At this point, the Phillies aren't very exciting to watch. The team is struggling, they are buried in the division, and things aren't really going to get much better. And because of that, the most interesting thing about them is probably a player who might not even be on the team in a month.
With a few weeks remaining until the trade deadline, all eyes are going to be on Cole Hamels, and whether or not the Phillies will trade him to a contending team, or if they will try to re-sign him to a long term contract extension. Only time will tell what happens to him, but Cole did have some interesting words for CSN's Leslie Gudel, who interviewed him about this season,
and what the future holds for the young lefty.
LG: So let’s paint the scenario. Is there a possibility you could be traded and then come back to sign with the Phillies in the off-season?
CH: Of course! That’s something I would never doubt, because of the situation [with the team struggling] and us obviously not being at the front of the pack. I can always leave and come back. When a team gets rid of you, I don’t think anybody looks at it as a slap in the face. I know Cliff didn’t. He pretty much showed the prime example of getting traded off before a [full] season and then coming back. I think that’s always a great possibility.
Couple things: First, Hamels has a knack for saying the right thing this year. He's been all smiles while pulling a page directly out of the “Don't Make the Fans Angry” playbook. He knows what he is doing, and he knows just what to say so that he doesn't offend anyone. And if you read the rest of the interview, you'll see what I mean.
Second, I don't know that he is lying, either. Even though he is saying the right things, I absolutely think that Cole would come back to Philadelphia if he was traded away, mid-season. In a way, trading him to a winner, where he could go and get another World Series ring, would be better than finishing the season on this team.
But what if? What if the Phillies traded him before the end of the month, only to re-sign him in the off-season? Could they? Would they?
Really, it's the best possible scenario for the Phillies. Trade Cole – who has more value than anyone else on the market right now – for a handful of prospects that are close to being Major League ready, and re-sign him at the end of the year, with a fresh new roster and a farm system that is ready to bear fruit.
It would be a dream come true for the Phillies, who would get to bring back their Ace, along with a new host of players to inject some much needed life into their system. Far fetched? Improbable? Sure, but Ruben Amaro strikes me as the type of man who doesn't care about what the odds are.
There are, however, a few problems with this:
There is no guarantee that Hamels will re-sign. If the Phillies trade him, they lose exclusive negotiating rights until free agency begins, in earnest, after the season. That's about four months of conversations that they don't get to have with him and his agent about coming back to the team.
He could really like it on his new team. I'm sure Cole loves Philly, the fans, and his teammates, but whose to say that he won't like, say, the Texas Rangers even more? They've got money, they've got a young team and a burgeoning farm system, so who knows, maybe the grass is greener in Texas (or wherever he would get traded to).
It's dangerous. I'm not positive, but I'd bet that this sort of wink-and-nod deal is highly frowned upon by the suits in the commissioner's office. If Ruben Amaro and Hamels did in fact have some sort of agreement in place, all hell would come down upon them if that was to be revealed. Now, it wouldn't be on paper (that'd be dumb), but you can bet that other teams would be none-too-pleased if that sort of thing happened under the table.
Once he is gone, what's to keep him from coming back? This ties in with the first one, but if Hamels gets traded, that all but guarantees that he hits free agency. He'll be so close to the open market that he'll have to test the waters. And that means the Yankees, the Red Sox, and definitely the Dodgers – who are flush with cash and looking to cash in on the Southern Californian – who will be offering up a lot of money and years in exchange for Cole's services. And even though the Phillies are a big market team that can offer over $20MM annually, I'm not sure they can (or should) compete with the offers that Hamels will receive.
More than anything else, it's food for thought for sports talk radio (and blogs like this one). I'd be surprised if he was traded, more surprised if he was re-signed, and if he was traded and then re-signed? Well, there are not enough exclamation points to accurately capture my surprise.
It's an interesting conversation to have, I think, but let's remember that there is a long way to go until the trade deadline, and even longer until the start of free agency.