

According to MLB Network Radio, Hamels is content to be a member of the Phillies:

The dominant lefty hurler is enjoying another strong season at 5-4 with a 2.88 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 84 strikeouts in 81.1 innings. He is in line for his fourth career All-Star nod, and he is one of the lone bright spots for the 21-35 Phils.

While Hamels isn’t in any hurry to be traded, he also seemed to suggest that he couldn’t force a move out of Philadelphia even if he wanted to:

Hamels is obviously cognizant of the fact that a trade is possible since he is signed through 2018 with a 2019 option at $24 million per season, according to Spotrac.com. For a team that is near the bottom of the league, that is a huge and arguably unnecessary financial commitment.

The 2008 World Series MVP constantly hears the trade winds blowing, but he has figured out a way to ignore the whispers:

Hamels could very well end up with a different team by the time July 31 rolls around, but his approach and goal won’t change regardless:

Teams are always in the market for an ace-caliber pitcher, especially left-handers. Hamels also has a history of playoff success, which makes him an even more valuable commodity.

It will be odd to see Hamels in anything other than the Phillies’ red and white, but since the organization figures to receive plenty of big-time offers moving forward, a trade seems to be the likeliest scenario.


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Houston Astros: Cole Hamels Would Be Nice, but Not Worth the Price

Every day that passes is another day closer to the July 31 trade deadline. For the first time in what seems like ages, the Houston Astros are shaping up to be buyers, not sellers, as that time approaches.

It is already June, and the Houston Astros still have the best record in the American League. After years of trading veterans in exchange for young prospects, the shoe is finally on the other foot.

There is a good chance that the Astros will remain in contention throughout the season, and if they want to make a serious push at the postseason, they might need a top-of-the-line starting pitcher to anchor the staff through the dog days of August and September.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Astros are in negotiations with the Philadelphia Phillies for left-hander Cole Hamels.

“The goal is [to acquire] a No. 1 or 2,” a source told Heyman.

Apparently, the Houston front office does not think that the starting rotation has enough depth to navigate through the playoffs, and a 1-2 punch of crafty southpaw and sub-2.00 ERA owner Dallas Keuchel and Hamels—or another front-line starter—does sound appealing.

However, the Astros need to be wary of betting the house on Hamels.

There is no argument that he is an elite pitcher, but the number of top-tier prospects that Philly will undoubtedly command in return is too steep a price.

For example, think about in the past when Hamels has been a hot commodity.

The Dodgers and Red Sox each showed significant interest in the 31-year-old Philadelphia ace, but in both instances the Phillies asked for an unrealistic return.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Phillies wouldn’t budge on an offer of all three of the Dodgers’ top prospects—Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias—last summer right before the trade deadline.

Then, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reported in January that the Phillies were “unrealistic in their expectations,” possibly asking for both Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart in exchange for Hamels.

So the first step for the Astros is going to be to reach a deal. For that to happen, they will have to include plenty of their top prospects in the deal. Fortunately, they have plenty to offer. The ‘Stros have the eighth most talented farm system in all of baseball, per MLB.com, meaning they are one of the few teams who could offer a package that could get Hamels.

But Hamels would certainly be expensive. Carlos Correa is likely off limits, but 2013 first-overall pick Mark Appel, Lance McCullers Jr., Preston Tucker and Colin Moran could potentially be involved in a blockbuster trade to land an elite starter like Hamels. 

Plus, on the off chance that the two sides can reach an agreement, Hamels’ 20-team no-trade clause poses another obstacle. He has already vetoed the Blue Jays this year, and a source told Heyman that Hamels would likely do the same to the Astros.

However, if Houston continues to do well and has a chance to make the playoffs—in addition to the abundance of young talent that means the Astros will be contenders for years down the road—who knows, maybe Hamels considers it.

The final hurdle is Hamels’ contract: He is scheduled to make $24 million per year through 2018. The Astros currently don’t have anyone making more than $10 million, and they will likely not want to allocate such a big chunk of their payroll to one player. Not only is it one player, but it’s a player who will only be on the field every fifth day.

