The Cole Hamels trade possibility

Sabathia finishes fourth in AL Cy Young voting
Yankees will follow-up on preliminary talks with Freddy Garcia

The aftermath of the Phillies signing of Jonathan Papelbon has produced a few predictable responses. Certain folks panned the deal, because they think that relievers, even closers, are fungible and that their volatility does not warrant long, lucrative contracts. Others praised Phillies GM Ruben Amaro for further shoring up his 2012 team and heading for another playoff run. Most relevant to the Yankees, speculation ran rampant about the Phillies’ financial situation. They now have $121.6 million committed to 11 players in 2012, with some big numbers due to Cole Hamels and Hunter Pence through arbitration. Might they be willing to deal Hamels, who will be a free agent next winter?

Yesterday Buster Olney (Insider-req’d) laid out a Hamels trade as one of the Phillies’ three options. The Phillies can hold onto Hamels for one more year and let him enter the 2013 free agent class, they can offer him an enormous extension, or they can trade him now and try to recoup some of his value — perhaps replenishing a farm system that they have somewhat depleted in the last two years while acquiring Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Pence. Yet the trade option seems entirely unlikely, given the current and future states of the Phillies.

The Phillies are, first and foremost, a win-now team. They have won the NL East every year since 2007, and for the last two years they have owned baseball’s best regular season record. In each of the three years following their 2008 World Series Championship they have raised payroll, adding $15 million in 2009, $25 million in 2010, and almost $28 million in 2011. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, it doesn’t appear that the Phillies will limit themselves when it comes to payroll issues. They sell out every game and led MLB in attendance last season. They pull better local TV ratings than any other team, which could lead to a huge media rights deal, perhaps larger than the one the Rangers currently signed. This all points to a rising payroll, perhaps even approaching pinstriped proportions.

Even if the Phillies realize that they don’t have the payroll to keep Hamels past 2012, trading him isn’t much of an option. A team in win-now mode cannot afford to deal a pitcher of Hamels’ caliber. Olney speculates that they’ll get 90 cents on the dollar if trading him this winter, but even that seems optimistic. Moshe recently wrote about the troubles of dealing for an ace. This applies directly to Hamels, whether or not you consider him a true ace (whatever that means). Look back at recent deals for aces: Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, and Cliff Lee. How much are the players traded helping their teams? This matters even more in a Hamels deal, since he’s coming from a contending team. The Phillies need players who can help them win now, and even a package of three helpful players will not equal what Hamels can provide.

It is probably in the Phillies’ best interest, then, to retain Hamels for at least the 2012 season. In this scenario Olney warns that, because first-round free agent compensation could disappear next off-season, “they would run significant risk of watching a homegrown, talented pitcher walk away with almost nothing to show for it (other than their 2008 championship rings.)” That’s always a risk, for any team with an impending free agent. The Phillies, however, are in a position to add a 2012 championship banner, and they’re in a much better position for that with Hamels than without. Another championship could also further boost the team’s financial strength.

If the Phillies do wish to retain Hamels, chances are they’ll approach him this winter with an extension offer in hand. How much would it take? Hamels will be 29 in 2013, which makes him comparable to CC Sabathia in age and ability. From 2001 through 2008 Sabathia produced an ERA-* of 83. In his three years leading into free agency he produced an ERA- of 69, which was second best in the majors to Johan Santana (min. 450 IP). In his career to date Hamels has an ERA- of 80 and in his last two seasons it’s 74. Add in another high-quality season and he’s right at Sabathia’s level. On the open market next winter that could easily fetch him a six- or seven-year deal in the $140 to $160 million range. In buying out his last year of arbitration, perhaps the Phillies could get away with a seven-year deal in the $150 million range, or six years and $140 million at best.

*ERA- is like ERA+, but in reverse. It also creates easier comparison scales between players. That is, you can say that at an 83 ERA-, Sabathia was 17 percent better than average. This is not necessarily true of a 117 ERA+. If you want an esoteric explanation of why, read this article by Patriot.

