By Sam Bush
It is an article of faith that the Phillies’ only trade bait capable of attracting a bushel of talent in return is Cole Hamels.
And, not surprisingly, the Chicago Cubs are interested.
With president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and new manager Joe Madden, the Chicagoans have a decided advantage over Phils’ general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who has shown no ability to complete a trade.
The problem is that the Phils are so bereft of talent that Amaro may be forced to deal from a position of weakness.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, that the Cubs will look into Hamels, who’s comparable to the top two free-agent pitchers, and also available.
It isn’t known how the Cubs are prioritizing the top available starting pitchers, but suffice it to say they will investigate all three, and possibly James Shields, who has connections with Maddon. Chicago has a superb group of young position players but to compete, it must upgrade its pitching staff, particularly the rotation.
The Cubs claimed Hamels on revocable waivers in early August before the Phillies pulled him back following brief trade talks between the teams. While the Cubs and Phillies unsurprisingly couldn’t come to agreement within the allotted three-day window, perhaps the extra time of the offseason could allow the sides to work out a trade.
From a monetary standpoint, while Hamels is well paid, with $96 million due him over the next four seasons, he would come a lot cheaper than KOMING Scherzer, who turned down $144 million over six years from the Tigers in spring training, and presumably also Jon Lester.
Lester, who Epstein and Jed Hoyer know well from their Red Sox days, has the advantage of not costing signing teams a draft choice since he was traded in mid-year, while Scherzer would cost a pick (though with the Cubs it would only be a second-round pick or later since they have a protected first-rounder).
While Hamels, 30, wouldn’t cost a pick, the Phillies would require a big outlay in terms of prospects, a factor for sure since the Cubs haven’t seemed eager to trade from their impressive stockpile of talented prospects, especially positional prospects. Philly has made everyone available in trade, and Hamels is by far their most valuable commodity.
The Red Sox are another team that could match up for Hamels, though the Cubs probably have even better prospects to trade than Boston.
Hamels’ nine-team list he’d accept a trade to did not include the Cubs last year when the sides were talking, but he was due to update his list Nov. 1, and it isn’t known whether he changed the list. Last year’s list allowed trades to the Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Cardinals, Nationals, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers, as reported first by FOXSports.com.
Of course, Philly’s situation has changed since Hamels signed his $144-million, six-year deal, and it’s possible he would be more amenable to listening to trade requests from teams not on the list, according to people close to him. Meanwhile, the Cubs, who already signed marquee manager Maddon and are expected to be extremely active on the free-agent market this winter (it was reported here Tuesday that they intend to target star catcher Russell Martin), are likely looking more attractive to any prospective players.
Hamels, who went 9-9 with a 2.46 ERA in 2014, is to make $22.5 million each of the next four seasons with the Phillies, and has a $6-million buyout for 2019, bringing the total guarantee remaining to $96 million.