With all this in mind, I think it is a good idea for the Astros to at least explore the market for a front-line starter. But ultimately, they should not be willing to give away more than two top prospects for his services. While he is a consistent and durable pitcher—he is well on his way to surpassing the 200-inning plateau for the sixth consecutive year—I don’t think he is worth the price that the Phillies are going to undoubtedly demand.

The Astros have two of the top five picks in Monday’s MLB draft, so they will add even more potential stars to their already loaded organization.

They are a team on the rise with a very bright future. Even if they do not accomplish everything they want to this season, they have several more years to do just that.

The ‘Stros have played terrific baseball to this point—without Hamels—and it is basically a foregone conclusion that the Phillies are going to be rightfully greedy in the negotiations.

Add it all up, and the Astros are fine as their roster sits right now. Don’t overspend for an elite starting pitcher. Keuchel is having a Cy Young-caliber season to this point, Collin McHugh has proved to be a consistent middle-of-the-rotation arm and McCullers looks like a future ace.

The Astros have amassed the best record in the AL without Hamels, and they don’t really need him to take the next step of eventually making and advancing deep into the playoffs.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Why They’ll Be a Seller by the All-Star Break

Merely one month into the MLB season and teams are already beginning to separate themselves in the division as races start to shape up.

Although the 2015 MLB All-Star break is still more than two months out, the teams quickly descending to the bottom of the standings are beginning to figure out whether to buy or to sell before the game.

One team primed to be a seller this summer are the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that has gotten off to an 8-15 start and currently sits fifth in the NL East.

Injuries have piled up for the Phillies, which has led the pitching to fall to the bottom third of the league in most statistical categories. In addition, the team suffers from a lack of offensive production.

With the New York Mets leading the NL East and a three-way battle brewing in for second place, the Phillies are in a position to trade away their top assets. 

Just 23 games into the 2015 season, the Phillies have mustered only eight wins and are struggling to keep pace with the NL East front-running Mets. The Mets own a 15-8 record and have been dominant at Citi Field. 

Both the Miami Marlins and the Washington Nationals remain in contention, too. The Nationals have won three in a row, while the Marlins have ripped off two straight. Meanwhile, the Phillies continue to dig themselves into a deeper hole with three consecutive losses.

Currently, five pitchers sit on the Phillies disabled list. Among them are Cliff Lee and Chad Billingsley, who were expected to be pivotal parts of the starting rotation.

Billingsley is on the 15-day DL and could be activated as early as next weekend for the showdown against the Mets, according to the Philly.com.

Lee, on the other hand, is on the 60-day DL. He’s currently deciding between rehab for a left forearm strain or surgery, which would end his 2015 season. In March, Lee told Philly.com that he was leaning toward giving rehab a third chance.

With both Lee and Billingsley sidelined, the Phillies have had to rely on the likes of Jerome Williams (3.80 ERA), David Buchanan (8.76 ERA) and Severino Gonzalez (23.63 ERA). Along with Cole Hamels (3.19 ERA) and Aaron Harang (2.51 ERA), the Phillies rank 21st in MLB in team pitching, behind three rival NL East clubs.

Offensively, the Phillies have endured even more struggles. The lineup has been short of Domonic Brown all season long, while their usual sluggers, such as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, have struggled with been inconsistent. 

Utley has batted .114 in 21 games played, and his counterpart Howard is at .194 in 20 games. As a team, the Phillies rank 29th in the league in offense with a team batting average of .223. Additionally, the Phillies rank 26th in home runs (13), 29th in on-base percentage (.280) and 30th in runs scored (63).

As the Phillies continue to sputter, they find themselves with no other options other than to start dealing. Among the chips that could be angled include none other than Hamels. 

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro has received a bevy of phone calls about the availability of the team’s longtime ace, and according to USA TODAY, the St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have all expressed some level of interest.

Per the report, the Phillies would only send Hamels in exchange for a player they could turn into their centerpiece in the future. 

The Cardinals are without their ace, Adam Wainwright, who was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Brandon McCarthy, the Dodgers’ prized free-agent signee, is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Blue Jays need to find a suitable replacement for Marcus Stroman, and the Red Sox rank dead last in MLB with a 5.04 team ERA.

