Every team wants Cole Hamels, but he does not want to pitch for every team. Perhaps most importantly, not every team he is willing to pitch for has the trade chips to land him. Jeff Sullivan recently wrote an excellent article breaking down the Padres' latest offer that was denied by the Phillies' "brain" trust. San Diego reportedly offered Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges for Hamels, and Ruben Amaro turned that offer down. This got us thinking (I'm actually jacking this blog post idea from Derek VanRiper), what would an acceptable offer for Hamels look like?
There are reportedly nine teams that are not on Hamels' no-trade list. In this exercise, I will go team by team, offering up a proposal for Hamels that both sides might reasonably agree to. Here is the acceptability zone I will operate in:
Renfroe + Hedges < potential for mutual acceptance < Mookie Betts.
For your consideration: Hamels, 31, is owed $94 million over the next four seasons and has a $20 million team/vesting option for the 2019 season. He has a 3.00 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP and has been worth 5.6 wins above replacement on average over the last five seasons according to Baseball Reference.
On to the fake trade proposals...
Kole Calhoun is not arb-eligible until 2017, and won't become a free agent until 2020. He would fill a significant need in a corner outfield spot, but I think he lacks the sizzle the Phillies crave in a Hamels deal. Still, a 27-year-old corner outfielder under team control who was a 3.6-4.1 win player last year, depending on which website you're using, could be a major piece in a Hamels deal. The problem is the Angels would then need to throw in something else, and there is Andrew Heaney and then a major drop-off in system-wide assets. I don't see the Angels offering Calhoun and Heaney for Hamels, considering how much more salary they would be taking on for potentially less production.
Fair offer: N/A
While we can agree that every team would like to have Hamels, few teams seem like worse fits than the Braves, given where they fall on the win curve. This is a rebuilding team. Sure, having Hamels would make them better over the next four seasons, but they would have to empty half the farm system to appease the division-rival Phillies. Atlanta has done a nice job restocking the farm, but they have done so by bringing in smaller pieces. There are no potential franchise building blocks here that are anywhere close to the majors.
Fair offer: N/A
Washington definitely has the pieces to get a Hamels deal done, but in addition to being in Philadelphia's division, they have the best starting rotation in baseball, and would have no reason to give up a package centered around Lucas Giolito.
Fair offer: N/A
Now we get to a team that would not only love to get their hands on Hamels, but has the pieces to make such a deal a reality if they get aggressive. The Phillies were not willing to bite when San Diego offered two of their top three prospects, but I think they would jump at the opportunity to get two of the Dodgers' top three prospects. However, I think we can rule out such a deal on the Dodgers' end. Corey Seager is probably their most untouchable prospect, as he represents the shortstop of the future, and profiles as someone who could challenge for MVP awards in his prime if his glove is even average. Julio Urias seems like an extremely safe No. 2 starter, with the potential to be an ace if everything carries over against big league hitters, and he might debut this September, so he's also a very tough ask. I think the Dodgers would be willing to do Joc Pederson plus something small, and the toughest part on their end might be the fact that they were planning on having Pederson start in center field at least two-thirds of the time this season. Still, I think they have the outfield depth to make Pederson for Hamels a net gain.
Fair offer: Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, Alex Guerrero and Zach Lee for Cole Hamels.
I'm sure the Cardinals are fine entering camp with Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales as the fifth starter candidates, but if the price is right, they would still jump at the idea of adding another front line arm to the mix. Quietly, the Cardinals' system has fallen back to the middle of the pack, after graduations and the Oscar Taveras tragedy thinned out the system. In any deal, the Cardinals are going to want to hang on to a few of the big-league ready pieces in order to stay competitive during this current window where Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday are still in or near their primes. I propose that they give one of the young big league arms, and one of the big-league ready corner outfielders, plus an upside arm that is further away.
Fair offer: Carlos Martinez, Stephen Piscotty and Rob Kaminsky for Cole Hamels.
The Yankees could be a sneaky option here. Quietly they have developed one of the top-15 systems in the major leagues in my opinion, and there are enough splashy names with upside to get the Phillies' attention. There are literally no big league ready pieces that could headline this deal, so it means really depleting the top of the system. It seems like the Yankees may have learned at this point that there are major ramifications when the farm is constantly weak, but the pressure to compete this year may be too great for them to not get involved. They also probably have the most glaring need at the back of the rotation, with Chris Capuano currently slated to be the fifth starter.
Fair offer: Aaron Judge and Luis Severino for Cole Hamels.
The Cubs' rotation is probably good enough for them to compete for a Wild Card spot without Hamels. On the other hand, their system lacks any front line arms, and the window to compete completely aligns with the remaining years on Hamels' deal. With the best farm system in baseball, there are a bevvy of potential deals that could appease both sides. The Cubs also have some overlapping parts, allowing them to trade from depth without necessarily hurting their offensive potential in coming seasons.
Fair offer: Arismendy Alcantara, Albert Almora and C.J. Edwards for Cole Hamels.
Now we are getting to the front runners in the Hamels sweepstakes. The Red Sox clearly need to upgrade their starting rotation at some point this season via a trade, because their lineup is stacked, and in order to avoid being the Cleveland Indians of the late 1990s, they need a pitching staff to compliment the offense. I refuse to believe Boston would trade Mookie Betts for Hamels. Not when they have one of the deepest systems in baseball. The Phillies need the Red Sox as a trade partner, so Boston should be able to dictate terms.
Fair offer: Manuel Margot, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes and Sean Coyle for Cole Hamels.
We have arrived at the team that seems to be the most active in the hunt for Hamels. Two of their top three prospects wouldn't get the deal done, so we have a very nice place to start out. I don't think the Phillies properly value Austin Hedges because they don't strike me as the type of organization that would place enough value on catcher framing when this value is deduced through math and numbers, etc... However, I think Hunter Renfroe makes a lot of sense, so I'll leave him in. The Phillies typically love athletic, toolsy hitters, so I'll give them one of those too. Oh, and how about a potential mid-rotation arm who is close to the majors? They can have one of those as well.
Fair offer: Hunter Renfroe, Rymer Liriano and Matt Wisler for Cole Hamels.
So, if you're the Phillies, which offer are you taking? Hit me up on Twitter with your thoughts.