One of the absolute worst things about the baseball off season, other than the part where there is no baseball to watch, is that the imagination of the fans can run get the better of them thanks to there not being anything of substance occurring. Sure, we have a free agent signing here and a trade there, and other things of a tangible nature, but sometimes, the stuff that isn't happening can drive us crazy, and can turn a calm and collected group of fans into a pack of frenzied piranhas, whose thirst can only be quenched by another tweet or blurb about their favorite player.
That happened this week in Philadelphia, when a nasty little rumor started circulating about Cole Hamels, and whether or not he is long for the Phillies.
It started when ESPN's Buster Olney penned a column that detailed the situation that the Phillies find themselves in regarding Hamels, and that they essentially have three options: Let him walk after the 2012 season as a free agent, sign him long term, or trade him now to maximize his value.
It was an article fraught with mostly speculation, but it nonetheless painted an accurate depiction of the Phillies' paths when it comes to the future of Cole Hamels. It wasn't inflammatory or out of bounds, it was just one of those blog posts in November that mostly serve to fill up space and don't offer anything concrete. There is nothing wrong with that, it just comes with the territory that is the off season.
However harmless Olney's words are, there was a buzz in the Philadelphia area (mostly on Twitter, from what I could tell), about whether or not the Phillies would actually consider trading Cole Hamels. Some of the buzz was rational, some was irrational, and if you were like me, you tried to ignore it altogether because of the preposterous nature of the thing.
But, if you were one of the folks who needed to be talked off the ledge for fear that Cole Hamels would be sent elsewhere for a package of prospects and players that could not nearly be enough value for the services of the 27-year-old left-handed Ace, then allow me to interject my opinion into the festivities: Cole Hamels isn't going anywhere. At least, not any time soon.
You see, the Phillies have zero reason to trade their youngest Ace, and unless an opposing team is willing to hand over nearly half of their farm system and most of their Major League-ready talent, the Phillies won't even be entertaining the conversation. And, off the top of my head, it would take a trade package that consisted of no less than David Wright, Jeremy Hellickson, and Justin Upton, and considering that those guys play on different teams, it's even more of an impossibility.
The thing about this time of year is that we are going to be reading a lot of articles and blog posts that are highly speculative in nature, because the free agency period breeds that sort of behavior. Until someone signs with Team X, he will be linked to Teams A, B, C and D. It's what happened to Cliff Lee last year: He was going to sign with the Texas Rangers, then the New York Yankees, then the Rangers again, but then the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were in the running, back to the Yankees, and then the Rangers, and BAM, the Phillies came in at the last moment and snatched him up, and that's something that no one predicted.
So, until anything is concrete and in writing (*ahem* Ryan Madson), just play it safe and ignore everything you read on the internet when it comes to baseball. (Even this.) And if I were a betting man, I'd anticipate that, before the start of the 2012 season, the Phillies and Hamels work out an extension that will keep the 2008 World Series MVP in red pinstripes through, at least, his 33rd birthday. They've got no reason not to.