If the Phillies intend on being sellers, they also can try to shed closer Jonathan Papelbon and his $13 million salary to any buyers. 

Papelbon owns a 1.08 ERA and five saves in eight appearances out of the Philadelphia pen, but the team has little need for a stopper as it continues to plummet in the standings. To shed his salary would be ideal for Philadelphia, and the Blue Jays—who also reportedly have interest in Hamels—also have been in the mix for Papelbon, per CSNPhilly.com.

However, Toronto dropped out of those talks as the season progressed, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

In addition to those two pitchers, the Phillies may consider dealing Utley. Although the veteran second baseman is not putting up All-Star statistics so far this season, he is an impending free agent.

The team would be wise to try to get something in exchange for Utley, instead of simply allowing him to walk for free.

Utley previously made it clear to the organization that he did not want to leave Philadelphia, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, but that position may have changed with the team’s current standing.

But there is some curiosity about whether this will change, in the face of the Phillies’ dim prospects now or in the immediate future. Jimmy Rollins chose to leave, accepting a trade to the Dodgers, and rival evaluators believe Cole Hamels wants out, as well.

Utley is a California native that attended UCLA. Naturally, both Los Angeles teams—the Dodgers and the Angels—make season for that reason. Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick is batting .295 this year with 14 RBI. Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella is batting .317 with 10 RBI. 

All signs point to the Phillies making some moves before the 2015 MLB All-Star break. They’ve been rumored to do so for months, and all signs point to it finally coming to fruition.

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Cole Hamels Struts His Stuff as List of Suitors Grows

Every start Cole Hamels makes is an audition. And with each performance, his audience appears to be growing.

If that is indeed the case, they must be liking what they’re seeing.

Hamels made his fifth start of 2015 Monday night, and it was a good one. The ace left-hander led the Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals with seven innings of one-run ball. He did allow four walks, but he also permitted just four hits and struck out nine.

That makes it three starts out of four that Hamels has pitched at least six innings while allowing no more than one earned run. His overall ERA is 3.19, which looks an awful lot like his career 3.27 ERA. If one didn’t know any better, one would say he’s still one of the best pitchers in the National League.

So, that sound you’re hearing is Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. rubbing his hands together with excitement. He has a pretty massive rebuilding job on his hands, and the guy who was supposed to be his best trade chip isn’t letting him down.

That alone would be good enough for Hamels’ trade value. But as you might have noticed, what’s helping it even further is that his list of possible suitors is growing by the day.

And at the top of the list might be the team Hamels just beat.

The Cardinals confirmed Monday that staff ace Adam Wainwright has been lost for the season with a torn Achilles. He’s a guy few pitchers are capable of replacing, and the club’s in-house options certainly fall well short in that regard. 

Because it’s still only April, the Cardinals understandably aren’t rushing to make a trade. But GM John Mozeliak did tell Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he “might have to look outside” eventually, and it’s a good bet Hamels will be at the top of his wish list if and when that time comes.

It was reported during the winter that the Cardinals were interested in trading for Hamels, with the idea being to add a left-handed ace to their rotation. The 31-year-old’s production obviously still fits the bill, and so does his stuff. FanGraphs can vouch that Hamels’ velocity is still in the low-90s, and that his trademark changeup is once again contributing to an outstanding swinging-strike rate.

There is one complication, though. The Cardinals might be able to afford to take on the bulk of Hamels’ remaining contract—four years and at least $100 million—but Bob Nightengale of USA Today says they “don’t quite have the pieces” to satisfy the rebuilding Phillies in trade talks.

Part of that has to do with how there are at least two other major suitors whose need for Hamels has only gotten larger.

One is the Los Angeles Dodgers. They were also connected to Hamels over the winter, and they too have an injured starter that needs replacing. The club announced Monday that veteran right-hander Brandon McCarthy needs Tommy John surgery, and is done for the year.

