Ruben says he’s not. Sources say he is.
We say he should be.
Truth and opinion aside: To mull over any potential Cole Hamels deal, we’ve first got to look at the potential haul..
The Phillies have (again, assuming you think the flavor of Listerine Amaro’s got in his bathroom is “Deceit”) set an asking price of five prospects, particularly at third base and the outfield according to Buster Olney. Which makes sense, given that Placido Polanco is physically wilting like a rose on Venus and Domonic Brown apparently doesn’t know how to stretch. (To that end, even if Brown could keep himself healthy and went all Phillip’s head with his own head, Shane Victorino is coming off the books at years end (or sooner) as a free agent (or trade piece).)
So when/if the Phillies call around, what should they be asking for? Well…
Few things we need to realize here. One, the Phillies probably aren’t going to get any big leaguers — at least not ones they’d want anyway. (All you David Wright commenters, sorry, I’m not sorry.) For an impending free agent on deck for the richest contract in the history of the game (at least for pitchers), any trade partner (not run by Ed Wade, to satisfy Phillie fans’ obligatory “Ed Wade Joke In Phillie Trade Rumor” quota) would only flip something it thought expendable. That means prospects, but not necessarily the best in the bigs. Remember: Assumption has to be Cole’s testing free agency regardless of what happens, but especially if he gets dealt from Philly. So no, you’re not getting Top 10 farm system seeds in return.
And you’re probably not going all “Andy Reid in 2009” and turning him to a division rival. Really. With the Phillies last in the division, where they’d presumably be if they decided to go seller, literally every NL East team they could potentially swap with would be higher in the standings, closer to the NL Wild Card, nearer to that tender place in your heart — that would be absolutely carved out with shrapnel if Cole propelled a team to the playoffs (or beyond…) on Ruben Amaro’s watch. Would never live it down. Would have a better chance with Draino. That nixes Washington 3B prospect Anthony Rendon, 21, off our list. God. Could you imagine if Rube went there, and Hamels re-upped in WASHINGTON?!? Andrew Pheffer would keel over with glee.
All that said, some possibilities. At least one’s I’d look into, anyway.
(Rankings per Keith Law’s Top 100)
(1) Colorado – 3B Nolan Arenado (No. 26 overall, No. 2 position) – Passes the sniff test. Bottom of the barrel NL team, totally depleted of arms — if you remember the minutiae from this past series, they had to put all four of their starters on 75 pitch counts, they were beat up so badly — and, at a bazillion games back in the NL West, there’s ABSOLUTELY NO WAY they can burn you.
Problem(s)? They don’t really have much by way of a bundle. (No way they let go of Drew Pomeranz too, No. 46 overall. And you wouldn’t want Chad Bettis, No. 91, some 15 slots behind the Phillies own Trevor May.) Plus, if you’re holding out hope for a wink-and-nod deal between Hamels and the Phillies, don’t think there’s any way Amaro convinces Hamels to wait it out (and rot) in the Midwest for a few months and re-up with the Phillies after. No way. You make this move, you don’t get a lot in return and, ultimately, lose Hamels for good.
VERDICT: Eh, Pass…
(2) Kansas City – Wil Myers, Bubba Starling (OF, Nos. 13 and 15 overall, Nos. 1 and 2 position) – Thinking you might actually be able to swing this. Hardest part about this deal would be prying from Kansas City’s clutches two prospects it loves to love — kind of how it does the rest of its farm system.
Where I think the Phillies might have a chance? Kansas has been touted as “The Next Big Thing” in American League baseball for, like, the better half of this millennium. How’s that worked out? One above-500 finish since Y2K didn’t happen. Their last postseason appearance predates me. (1985.)
Granted, the wave of the future they’re trying to ride — and convincing some of us along the way that it’s actually going to happen — is largely contingent on these two guys in particular. And I highly doubt they’ll be able to afford Hamels when he hits free agency, because, trust me, if Hamels is making exception to that “B-Line For FA” rule of thumb, he’s sure as hell not doing it in Missouri.
Still, there’s no reason Amaro shouldn’t call — at least just for the sake of calling, temple-to-temple smiling and Used Car Salesmanning his face off, just to see if he can pitch to them Hamels as a centerpiece to start their future NOW. I mean, the Royals are only 5.5 games back. Think Hamels is worth that? (Maybe they do.)
Verdict: Unlikely, But I’d Do It
(3) Houston – 1B/LF Jonathan Singleton (No. 46 overall), OF George Springer (No. 60 overall), RHP Jared Cosart (No. 78 overall) – No, no — these guys should look totally familiar. They’re who the Phillies flipped to get Hunter Pence but a short year ago.
You might stop and think, “Why the hell would Houston clean itself out after it JUST stocked up?” I’d quip that Hamels is markedly more of a haul than Pence, and so the Phillies (based on those assigned market values, especially since both players were ranked higher on Law’s 2011 list) would actually be paying a premium.
Plus, you could argue the new, stat-savvy front office of the Astros might think that it’s got this thing headed in the right direction (eventually) — maybe to the end that they think they’ll have a worthy enough pitch come season’s end to Hamels, inarguably the sturdiest pillar of any moving forward plan. (Clearly open to far more liberal marketing strategies.)
Do they go for it? Hard to say. But they could certainly use pitching help. (Team ERA ranked No. 26 in baseball, starters ranked No. 22.)
Then there’s the whole “Jonathan Singleton As A Contingency For Ryan Howard” element, and the concurrent “George Springer As A Contingency For Jonathan Singleton” thing. Good stuff, that is.
Plus, wouldn’t this just be oh-so-apropos? Ruben Amaro, righting his past wrongs, consummating a philosophical shift from uber-ADD impulsive WIN NOW AT ALL COSTS!!! with a more tempered, level-headed approach — swapping away some of the now (not all of it, just some, rest goes when Halladay’s 2014 vesting option doesn’t and when Cliff Lee’s deal dries up) for a ton of future. Bring a tear to mine eye, that would.
VERDICT: DO IT!!!
The white elephant here? There’s no mention of any swap with a legitimate contender, the Royals notwithstanding. (If only because I find it very hard to believe that Hamels would have the morale to be worth five wins in hickville. Think it would devastate him. He’d make 2012 Cliff Lee look like1963 Sandy Koufax. Hence the word “legitimate.”) Why? Because the only plausible contenders that make sense for a swap are the Dodgers (who you’d have to believe think they’ve got a good shot at him in open market waters) and the Yankees (who don’t really have anything to give back, save for a rail-thin six-foot, 150-pound outfielder named Mason). Don’t really see that happening.
Not that I see any of these — or any — hypotheticals happening either. But, if we’re going to put Ruben Amaro’s through a paper shredder over how he handles this, we should at least add something — ANYTHING! — to the conversation.
What say you?