And yet, it seems as though the Phillies have the payroll for that. They clearly have it this year; Papelbon’s salary merely replaces the departing Brad Lidge’s, so there’s no big change there. With Hamels at $23 million, the Phillies would have $118 million committed to six players in 2013, with Jimmy Rollins as a possible seventh player (likely bringing payroll to near $130 million). If that sounds awful Yankee-like, well, it is. They have $127 million committed to six players in 2013. With another sellout season in 2012, which is all but guaranteed, plus a deep playoff run, the Phillies could easily justify the continuing rise of their payroll into Yankee territory. If that is indeed the case, signing Hamels makes all the sense in the world. (Remember, Roy Halladay’s deal expires after 2013.)

The 2013 free agent market for starting pitchers once appeared a gold mine of talent. Little by little that will dwindle. Jered Weaver is already off the board, and Hamels could be next. That leaves Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, and Anibal Sanchez: a good group, for certain, but not the class that we had once envisioned. There still remains the chance that Hamels reaches that point and becomes the most coveted starter on the 2013 market. But given the Phillies position that seems unlikely. They’re going to need Hamels in the future if they’re going to maintain their high payroll and winning winning ways. That means that they’ll almost certainly hang onto Hamels this winter, no matter what a few national writers might speculate.

Sabathia finishes fourth in AL Cy Young voting
Yankees will follow-up on preliminary talks with Freddy Garcia
  • Scout

    This passage caught my attention: “The 2013 free agent market for starting pitchers once appeared a gold mine of talent. Little by little that will dwindle. Jered Weaver is already off the board, and Hamels could be next. That leaves Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, and Anibal Sanchez: a good group, for certain, but not the class that we had once envisioned.” We have seen this happen before each time a supposedly deep group of starting pitchers is a year or two away from free agency. Few actually get there. Front-line pitching is simply too valuable or scarce to let it escape for little or no return. If you want that kind of talent, the only way to get it is to develop your own (a highly uncertain process that argues for infusing your system with lots of high-potential arms every year) or trading for it (less uncertain, but costly in terms of the talent you have to be willing to surrender, and entirely dependent on the willingness of other teams to deal the asset you want).

    • MattG

      Or just sign the few that do get there, which is the Yankees’ preferred method. I have no beef.

      • Scout

        Unless, like Cliff Lee, they choose to go elsewhere. The few don’t always prefer new York, and they have lots of suitors.

        • RetroRob

          True, although it is such aa rarity that it’s difficult to factor into the equation.

          Teams locking in their aces during their prime years, as the Mariners did with King Felix and the Tigers did with Verlander, seems to be the developing trend that could impact the Yankees free-agent acquisition plans. I expect to also see more of what the Rays have done in recent years of locking up talented young position players earlier taking them through their peak seasons.

  • Mykey

    Don’t tell Phillies fans they have a high payroll. It would ruin their small-market, underdog narrative.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      I have never heard anyone say anything remotely resembling that.

      • Steve (different one)

        He misspelled “Red Sox”

      • Mykey

        I live in Philly. (Beating a dead horse here, but true). That without a doubt has been the narrative here. But, whatever you say.

        • Mike Axisa

          I haven’t heard anyone try to sell the Phillies as a small market team, but I have seen people try to tout them as some homegrown juggernaut.

          • Mykey

            That’s probably a fairer assessment. By using small-market I accidentally implied that Phillies fans consider their fan base small, when that is obviously not true. What I was really trying to get at, is that living in Philly these past 3 years, I’ve been stunned with Phillies fans’ denial of their increasing payroll, as they loathe the idea of resembling the Yankees in any capacity. To them the Yankees are the Evil Empire and The Phillies are the NL version of the Rays, in terms of resources.

            By small-market I really meant a team that relies on homegrown products and limited payroll, not lack of a fanbase.