Because the Dodgers are even shorter on in-house options than the Cardinals, what Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register says here makes perfect sense:

The Dodgers are indeed a legit threat to land Hamels. This is yet another championship-or-bust season for them, and they have more than enough money to afford him. According to Baseball America, they also have the No. 3 farm system in the league to entice the Phillies with.

But the Boston Red Sox might be able to beat the Dodgers to the punch if they deem their need for Hamels strong enough. And the way things are going, it’s trending in that direction.

The Red Sox don’t have any major injury problems in their starting rotation. Their problem is more that the rotation itself is a problem, as the 5.84 ERA owned by Boston starters is by far the worst in baseball. They’re obliging the many skeptics who claimed the Red Sox rotation was lacking a truly reliable starter.

If the Red Sox decide Hamels can be that guy, they definitely have the means to go get him. They also have a lot of money to throw around, as well as Baseball America’s No. 2-ranked farm system. It’s been reported that the Red Sox won’t part with Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart to land Hamels, but they have plenty of other goodies they can pony up to get him.

The Cardinals, Dodgers and Red Sox were already lurking on the Hamels market before the season even began. Now it’s probably fair to say the three of them are front and center, and that any of the three could decide in the near future that having Hamels is a necessity rather than a luxury.

But they may not be alone there.

The Chicago Cubs were another team linked to Hamels over the winter, and they could still move on him with 2015 shaping up to be a return to form for the franchise. Like the Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox are would-be contenders in need of starting pitching. Justin Verlander fell from grace in 2014 and is now dealing with a nagging arm injury, so don’t rule out the Detroit Tigers as a mystery team in the Hamels sweepstakes.

This is all music to the ears of Amaro. He was criticized during the winter for putting too high a price on Hamels, and warned by some know-it-alls that waiting to deal him during the summer was an unnecessary roll of the dice. But the way things are shaping up, it now looks like there’s a real chance his gamble will pay off.

For now, it’s unlikely anything is imminent. Prospective Hamels suitors and all other teams are still in the beta testing phases of their seasons, so it’s a bit soon for such a massive trade to go down. The Hamels waiting game will probably be resolved in weeks, not days.

But a blockbuster trade should happen eventually. With needs for Hamels’ services arising left and right and in all the right places, this is a scenario that’s seemingly been upgraded from an “if” to a “when.”

Assuming, of course, that Hamels can keep nailing his auditions.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Would a Cole Hamels Trade Be Enough to Save Rangers’ 2015 Season?

The Texas Rangers could have chosen to wave a white flag when they found out Yu Darvish had been lost for the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery, but they’re not.

Instead, they may have it in mind to acquire a suitable replacement: Cole Hamels.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Rangers are in contact with the Philadelphia Phillies over the 31-year-old left-hander, who is very much attainable. He may be coming off a career-best 2.46 ERA in 2014, but the Phillies have made no secret of the fact that they’re rebuilding. And with Cliff Lee down for the count, Hamels is really their only valuable trade asset.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that a trade is going to happen. 

“The teams have discussed Rangers prospects who’d go in a package for Hamels, but the sides were said to be still far apart,” Heyman wrote. “At this point, the parties weren’t necessarily expressing great optimism the gap could be closed, but they aren’t closing the door, either.”

One complication is that Darvish’s injury means the Rangers don’t exactly have a leverage advantage. And given what ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark has had to say about Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., his asking price could very well be too high. From the sound of things, he’s been Mr. Thick Thickity-Thickface from Thicktown, Thickania in Hamels trade talks.

Still. While a deal may not be likely, it’s certainly possible. The Rangers most definitely have a need for Hamels, and Heyman spoke to a rival GM last week who said they have the prospects and the money to acquire him and afford some portion of the $100 million remaining on his contract.

Question is: Even if the Rangers do pull off a trade for Hamels, could he make up for the loss of Darvish and get them to where they want to be in 2015?

First of all, yes, the Rangers did have a shot at the postseason before Darvish went down.

If you go back to when he was healthy, the Rangers were projected to be just good enough. Per OneStrikeAway.com, Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections had them pegged for an 83-win record that would put them within striking distance in the AL West and in the mix for a wild-card spot. In an age where two wild-card teams just played in the World Series, that’s good enough.

