Trade Market For Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels is coming off one of the best seasons of his career at the age of 30 years old. Nevertheless, the Philadelphia Phillies are looking to trade their ace for a substantial haul. After finishing last in their division with a 73-89 record, the Phillies plan to undergo a rebuilding phase in order to restock their talent supply. The Phillies current roster is full of veterans signed to poor contracts, but Hamels is one of the few players who could bring back a significant return in a trade. Hamels is signed to a reasonable 6-year contract worth $144 Million through 2018, which is just about what he is worth, leaving little surplus value. While the Phillies appear willing to deal Hamels and expedite their rebuilding process, it appears they are expecting a significant haul in return for their ace. According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the Phillies are seeking “at least three top prospects”. They are looking for 2 of those players to be Major League ready. This is essentially the same asking price reported at the 2014 Trade Deadline when the Phillies were unable to make a trade. While the Phillies certainly have the right to ask for whatever they want, the market is unlikely to meet their demands, if only because few teams have this level of talent that they are willing to trade.

For the 5th straight season, Hamels eclipsed the 200 inning plateau with better than an 8.0 K/9. In 2014, he also posted the best ERA of his career at 2.46, which was supported by 3.07 FIP. For his career, Hamels has been very consistent with a career ERA of 3.27 and FIP of 3.48, in route to a career fWAR of 34.4 over his 9 seasons in the league. While Hamels is an outstanding talent and will certainly garner a great amount of interest on the trade market, there are still plenty of obstacles to any trade. For starters, Hamels has a 21-team “no trade” clause, which was recently updated, so it is unclear who is on the list. While Hamels will likely approve a deal to any contender he will have leverage to demand more money or some other compensation in order to waive his “no trade” clause. Another challenge for the Phillies in trading Hamels will be finding a team that is willing to meet their asking price, rather than signing one of Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields and not sacrificing any talent, except the draft pick. Hamels has only 4 guaranteed years remaining on his deal and will likely earn less average annual value (AAV) than each of the above, except Shields. Teams will likely prefer signing one of the free agents and retaining their prospects, rather than pay Hamels similar money and lose 3 top prospects. Despite the fact that many teams are interested in acquiring a true ace like Hamels, the market for his services will be relatively thin because few teams can come close to the Phillies’ demands.

There are seven teams that both have the financial will power and prospect depth to make a deal for Hamels.

Dodgers: They were linked to Hamels at the Trade Deadline because of their incredible financial flexibility and elite Minor League talent. With the possibility of Zack Greinke opting out of his deal after next season, the Dodgers could pursue Hamels to go for it in 2015 and also give them an option if Greinke departs. In terms of Minor League talent, the Dodgers have shortstop Corey Seager, outfielder Joc Pederson and left-handed pitcher Julio Urias. Each of these players are consensus Top 50 prospects, but there is no chance the Phillies land all three for Hamels, and would likely only receive one added with lesser prospects in any deal.

Cubs: The Cubs seem poised to go for it as early as 2015 and if they miss on the Free Agent aces, they could turn to the Phillies. They have an unmatched pool of offensive talent in the upper minors, so they could afford to deal a few of their prospects and still be among the top systems. Some players the Cubs could offer include shortstop Javier Baez, shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Albert Almora, catcher Kyle Schwarber, right-hander CJ Edwards, and outfielder Billy McKinney. A deal involving either Baez or Russell would likely only include them and a couple lesser prospects. Deals starting with the other players above would likely involve two of the names, as they are lesser prospects, but still very valuable.

Cardinals: The Cardinals have 7 candidates to be above average starters 2015, but they are still among the few teams that have the finances and Minor League depth to acquire an ace like Hamels. They are the least likely team to acquire Hamels, but were linked to him at the Deadline, so those talks could resurface. Trade talks would likely center around one or two of right-handed Carlos Martinez, left-handed Marco Gonzalez, and Rightfielder Stephen Piscotty with other lesser prospects added in.

Red Sox: The Red Sox were interested in Hamels at the Trade Deadline, but because they were not in contention decided against paying the steep price, in the hopes that it would go down in the offseason. The Red Sox have plenty of prospects in the upper minors, but many scouts differ in their assessments of each. One of utility man Mookie Betts, catcher Blake Swihart or left-hander Henry Owens plus some of the more advanced but lower ceiling players would likely get the deal done. However, the Red Sox will be very reluctant to part with either Betts or Swihart as they are both elite talents that will have good opportunities with the club.

Yankees: The Yankees obviously have the financial capacity to take on his contract and are in the market for an ace to anchor their rotation, but they lack the Minor League talent in the upper minors to match the current asking price. The Yankees do, however, have enough high upside talent to entice the Phillies. Prospects they could offer include right-hander Luis Severino, outfielder Aaron Judge, and catcher Gary Sanchez, along with a few other lower level players.

Mariners: The Mariners may not necessarily need an ace, since they have both Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, but they have the financial room and prospect depth to get Hamels and push them over the cusp of the playoffs. A deal would center around one of left-hander James Paxton or right-hander Taijuan Walker. The Mariners would likely have to include shortstop Brad Miller and another talented prospect.

