It would be a storybook ending. Cole Hamels was drafted by the Phillies, won the 2008 World Series MVP and then was ultimately traded away at the back-end of his prime as the Phillies embarked on a much-needed rebuild. For him to return at an advanced stage of his career, as the Phillies begin to contend again, would be a pretty cool moment.
According to Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports, there is beginning to be a buzz in league circles about the Phillies potentially reacquiring their former first-round pick from the Texas Rangers:
Hearing some chatter about a Cole Hamels possible reunion with phillies. It’s early, and unsure how serious the chatter is. But they love him. He loved it there (obvs) and has a home there so presumably he’d approve. Has control with no-trade list covering two-thirds the teams)
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 3, 2018
For the record, while Hamels does have a no-trade clause that covers 20 teams in the league, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported earlier this season that the Phillies aren’t one of the teams blocked on Hamels’ no-trade clause. So while Hamels could block trades to 20 teams – or force them to exercise his $20 million option for 2019 before waiving his no-trade clause – there’s nothing he could do if he was traded to the Phillies. There’s also no indication that he would object to a reunion.
All this said, Hamels currently has a 4.05 ERA and 5.00 FIP in in 17 starts. This comes a year after an oblique injury limited him to 24 starts, where he posted a 4.20 ERA and 4.62 ERA. This isn’t 2011 Hamels, who posted a 2.79 ERA, a 3.05 FIP and a career-high 4.9 fWAR. Heck, this isn’t even 2009 Hamels, who in a down year posted a 4.32 ERA, a 3.72 FIP and a 3.9 fWAR.
While Hamels returning to Philadelphia would be a cool story in terms of nostalgia, it’s fair to wonder how the 34-year-old would improve the team at this stage of his career. Aaron Nola is locked into the No. 1 spot. Jake Arrieta isn’t going anywhere. Nick Pivetta, despite an ERA at 4.66, has been very impressive at times in 2018, as his 3.70 FIP and 1.5 fWAR can attest to. Zach Eflin, who started the season in Triple-A, has been excellent in 2018, behind two healthy knees and a velocity increase. Vince Velasquez had a 3.82 FIP prior to going on the disabled list, while both Enyel De Los Santos and Cole Irvin have earned chances to make their major league debuts.
It’s unclear what price it would take to acquire Hamels, but the Phillies would almost have to view him as a rental in any trade negotiations. Barring Hamels finding a second life to his career in the second-half of the 2018 season, it would seem hard to imagine picking up his 2019 option for $20 million. The Phillies aren’t cash-strapped, but there are better ways to allocate $20 million.