And that sounded fair enough. With healthy versions of Derek Holland, Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland and Neftali Feliz, a new rotation addition in Yovani Gallardo and a potential breakout star in Rougned Odor, the Rangers did look significantly improved over last year’s injury-wrecked 95-loss debacle. 

But then Darvish went down.

His injury cost the Rangers a pitcher with 3.27 ERA and 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings since 2012. That knocked the Rangers’ PECOTA projection from 83 wins to 79 wins, making them a relative long shot to contend in 2015.

We can discuss and debate the numbers all day, but there’s no debating the sentiment. The Rangers just don’t look like they have enough without Darvish. As such, it follows that they won’t look like they have enough until they find somebody capable of being at least as good as Darvish.

So let’s talk about whether Hamels can be that guy.

On the surface, it looks like a yes. Thanks to superior efficiency and superior durability, Hamels has logged nearly 100 more innings than Darvish since 2012. And if you go by ERA+, which adjusts ERAs for parks and leagues, you find that Darvish and Hamels have been pretty much the same pitcher in that time frame. Darvish has a 127 ERA+ to Hamels’ 126 ERA+. 

That alone makes it look like swapping one out for the other would be a fair trade, and you can come to the same conclusion by comparing styles.

Though Hamels hasn’t been nearly Darvish’s equal when it comes to striking batters out, he’s been about as good at limiting home runs and better at limiting walks and getting ground balls. Via FanGraphs, here’s a quick look:

One figures that Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is aware of all this and that he’s therefore privately contradicting what he said last week on KTCK-AM 1310 (h/t the Dallas Morning News) about replacing Darvish not being a “realistic” idea. Hamels may not be a carbon copy of Darvish, but the two are peers in terms of talent.

This is not to say there isn’t a legit concern about the idea of replacing Darvish with Hamels, though.

The Rangers learned the hard way with their recent trades for Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza that National League excellence can have a hard time translating into American League excellence. And Hamels would be a stronger candidate than most to fall prey to that same misfortune.

According to Baseball Prospectus, one reason Hamels had such an awesome year in 2014 is because he faced easier competition than all but three other pitchers. Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs took a different route in looking beyond just 2014, but came up with the same conclusion, writing that Hamels has basically faced “a bunch of Everth Cabreras” on average since 2012.

The good news? There are positives for the Rangers to hang their hat on to overrule the negative that is Hamels’ recent competition.

Certainly, it’s hard not to be enthused about how Hamels’ velocity is somehow trending upward as he heads into his 30s. Further, Brooks Baseball can show that his pitch repertoire is getting more varied every year. Take those two things and combine them with Hamels’ strong control, and he’s probably never been a more complete pitcher than he is right now.

Darvish and Hamels are two very different pitchers. Of that, there is no doubt. But there’s enough that says Hamels belongs in the same league as Darvish and that he would thus prove to be capable of replacing his lost production on the 2015 Rangers. 

But before we go, let’s acknowledge that this doesn’t mean trading for him is a no-brainer.

Because Darvish’s injury creates a lack of leverage for the Rangers, they’re definitely not going to get Hamels cheap. In all likelihood, they’d be taking on another big contract for an aging star while waving goodbye to a couple of talented prospects.

There’s also Hamels’ long-term health to consider. Though he should be fine for 2015, his career workload of nearly 1,900 innings, his recent velocity increase and his recent arm trouble paint a picture of an ace who may soon run out of bullets.

Lastly, there’s the reality of the Rangers’ current situation. Even if Hamels were to effectively replace Darvish, both the projections and any reasonable pair of eyes can see that this would only succeed in getting the Rangers back in the 2015 chase rather than to the front of it. The Rangers could very well aim high with a Hamels trade and ultimately end up missing short.

So this situation doesn’t really come down to how much sense Daniels can make. It more so comes down to how bold he wants to be.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Cliff Lee’s Career-Threatening Injury Is a Sounding Alarm to Trade Cole Hamels

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 ESPN.com’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 MLB.com 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.