            • Rainbow Connection


              • Mykey

                #No. Did I do that right? Glad to see you too use the internet.

                I’m not back pedaling at all. Mike said it much better than I did.

            • RetroRob

              I understood what you meant.

              As long as the Yankees are on top of the payroll skyscraper, fans of all teams below, even those with $100 million payrolls that go out and sign big-name free agents, will somehow view themselves as gritty underdogs doing it the “right way.”

      • gc

        Then you’re not listening. I’ve lived in the Philly area for the past six years and watched as the bandwagon has filled up to overflowing. Those fans might not insist they are a small-market team, but they do run under the assumption that they are somehow still some sort of “underdog.” Even with their newly gargantuan payroll. Don’t be fooled. They genuinely think they aren’t guilty of trying to spend their way to the top in the same way Boston fans tried to convince themselves of the same thing years ago. Only the Yankees buy their championships, they will tell you. When the Phillies win, it’s because they’re gutty and gritty and the Fightin’ Phils, the lovable losers finally making good. I hear it all the time.

        • Javier Pavano

          Agree. Living in Philly the last three years, the fans here refuse to acknowledge the Phillies payroll. As far they’re concerned this is a scrappy, low-budget, homegrown, underdog team that is, if not small market, disadvantaged financially compared to teams other more affluent East Coast cities. If you know Philly sports fans it’s exactly what you’d expect.

        • Fattyfats

          Agree. Living in Philly the last three years, the fans here refuse to acknowledge the Phillies payroll. As far they’re concerned this is a scrappy, low-budget, homegrown, underdog team that is, if not small market, disadvantaged financially compared to teams other more affluent East Coast cities. If you know Philly sports fans it’s exactly what you’d expect.

          • RetroRob

            …and I’m sure they refuse to acknowledge that when Cliff Lee signed with the Philly’s, he took a contract that had a higher-annual-average than anything offered by the Yankees or the Rangers, setting a new MLB mark, which is why the players’ union had no issues with hit.

            Oh, no. He came back because he loves Philly Cheese Steaks!

        • Mykey

          Thank you. I’ve noticed the exact same thing. But unfortunately we must both be crazy. Such a shame.

  • MattG

    I see a lot of Phillies jersey’s around Bucks County, but not too many “Hamels” jerseys. Those that I do see are a couple of years older.

    Halladay and Lee make the headlines around here. I wonder how Cole feels about that? Actually, no I don’t. All that matters is if the Phillies will pay him like a third ace. Halladay is well compensated, but slightly underpaid. Will they be free to offer Hamels more than Halladay? Will Halladay accept < $20M to stay with the Phillies?

    • MattG

      Sorry, meant would Hamels accept < $20M.

  • Emmit Fitz-Hume

    Knowing the limited partner who is most responsible for the Phillies expansion in payroll over recent years, I can tell you that 1) they are not trading Hamels and will do everything to re-sign him and 2) your reading of their growing financial power is accurate.

    As a Yankee fan, this both scares and excites me. Should make for a good rivalry going forward.

    • nsalem

      Why should it scare you or excite you? Their chances of The Yankees meeting Philadelphia in the post season are even higher than the chances of the Yankees meeting the Sox in the ALCS and even though they are touted as the 2 best teams in the AL, 7 post seasons have gone by since the Yankees have met the Red Sox.
      At least you got to tell us you know “people”. How cool for you!!!!!!

  • Nick

    Yesterday Olney suggested that a package from the Yanks would start with Banuelos AND Betances, and then either Sanchez or Romine….But a package from the Sox would start with Ranaudo and Iglesias, and they could entice Philly with Kalish or Reddick…… Umm….am I missing something here!?!??!

    • MattG

      People are going nuts for Iglesias.

      I am too. I hope he starts for the Sox for twelve years.

      • Nick

        LOL +1

      • FIPster Doofus

        hahaha, so true. Rey Ordonez Jr. Sign me up.

