What team will Cole Hamels be on come July 31st at 4:01? Will it be the Dodgers? The Red Sox? The Cubs? The Rangers? The Phillies? It has been a question that has been on the minds of Phillies fans for well over a year now. The Phillies reportedly have been waiting for the “perfect” offer for Hamels, which leads to the question “what exactly would that offer entail, and who is making the demands?” There is a strong likelihood that Hamels will be in Phillies pinstripes come August 1, with the Phillies once again waiting to move Hamels in the offseason….. or maybe next years trade deadline….. or maybe never. Either way, talk should start to really heat up in the coming days so lets look at some teams top prospects and who the Phillies should target.
Red Sox: The interest that the Red Sox have for Cole Hamels is just annoying at this point. They are the guy who goes to a car dealership every week, looks at the car he clearly wants, and never buys it. They have heavily scouted Hamels for over a year now, and yet they will not make a move. The Phillies have reportedly coveted catcher Blake Swihart, and outfielder Mookie Betts, both are currently with the Red Sox Major League club. The Red Sox have long balked at that price and with both having reached the big leagues it is unlikely that the Red Sox would trade either as it would leave two holes in their lineup. The Phillies could of course offer up Carlos Ruiz and Ben Revere along with Hamels but I do not know if that would get it done. So lets take a look at a few other Red Sox prospects that could intrigue that Phillies.
Players the Phillies should target: As I previously stated the Red Sox are very reluctant to part with top prospects Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts. So if you consider those players off limits the Phillies would have to look elsewhere in a Red Sox system that has some pretty solid prospects. The first player the Phillies should target is LHP Henry Owens. Owens, a 2011 compensation pick by Boston, has pitched the entire year in AAA Pawtucket and is close to Major League ready. This season the 23-year old has posted a 3.25 ERA in 20 games this season. In 116.1 innings pitched he has struck out 100 batters and opposing hitters are batting a mere .190 off of him.
Yoan Moncada is another player the Phillies would like to have. A highly touted Cuban defector Moncada signed with Boston for $31.5 million dollars. The Phillies were reportedly interested in Moncada who was the highest rated Cuban teenager to sign since the Cubs signed Jorge Soler. Moncada is currently a ways away form the Major Leagues, as he currently sits in Single A Greenville. He is having a nice season for the Drive batting .270/.362/.411 with 4 home runs and 18 stolen bases. Moncada is an attractive piece for the Phillies because he can play all over the field. He currently plays second base, but the 20-year old played third base in Cuba and can reportedly play center field also. The versatility of Moncada would certainly be something the Phillies would want.
The last is Trey Ball, a left handed pitcher currently playing in High A Salem. Ball was a highly touted high school arm who was drafted seventh overall in the 2013 MLB Draft. Ball struggled mightily in his first few two seasons but seems to have figured it out in 2015. This season the 21-year old 6’6 pitcher has posted a 3.61 ERA in 97.1 innings. Ball has struck out just 55 while walking 44, so that is clearly an area that he needs to improve on. I would not take a package centered around Ball, but I would certainly take a package that included him.
Chicago Cubs: For some odd reason when insiders mentioned teams that were interested in Hamels the Cubs never came up. It made no sense to me. I understand that some of you are likely sitting here pompously saying “well maybe they just did not have interest you moron.” But I am not buying that. The Cubs interest in Hamels is VERY real, and makes tons of sense and because of the Cubs deep system, they make the perfect trade partner for the Phillies. A look through the Cubs system is a “whose who” of top prospects in all of baseball, so it would be tough to screw up a trade with the love-able losers. The Cubs claimed Hamels on trade waivers last August but were unable to reach a deal to bring the lefty to the windy city. The Cubs are poised to be a contender VERY soon and a 1-2-3 punch of Lester, Hamels, and Arrieta is tough to compete with. Theo Epstein may see Hamels as the last piece to the puzzle and I think if the Phillies do end up trading Hamels it will be to the Cubs.
