Cole Hamels name has been in trade rumors for what seems like forever now, and while nothing is imminent, there is some new information that may shed some light on the situation. After the Red Sox declared Blake Swihart off limits, it seemed that trade talks broke down completely, but that wasn't the case. The two teams (among others) have remained in discussions for months, and are actively trying to find a match.
The Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and even Astros have been linked to the left-hander, but Boston still seems like the best fit. According to Jim Salisbury, the Phillies scouts have spent over a year pouring over their minor league system, and that "all signs point to the Red Sox being the team that the Phillies are focused on".
There's some worry amongst scouts that Hamels could follow in Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay's footsteps. "Some people think that's a good contract; some people think it's a bad contract. I think there's value in getting out of it. Look, he's 31. You saw what happened to Lee and Halladay. They went boom, boom like pitcher can and the Phillies have nothing to show for it."
It's entirely possible that Hamels could be the next pitcher to fall to Tommy John surgery, or that he'll be hit by lightning, but given the information we have at our disposal, both seem unlikely. Hamels is already signed to a longterm contract, which is undoubtedly below market value for a left-handed pitcher in 2015. It's unclear who the Phillies are targeting in the Red Sox system, which makes this all even more complicated. Swihart was the runaway prospect in Boston's minor leagues, and was the obvious candidate to build a package around; but with him not available for trade it's harder to figure out.
Hamels would slot nicely into the struggling Red Sox rotation, and immediately become its number one starter. He would fill the void left by Jon Lester and provide a boon to the team with his regular season success and playoff experience. With Hamels, Boston could count on an ace every fifth day, and take some of the pressure of the younger group of pitchers. The AL East is still up for grabs, and adding a pitcher of his caliber could make an enormous difference.
Who else besides the Red Sox?
The Phillies are also scouting the Texas Rangers' farm system, but there's been "little progress in talks since January". At the time Philadelphia was asking for catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, and outfielder Nomar Mazara. According to Fangraphs' rating system, each had a future value of 55, and have been above average hitters throughout their minor league careers.
Ruben Amaro has stated that he's not afraid to hold on to Hamels until he's got the deal he wants, but he may be unrealistic with what he wants. Our own Mike Bates doesn't think that Amaro is the right man to lead this rebuild, and history proves him right. "Amaro is the one who mortgaged that future to hold onto that dream, and he is the one that has to face the consequences".
He inherited a World Series team after the 2008 season, and since then, his teams have become progressively worse. From 2009-2014, they were knocked out in an earlier playoff round that then year preceding it; and have bottomed out at 73-89 for the last two seasons. Amaro took control of a complete juggernaut of a team, and for some reason was reluctant to part with the past. He's shown little ability to lead this team before, but is still being entrusted with its future.
Once Hamels is traded, top pitching prospect Aaron Nola may be summoned to take his spot in the rotation, and finish out his year with the big league club. The Phillies are on the periphery of a full rebuild, but as long as Hamels is on the team, it's on hold. They recently called up Maikel Franco, and treated him similarly to how the Cubs handled Kris Bryant. Philadelphia clearly has high hopes for Franco, as they purposely delayed his free agency by a full year, and think he can be their solution at third base for years to come. In 13 games this season, he's posted a -0.1 fWAR and a wRC+ of 88, but is undoubtedly the team's everyday starter.