        • William

          Ranuado has the highest upside of Banuelos or Betances. Remember, before his injury, he was considered the 2nd best player in the 2010 draft behind Harper. And Trust me, Iglesias is the best Defensive SS to come out of the Minors in a generation.

          • Tom Zig

            Yeah he’s great defensively, but he had a .554 OPS in AAA. and .624 through his entire MiL career. His SLG was lower than his OBP in AAA last year.

            He flat out cannot hit. He won’t be more than a LIDR.

    • Nick

      I apologize, Olney didnt throw out those scenarios, it was the guy writing for ESPM Rumors…Churchill?

      • Nick

        ESPN** Damnit!!!

      • BK2ATL

        Okay, I didn’t see that in the article. LOL!!!

        Good catch

    • Jesse

      Ranaudo is a shoo-in to be an ace, Iglesias is the next Ozzie Smith, and Kalish made this catch, so, of course he’s the next Jim Edmonds. Really, that package may be too much for Hamels!


      • Nick

        Of course…also, Montero is Ryan Lavarnway Lite!!!

  • BK2ATL

    Hypothetically, IF Buster Olney proves out correct, and the Phils decide to make Hamels available for trade rather than spending the floor contract of Verlander’s 5 yr, $80 million or Johan Santana’s $137.5 million, what do you think a Yankees’ package for Hamels would be?

    Hughes, Betances, Romine/Murphy, & Laird/Adams? Too much? Too little?

    • MattG

      Of those players, I would think the Phillies would have interest in Betances as the third (maybe second) player in the deal. They are win-now, so Murphy and Adams have no appeal at all. Laird is a bench piece. Hughes is a risk.

      Romine might have appeal, but definitely not as a center-piece.

      I don’t think the two teams match up, unless the Phillies somehow think Montero will stay at catcher. Banuelos and Betances, while close, are too far away for this team. If Gardner or Nova floats their boat, maybe, but that’s not likely.

      • BK2ATL

        One of the presumptions in Olney’s article is that the Phils would be looking to improve their farm system in exchange for Hamels. That’s why I thought about the “Hughes, Betances and the others” type of deal.

        I’m not that big of a Phils fan to follow them, but is Ruiz their long-term answer at C? How about their IF? We don’t have anyone in OF to offer.

        Here’s a snippet from the article

        “Some officials believe that the Phillies’ best course of action would be to move Hamels this winter if they know now they don’t want to pay him $20 million a year. “That would allow them to get back a couple of prospects,” said one high-ranking talent evaluator. “But it all depends on what their intentions are, and what their interest level is in bringing him back.”

        There are a small handful of teams that would be willing to swap prospects for Hamels (along with a commitment to the long-term deal they would want in place before the completion of the trade). The Yankees would be a possible fit, because they would have the prospects to trade, and the need — if the Phillies were even willing to move Hamels.”

      • Sarah

        If Cervelli hadn’t gotten another concussion, he might have some appeal as a backup catcher.

        It’s too bad Noesi didn’t get a chance to start much this year, as it would have given the Yankees a chance to decide who had the bigger upside between him and Nova, and trade the other one.

        Regardless, it seems unlikely there’s a trade for Hamels in any circumstance. As Joe points out, the Phillies are in “win now” mode, and trading away Hamels makes that harder to do.

    • Jesse

      Too little. I bet they’d ask for Betances, Banuelos, Sanchez, Williams, and another prospect.

      • FIPster Doofus

        Way too much, especially considering what the more proven Greinke netted in a trade. It also doesn’t help the Phillies that Greinke had two years left on his deal at the time of the trade, and Hamels only has one.

        • William

          I think Banuelos and Montero does it.

      • BK2ATL

        See, that’s too much.

        I thought about something similar, but then taking into account the recent previous trades for “aces” other than Halladay, none of them included 3 top 100 BA prospects plus 2 other players. And truthfully, none of them deserved that many, esp. considering impending free agency.