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Cliff Lee Surgery Would Add Pressure on Phillies to Get Cole Hamels Deal Right

Cliff Lee‘s left elbow made it through just one spring training start—and all of two innings—last Thursday before he was shut down the following day with another bout of elbow discomfort in the same spot that plagued him for much of 2014.

The 13-year veteran went for an MRI on Sunday that revealed some inflammation, and while it’s too early to tell yet, Lee did acknowledge that surgery is at least a possibility. If that’s how this plays out, then Lee’s 2015 season will be over before it even begins—and there’s a chance his baseball career could be finished too.

“It would be 6-8 months out,” Lee said, via Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “So basically if I have the surgery this season will be done. Possibly my career I guess. I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”

And just like that, all the pressure is back on general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and the rest of the Philadelphia Phillies front office to do right by a rebuilding organization and make the most out of the club’s final big trade chip, Cole Hamels.

Were it only about his success, experience and postseason history, Lee would make for an enticing option for the Phillies to peddle to clubs eying a proven starter—provided, of course, they made the $37.5 million Lee is owed more palatable.

But combined with that amount of money, this latest run-in with elbow discomfort or soreness makes Lee absolutely immovable.

As Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes:

The Phillies (and Lee) obviously hoped to see the pitcher progress this spring without any issues. Had Lee stayed healthy, he could have been a nice trade chip for Amaro and Co. … and Lee himself could have potentially joined another team prior to the July trade deadline as he pursues an elusive World Series ring.

That is out the window at this point. If Lee weren’t considered damaged goods after making just 13 starts in 2014—none after July 31—due to elbow problems, well, he definitely is now.

Even if Lee were to be OK enough to pitch in the first half of the season, there’s just not going to be much interest in or market for a 36-year-old left-hander with a contract that is cumbersome (and then some) and, more importantly, an elbow that is unwilling to cooperate.

Which brings us back to Hamels, who now more than ever is Amaro’s last chance to turn the aging, injury-prone core of what was a top-notch team for several years into a batch of young, cost-controlled talent to help with a long-overdue rebuilding project that has just begun.

A 31-year-old southpaw, Hamels has been at the center of trade rumors dating back to last July and continuing all throughout this past offseason, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com notes.

While Amaro did manage to bring in some prospects, like Tom Windle, Zach Eflin and Ben Lively, by swapping longtime shortstop Jimmy Rollins and in-his-final-act outfielder Marlon Byrd, Hamels remains the lone piece that could net a return of real, franchise-altering value.

Nobody is knocking down Amaro’s door to ask about closer Jonathan Papelbon, and nobody is even picking up the phone to inquire about first baseman Ryan Howard.

The reports all along have been that Amaro has refused to budge on his terms involving Hamels, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. That means the GM won’t trade him unless the acquiring club sends an elite package of prospects and picks up most, if not all, of the $96 million Hamels is due through 2018.

“Cole Hamels is a known entity,” Amaro told Stark. “A known winner. A known World Series MVP. A known top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. If Cole Hamels continues to be Cole Hamels, which we fully expect him to be, why would [his trade value] decline?”

Funny, but a similar sentiment might have been uttered about Lee this time last year.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Hamels has a $20 million option for 2019 that he might want picked up if dealt, especially to one of the teams on his limited no-trade clause.

The good news here is that Hamels has yet to show any sort of decline or injury concern, meaning his value on the trade front remains relatively high. He is, after all, coming off a career-best 2.46 ERA last year.

That’s a big reason why Amaro needs to get it right when it comes to trading Hamels, which feels like an inevitability by now, whether it happens in the month between now and the start of the regular season or by the trade deadline at the end of July.

It’s also a big reason why Amaro should be willing to bend, if only a little bit, in his demands with regard to a return for Hamels. If nothing else, Lee—who had a 2.80 ERA while making at least 30 starts in each of his first three seasons since re-signing with Philadelphia—is an unmistakable example of how fast a pitcher’s career can be derailed.

Here’s Amaro’s bottom line: More than ever, he needs to get it right when trading Hamels, but in light of Lee’s latest ailment, the leverage is going in the wrong direction.


Statistics are accurate through Monday, March 9 and courtesy of MLB.comBaseball-Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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