With reporting dates for pitchers and catchers across the league quickly approaching, several top of the rotation starters remain available either on the free agent market or via a trade. Scott Boras is searching for a team to pay big bucks for Max Scherzer and the James Shields market is picking up with the Diamondbacks and Marlins reportedly showing the most interest in him in recent days.
And the Phillies are still talking to teams about Cole Hamels.
Jon Heyman reported Monday night the Padres are among the teams in the mix for Hamels and have the pieces to make another blockbuster trade this winter.
Heyman indicated it is unknown at this point “exactly how likely San Diego is to land Hamels” and “nothing appears imminent, or even necessarily on the front burner.” A.J. Preller retained the prospects, even with all of his other trades this winter, that might entice Ruben Amaro Jr. to part with Hamels.
The main hold up in a deal for Cole Hamels appears to be the Amaro Jr.’s asking price. Teams interested in Hamels do not want to send impact prospects to the Phillies and take on Hamels contract. If he is dealt to a team not on his no-trade list, Hamels is guaranteed $96 million for the next four years. And if Hamels was to improve a deal to a team that he could block a trade to, it is believed he will ask for the $20 million option for the 2019 season to be picked up which will turn his contract into five years, $110 million.
Heyman spoke with a rival executive that questioned with what Amaro Jr. is looking for in return for Hamels, plus his entire contract, if the Phillies are “committed to trading Hamels as they are telling teams they are.”
Buster Olney basically reported the same issue and pointed out the Phillies “assume that the other team can take on the contract unflinchingly” and are treating the money owed to Hamels as basically being insignificant.
According to Heyman, the package of players from the Padres would not include Wil Meyers. The Padres traded for Meyers to keep him, not flip him. And pitchers like Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner are not believed to be in the discussions.
Reports have suggested Preller might be willing to include prospects such as C Austin Hedges, RHP Matt Wisler and/or OF Hunter Renfroe in a deal for Hamels.
Heyman indicated the Cubs, along with the Red Sox and Cardinals, are among the other teams interested in Hamels.
Last week, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi reported the Cardinals were exploring a trade for Hamels but there are questions if John Mozeliak could send enough to Philly to acquire him. A package of players would likely have to include RHP Carlos Martinez or LHP Marco Gonzalez and an outfielder, possibly Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty.
As for a possible deal with the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo indicated Sunday the Sox and Phillies have not discussed Cole Hamels this month. Ben Cherington does not want to part with either INF/OF Mookie Betts or C Blake Swihart in a trade for Hamels. Cafardo added the Phillies would not make a deal with the Sox without one of the two players and Cherington is not budging in the fact he will not include either player in a trade for Hamels.
The Dodgers are believed to still be in the mix for Hamels, despite not being included in Heyman’s latest report. Andrew Friedman has the prospect currency to make a deal with the Phillies and room on his payroll for Hamels’ contract. The Dodgers would like to have a top of the rotation starter in place if Zack Greinke opts out of his contract, as expected, after the upcoming season.
The Cubs continue to be linked to Hamels, but it’s doubtful the front office would be willing to part the prospects it would take to acquire him. With Jon Lester in the fold and the top of the rotation options that could be available on the free agent market next off-season, the Cubs should be able to add the second top of the rotation-type arm without using players from the organization to acquire Hamels.
Jed Hoyer said in November, “We know we have to acquire pitching. We’ve been open about that. We are definitely imbalanced hitting versus pitching. 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. 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.”