        Johan Santana to Mets? No
        Cliff Lee to Seattle? No
        Cliff Lee to Texas? No
        Greinke to Milwaukee? No
        Haren to Angels? No
        Jimenez to Indians? No

  • Colin

    As the post says, if the phillies were to trade Hamels now, they would want something that would help them now. I think you’d have to start with either Granderson or Swisher, to help replace Ibanez, and then look at adding Banuelos, Nova and maybe something else. I would do that too, if the Yankees then managed to get Beltran for no more than 3 years

    • MattG

      But Granderson and Swisher both make significant money. The Phillies will want players who help now and make no money. The only players I see that fit that description are Gardner, Nova, and Montero.

      For the Yankees to get Hamels, this trade would involve a third party. For what right-handed hitting outfielder, who makes no money, could the Yankees trade Montero? That player + Nova is what the Phillies want.

      • Sarah

        Actually Swisher might not be a bad piece in a trade with the one year left on his deal, if the Phils think Dom Brown might be ready for LF in a year.

        But yeah, generally it seems a 3rd team needs to be involved. Unless you think Golson’s arm is good enough to overcome his lack of hitting. ;-)

        • MattG

          Sarah, Colin,

          No, I think you were right, and I hasty. Swisher is a player that should interest the Phils. Swisher, a pitcher to replace Hamels in the rotation (Nova), and prospects to restock the system would accomplish a goal, if that goal is not to lower payroll.

          But if the goal is not to lower payroll, they should try and sign Beltran first, right?

          • Sarah


            Also, there’s like no chance Hamels is traded, so this is academic.

    • RetroRob

      Holy crap. You want to trade them one of the Yankees starting OFers, including possibly the team’s 40-HR hitting CFer, and add in one of our starters, Nova, and add in one of the top pitching prospects in the game, Banuelos, and you want to add in “something else,” for a pitcher with one year left on his contract and is going to cost more than $20 million a year if he resigns after hitting free agency?


  • Johnny Nitro

    Would a package of Swisher, Betances, Banuelos and maybe Sanchez be able to get Hamels?

    • http://twitter/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

      why would they trade an ace pitcher for a good-but-not-great outfielder with a year left on his deal?

      • FIPster Doofus

        Because Betances, Banuelos and Sanchez are also in the package?

  • Johnny Nitro

    I was thinking the 2 B’s replenish their farm system and Swisher would be an upgrade over Ibanez. It also probably wouldn’t hurt that he will not command top dollar to re-sign him. But what do I know, I’m just some schmo stuck in his cubicle dreaming up trade scenarios.

    • camilo

      hamels for swisher, betances, banuelos, sanchez? no gracias

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    Why we are we even talking about this? The almost-trade for Cliff Lee not withstanding, why should the Yankees pay twice for the same pitcher?

    Don’t trade anything for Hamels. Make him an offer if/when he becomes a FA.

  • Kyle

    Does Montero go for a #2? I feel like I am never going to see this kid grow up in pinstripes

  • Price73

    Don’t trade nova he’s only going to get better and I wouldn’t trade montero but I be open to any other prospects

  • RetroRob

    The gritty, underdog organization known as the Philly’s won’t be trading away their home-grown, 27-year-old lefty starter. I suppose they could be overwhelmed with an offer, but he’s part of their future. They want to remain competitive, and as we all know here, finding quality starters is easier said than done. They can afford to pay him and they will pay him.

    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      I agree with you. Not only will they pay him but pay him well. The same with Cain, I do not see him becoming a free agent either.

  • chris

    Unlikely the Philly payroll goes any higher. They are reporting attendance of 99%+ (and was reported to be 106% of capacity). The team is also breaking even and in some areas lossing money. MLB radio had one of the beat writers on for the Phillies and he brought up a great point. If the team is selling out every game, you have made as much money as you can. The TV deal could help but in their eyes they have maxed out.