Players the Phillies should target: Kris Bryant is definitely off limits and Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber are likely untouchable too. But Theo Epstein has traded top prospects plenty of times before when he was the GM of the Red Sox so it does not hurt to ask for those players (and likely be told no). The first player the Phillies should ask for is righty CJ Edwards. Edwards was the main piece the Cubs received when they traded Matt Garza to Texas a few seasons ago and since then he has blossomed into the #1 prospect in the Cubs system. Edwards is close to Major League ready, pitching right now for the AAA Iowa Cubs after starting the season in AA Tennessee. At two levels this seasons the 23-year old has a combined ERA of 2.64 in 44.1 innings. He has struck out 61 batters while walking 33. Here is the catch; he is currently in the bullpen. His frame (6’3 170 lbs) led the Cubs to convert him to a reliever, but when he was a starter he flat out dominated at every level he was at. The highest ERA he had as a starter in the minors was in 2014 in AA where he posted a 2.44 ERA. Edwards has tons of movement on his pitches, and I would only want him if the Phillies plan to put him back in the rotation considering how dominate he was as a starter.
The next player just got done representing America in the Pan Am games; Albert Almora. Almora, a 21-year old outfielder currently playing at AA Tennessee, was the sixth player taken in the 2012 MLB draft. He was a VERY highly touted high school player out of Florida because of his advanced approach. That approach helped him reach AA at the age of 20. This season for the Smokies Almora is hitting .243/.289/.352 with 3 HR, 4 SB. In 247 at-bats Almora has struck out just 29 times, but he has also walked a mere 16 times. His contact approach reminds me a bit of currently Phillies outfield prospect Carlos Tocci. A contact hitter with a great glove in center field is tough to come by and it sounds like he could project as a Shane Victorino type.
Last player is Duane Underwood, a right handed pitcher currently on the disabled-list in High A Myrtle Beach. Underwood is a 21-year old former second round pick from the 2012 draft. Underwood got rocked for 6 earned runs in just 1 inning on June 26th and was placed on the DL the next day. He underwent an MRI and it revealed nothing more than inflammation. It may be cause for concern, but in this day and age Tommy John surgery is not a matter of “if” but “when”. So even with a possible injury I would still be heavily interested in Underwood who could project as a front line starter one day.
This season for Myrtle Beach Underwood has posted a 2.66 ERA, and before getting lit up in late June his ERA was a mere 1.85. In 64.1 innings this season he has struck out 42 batters while walking 20. Opposing hitters are hitting just .204 off of him. Like with Trey Ball, I would not want a package centered around Underwood, but I would certainly take him in a package centered around a better prospect.
Dodgers: Kershaw, Grienke, Hamels is better than Lester, Arrieta, and Hamels. Both the Cubs and Dodgers could drastically bolster their rotation with the addition of Hamels and the Dodgers are in the “win now” faze where as the Cubs are in the “seriously contend in a year or two” faze. Much has been made in recent weeks of a possible Hamels for Puig deal, who is said to be a clubhouse cancer. No thanks. The Phillies had talks with the Dodgers about Hamels before, and according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark they asked for a package centered around two of the games best prospects; Corey Seager and Julio Urias. The Dodgers balked and then the Phillies asked for SIX of the Dodgers prospects in the next tier down. That gives you a good indication on the high (absurd) demands that the Phillies have for Hamels. So Seager is a no-go and Urias is likely untouchable too. Lets look at a few other players that would intrigue the Phillies.
Players the Phillies should target: Grant Holmes is the number three ranked prospect in the Dodgers system and is currently pitching at Great Lakes, the Dodgers Class A team. Holmes was the 22nd pick in the 2014 draft and has pitched extremely well since then. This season he has posted a 2.75 ERA in 75.1 innings pitched. 94 strike outs is what really pops out, the .217 opposing hitters batting average is not too shabby either. Holmes is a way away but is a power arm that would intrigue any team. He reportedly hit 100 MPH in high school but works in the mid 90’s with movement on the ball.
Darnell Sweeney is a speedy outfielder/second basemen that is close to the majors, playing for AAA Oklahoma City. A former Central Florida Golden Knight, Sweeney has primarily played second base, and if the Phillies do not believe in Cesar Hernandez than Sweeney can be a solid replacement for Chase Utley next season. In 374 at-bats this season Sweeney is hitting .275/.333/.428 with 8 home runs and 27 stolen bases. Not a sexy name, but he would be a safe bet to contribute in 2016.