Rangers: Texas’s interest in Hamels depends entirely on whether they feel they can be competitive in 2015, after finishing last in the AL during an injury-plagued season. If they feel Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo will be healthy and productive then Hamels could be a possible addition, especially with all the injury concerns associated with their current rotation. Jurickson Profar could be the centerpiece of a deal, if the Phillies believe the injuries are behind him. Otherwise a deal could center around Joey Gallo and some lesser prospects.

The Cardinals and Rangers are the least likely of the above teams to swing a deal for Hamels, but they do have the necessary pieces to pull off a trade. The best move for the Phillies is likely to wait until the three Free Agent aces sign with teams and then try to deal Hamels to the teams that were unable to land one of the Free Agents. The Red Sox or Cubs seem like the most likely destinations, assuming they cannot sign a Free Agent. Either way, it is unlikely the Phillies will receive the steep price they are demanding, but nevertheless, will receive an impressive haul if they do trade Cole Hamels.

Anthony Cacchione

Top Area of Need for each AL Contender

The All-Star break is behind us and now trade rumors are at full strength. So, as promised, here is the top area of need for each AL contender.

Texas Rangers: Starting Pitcher
The Texas Rangers’ DL currently holds 7 pitchers, and even when they get Yu Darvish back, the middle and back of the rotation is very weak. Due to all the injuries to the rotation, the Rangers have been forced to turn to youngsters like Justin Grimm, Martin Perez and Nick Tepesch. However, Grimm has struggled with a 6.37 ERA and Tepesch has compiled just a 4.85 ERA. The Rangers have the finances and the farm system to be able to acquire a top Starting Pitcher, and are said to be in on the Cubs’ Matt Garza.

Oakland Athletics: Second Base
The Oakland A’s don’t have many holes, but second base is a big one. The A’s starter at second base, Eric Sogard, has slashed just .255/.328/.346 with just 1 home run and 13 RBI. The second base market is not very strong, especially if the Phillies are not willing to deal Chase Utley, but the A’s have a deep enough farm system to acquire an upgrade at the position. The Mets’ Daniel Murphy would be a good offensive upgrade, while also fitting the A’s blueprint with great versatility.

Detroit Tigers: Left Fielder
Many experts have argued that the Tigers greatest need is a reliable closing pitcher. While the Tigers have certainly had issues in finishing games, it seems that Joaquin Benoit can handle the 9th inning for this talented club. Benoit has a 1.64 ERA and is 8/8 in save opportunities. Meanwhile, the Tigers are receiving little offensive production from Left Fielder Andy Dirks. Dirks has slashed .243/.305/.344 with just 6 HRs, but his struggles are even more severe against Left Handed pitchers, who have held Dirks to just a .205 batting average against. The Cubs Alfonso Soriano could fit nicely into this team’s lineup, but a cheaper alternative could be to just a Right-handed hitting LF to platoon with Dirks.

Cleveland Indians: Starting Pitcher
The Indians have numerous options to start games for them; however, none of these pitchers are Aces, and most are 4th or 5th starters at the present time. The Indians rotation ranks 22nd in the MLB in ERA and Innings Pitched. The Indians do not need to acquire an Ace to reach the Postseason, but the addition of a more reliable middle of the rotation starter, such as Bud Norris of the Astros, would certainly strengthen this team.

Boston Red Sox: Third Baseman
The Red Sox likely felt pretty comfortable with the Wil Middlebrooks coming into this season, especially after he slashed .288/.325/.509 with 15 HRs last season in just 75 games last season. However, Middlebrooks has been a huge disappointment so far this season, and is now in Triple-A to fix his contact issues. The Red Sox have turned to numerous players in an effort to solidify the position, but none of the options have been overly impressive. The Red Sox are heavily scouting Michael Young of the Phillies, but if the Phillies choose not sell then the Red Sox would have to trade Major League talent to acquire Young.

New York Yankees: Catcher
The Yankees really have too many holes to fill, but they have stayed in contention thus far, and there is no chance the Yankees choose to sell. Despite so many holes, their biggest need is at the catcher position, where the Yankees are receiving little production. The Yankees catchers are tied for the fewest HRs in the MLB, with just 6 long balls this season. At a few other positions the Yankees at least have the hope of receiving production from injured players who will return, such as Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson. If the Phillies choose not to trade Carlos Ruiz, then the Cubs’ Dioner Navarro is the best available catcher.

Tampa Bay Rays: Catcher
The Rays may choose to just stand pat as they have done in the past. Nevertheless they still have needs, and their biggest need is at catcher, where the Rays have never really had a reliable backstop. The Rays are tied with the Yankees for the fewest home runs from their catchers at 6 HRs. The Twins’ Ryan Doumit may fit the Rays better than Navarro or Ruiz, because Doumit provides the Rays with more versatility, as he is able to play the corner outfield spots as well as first base.

Baltimore Orioles: Infield Depth
The Orioles addressed their biggest area on need when they acquired starting pitcher Scott Feldman from the Cubs. The Orioles now have no glaring needs, except acquiring a utility infielder that can produce more offensive value than their current backup infielders. It is not a major concern, but because second baseman Brian Roberts has so much trouble staying healthy, it may be wise to add another infielder that can play second base in the event that Roberts is injured. The Royals’ Miguel Tejada could fill in nicely as he has for the Royals.

Anthony Cacchione