It’s no secret. The Cubs are looking to upgrade the starting rotation. And one option the front office has explored is acquiring Cole Hamels from the Phillies.
But do the two teams match up on a trade?
The front office has the impact talent and depth in the system to pull the trigger on any trade they feel would benefit the team long-term. The Cubs are one of the few organizations in baseball with the prospect currency it would take to acquire a top of the rotation starter like Cole Hamels. But the front office is reluctant and not looking to deal the talent in the system at this point in the process.
“We know we have to acquire pitching. We’ve been open about that. We are definitely imbalanced hitting versus pitching,” Jed Hoyer said in an interview on MLB Network Radio with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette. “The challenge that we have is that I think as an industry we’re imbalanced the other way right now. It’s hard to find bats on the free agent market. It’s hard to acquire bats through the draft or any other means.”
“In some ways it is hard to part with that currency when you have it because it’s really hard to go replenish it. Certainly people are going to ask us about some of our hitters,” Hoyer said. “We will listen to various ideas, but we are sort of reluctant to be honest to make that exchange, bats for arms, given that there are more arms available in different ways than there are bats. That is a challenge a lot of teams face right now.”
The Phillies have acknowledged the big league team is not going to contend for couple of seasons and they must trade talent off the Major League roster in order to improve the long-term health of the organization. Ruben Amaro Jr. is not going to give Cole Hamels away and the price to acquire him is going to be rather steep.
In an interview on MLB Network Radio with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette, Ruben Amaro Jr. explained one of the reasons the Phillies did not make any deals last July was to maximize the return on the players they feel have value around the league.
“At some point it was pretty clear that the way players were being coveted and young players are being coveted, it was fairly clear that we were not going to be able to get what we wanted out of certain deals in July,” Amaro Jr. said. “We felt like we would have the opportunity, based on what was going to be out there on the free agent market and who our overall competition would be for the players that we think have value, we just made a conscientious decision that we have better opportunities to do some things in the off-season rather than do them at that point. Hopefully we can go ahead and move forward with that.”
“We are keeping pretty much everything on the table. Any opportunity we can do to improve our club on more of a long-term basis we will certainly try to do that. And there are more difficult decisions than others as far as moving certain players are concerned. I think we owe it to the organization to explore every avenue to do that.”
Cole Hamels is the team’s biggest trade chip, but Amaro Jr. is not in a rush to move him because he feels Hamels could still be a factor for the Phillies when the team is ready to contend again.
“Cole [Hamels] is one of those guys in particular who can be a bridge to the future as well because of the length of his contract, because of the quality of pitcher and because of the timeframe in which we believe we will be back contending again on a regular basis. I think he provides both of those things for us.”
“There is no need to go out and move him,” Amaro Jr. said. “There is no rush to go out and move him. I think it is one of those situations where he’s unique in he can do damage long-term for us whether he’s on our club or whether he’s not on our club.”
When the Cubs and Phillies spoke in August after the waiver claim was put in for Hamels, Addison Russell is believed to be one of the players the Phillies wanted in return for Hamels.
Most feel it would be rather expensive, in terms of player cost, to acquire Cole Hamels, even if the acquiring team takes on the remaining $96 million owed to Hamels over the next four years ($22.5 million per season, 2015-18, $6 million buyout on $20 million club option for 2019). Ownership has given Amaro Jr. the clearance to eat whatever salary he feels necessary to move a player. But he is not going to force anything and kind of let the market come to him. Amaro Jr. said he plans to be “cautiously aggressive” this winter.
“I think we have some players that I think would be highly coveted because of where the free agent market is. I don’t view this one as being a particularly strong one. We have players that are available that frankly if they were in the market place right now as free agents would be pretty highly coveted.”
“I think that we have to be cautiously aggressive in we have to see how things play out and what level of interest certain clubs have on some of our players,” Amaro Jr. said. “I’m one of those guys that if I like the deal, I will make it happen. It’s just about trying to improve the club on a long-term basis and we are going to try to get the best deals done for the life of the organization.”
The Phillies scouted the Cubs big league team and minor league system at the end of the season so the two teams could further discuss a Cole Hamels deal in the off-season.
Bruce Levine reported Saturday morning the Phillies have talked to the Cubs about Welington Castillo. According to Levine, the Cubs would be willing to trade Castillo, in the right deal, if the front office is able to sign Russell Martin. Levine mentioned Castillo could be used in a package to acquire Hamels. The Phillies possible interest in Castillo should not come as a surprise. Ryne Sandberg was Castillo’s manager in Peoria (2007), Tennessee (2009) and Iowa (2010).
The Cubs primary pitching target this winter is Jon Lester and if the front office is able to sign the southpaw, most think the Cubs will turn to one of the second-tier options to sign another starting pitcher this winter. Cole Hamels is on the Cubs’ list, but the cost to acquire him right now may be more than the front office is willing to spend.