The last name is Zach Lee. Lee was reportedly the player the Phillies were initially going to receive for Jimmy Rollins, but that ended up being untrue and the Phillies received Tom Windle and Zach Eflin. Lee is a former first round pick, 28th overall, who has never quite lived up to the hype, but he projects as a back of the rotation starter in the majors. The 23-year old stands 6’4 and does not exactly have that one pitch that wows anyone. His progression was slow but he is currently experiencing success at AAA Oklahoma City. In 12 games this season Lee has a 2.36 ERA with 50 strike outs in 68.2 innings. Opposing hitters are hitting .242 off the former high school football star.
Honestly, if I don’t get Urias in a deal, I do not make one. No one in the Dodgers system wows me, and I would fear that a return for the Dodgers, that did not include Urias, would be like the return the Phillies got when they traded Shane Victorino.
Texas Rangers: The Phillies and Rangers have had on-again, off-again trade talks regarding Hamels for quite some time and those talks are reportedly back on. The Rangers have a tendency of trading for front line starters at the deadline, having done so for Cliff Lee in 2010, and Matt Garza in 2013. You could easily argue that the Rangers are a better trade partner for the Phillies than the Cubs. Joey Gallo is the pipe dream. It is not going to happen so just ignore it. But there are plenty of other players in their system that should intrigue the Phillies.
Players the Phillies should target: Martin Perez is the first name that comes to mind. Martin Perez is a front line starter who is just coming back from Tommy John surgery and is supposed to give an immediate shot in the arm to the Rangers rotation. I would suspect that the Rangers are hesitant to trade Perez, as they are already talking about trading Yovani Gallardo. They would want to keep one, and Perez is better and cheaper. Either way, Perez is the first name I would ask for. In 2013 Perez had his first full season in the Major Leagues. 20 starts, posting a 3.62 ERA and showing signs of being a future ace. Just 24-years old he has made two starts since coming back from injury this season so the jury is still out on how he will respond, but he would be a guy who you could immediately throw into your rotation and develop.
Ranked as the number two prospect in the Rangers system (only behind Joey Gallo) Jorge Alfaro could be had because he is injured, and likely out for the season with an ankle injury. Alfaro, a catcher, would be the replacement for Carlos Ruiz but is still likely two years away. He signed for $1.3 million out of Columbia and has progressed quickly through the Rangers system. When he went down with the injury Alfaro was hitting .253/.314/.432 with 5 home runs. He needs to be less aggressive at the plate, as he has struck out 61 times while walking just 5. If he can gain better plate discipline he could be a great get for the Phillies.
The next name is outfielder Nomar Mazara. Mazara was an international signing for a then record $4.95 million back in 2011. Currently playing at AA Frisco Mazara is currently ranked as the Rangers third best prospect and for good reason. Hitting .285/.356/.442 this season with 11 home runs at just 20-years old. He projects as a corner outfielder with not much speed to speak of, but corner outfield prospects at a high level are something the Phillies could really use, and the production Mazara has had, at the age of 20, would excite any fan base.
The last name I will mention if Chi-Chi Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a first round pick from 2013, reached the majors this season because of an injury riddled rotation at the Major League level and the 23-year old had some success posting a 3.74 ERA in 43.1 innings. He was recently send back to AAA Round Rock where he has posted a 4.25 ERA in 53 innings this season. Gonzalez was the Rangers version of Aaron Nola. Drafted out of Oral Roberts with the thought that he would advance quickly and would be major league ready fast. Last season he posted a 2.66 ERA at AA Frisco and has already made a small impact in the majors. Gonzalez is already Major League ready and would be a nice piece to throw into the Phillies putrid rotation.
I will honestly be pleasantly surprised if the Phillies trade Hamels. Every time someone shows frustration with the Hamels situation someone is quick to say “well I do not want to give him away, wait for the right deal.” If you seriously think that the Phillies have not, in almost two years, been offered a fair/good deal for Hamels than I have a ballpark in south Philly to sell you. Everyone is able to find a dance partner, but I am to believe that no one offered really good value for Cole Hamels? I am not buying it. The Phillies front office situation is not currently ideal for making a franchise changing trade, with “who is making the final call” being the big question. Come August 1st I expect Cole Hamels to be here, but I really hope he is not, and I hope the Phillies acquired some of the players I mentioned for him.
UPDATE: July 25, 7:42 pm.
Cole Hamels just threw a no-hitter against the Cubs ironically enough. The Price for Cole Hamels is now 8 prospects, all Major League Ready, with the other team taking on all of Cole’s contract.