Cole Hamels has done his part to strengthen the desire for a contending team to have him, giving the only franchise he’s ever known a wonderful parting gift. Now, it is up to the Phillies’ feckless front office to make the move.
By Peter Gleason
It is hard to imagine that after such a glittering performance as Cole Hamels’ no-hitter yesterday that the Phillies will still be unable to convince a contender or two or three that the 31-year-old is worth a bushel of baby talent in a trade.
But, of course, the Phillies’ general manager, Ruben Amaro Jr., could screw up a rock fight!
Hamels has given his best years to the Phillies. In the nine seasons leading into this one, he put up a 3.27 ERA and 3.48 FIP. He struck out nearly nine hitters per nine innings and had a 125 adjusted ERA while going 108-83.
He finished in the top 10 of National League Cy Young Award voting four times. He was part of one of the greatest rotations ever assembled in 2011 when the team won a franchise-record 102 games.
Best of all, he was by far the best pitcher on the team when it won the franchise’s second World Series championship in 2008, earning the MVP honor and solidifying himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
And now, with his first career no-hitter in the books and the first one against the Cubs since Sandy Koufax did it 50 years ago, we will assume his career with the Phillies is complete.
“Nothing will top winning a World Series,” Hamels told reporters, “but this is right under it.”
Hamels would next start Friday — the MLB non-waiver trade deadline — against the Atlanta Braves, but the chances he takes the ball for the Phillies are slim at best.
The seats at Wrigley Field were littered with scouts watching him, and teams with interest in the 31-year-old left-hander include the Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants. It would also be safe to throw in the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.
This start was an important one for Hamels’ stock. While there was no panic among scouts, Hamels had not been good in his previous two starts. He combined to throw 6.1 innings and allow 14 earned runs with just five strikeouts.
As a result, the Phillies gave Hamels an extra day of rest going into this start. It made sense. They did not want his last start before the trade deadline to be another bust.
But as long as he was decent against the Cubs, his market would seemingly be fine. His track record has been good enough that he would still be the most coveted pitcher on the trading block, although teams could use his recent struggles against the Phillies in negotiations.
As it turned out, Hamels was absolutely dazzling Saturday in what might have been the biggest start of his career as far as the Phillies front office is concerned.
With this no-hitter, Hamels’ stock will never be higher. The Phillies have to sell now even though they have alerted anyone willing to lend them an ear that they do not have to trade their best player.
At this point, it would be completely stupid not to, though.
If the Phillies take this saga into the offseason, Hamels’ stock would plummet. He is a year older in the winter. He is drowned out by a slew of front-line pitchers on the free-agent market. The Phillies lose all leverage, not to mention they would be going against the wishes of their lone player who still consistently puts butts in the seats and produces quality stat lines.
Hamels wants to pitch for a contender. He said as much during spring training.
“I just want to win,” Hamels told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “That’s all. That’s all any competitor wants.
“And I know it’s not going to happen here.”