Cole Hamels: Trade Bait

It's not a huge surprise, given that the Phillies are out of contention for the playoffs (at this point) and that Hamels is going to be a free agent at the end of the season

If you had “July 1st” in the pool for when the Phillies would start talking about trading Cole Hamels, you can step forward and claim your prize, because it appears that they started to determine the level of interest in their starting pitcher, according to CBS' Jon Heyman.

It's not a huge surprise, given that the Phillies are out of contention for the playoffs (at this point) and that Hamels is going to be a free agent at the end of the season, which means that he'll earn a boat load of money from some team, even if it's not the Phillies.

Of course, this could all just be conjecture and not actually have any real meaning, because a lot of what you hear, rumor-wise, is misdirection from General Managers or writers trying to stir up something for the sake of a story.

However, let's accept this news at face value, and presume that the Phillies are in fact looking at potential trade partners concerning Cole Hamels. To be honest, it's the right move. It might not be the most popular move (I'd prefer that Hamels never wear another team's uniform), but from a business perspective, it's the right move.

Check it out: The Phillies are in the cellar, they just got swept by the Miami Marlins, and things aren't looking good. Sure, Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard will be back before too long, and they could do one of their patented “rally in August and September” moves, but they can't count on that. What they can count on, however, is Cole Hamels being the best available pitcher on the market and teams willing to spend a pretty penny in prospects, even if it means a three month rental.

Should they hold on to Hamels, only to have him sign somewhere else in the off-season, they'll (theoretically) not earn as much from the compensatory draft pick that they'll receive.

As much as it pains me to say it, I don't know that it is terribly likely for him to get re-signed. Why? Because Hamels doesn't have a lot of motivation to stays in Philadelphia. I'm sure he loves the city, the team, and the fans, but he'll be 29-years-old next season and he will be the most sought after pitcher on the market, and he can literally pick his destination.

And if you're Hamels, returning to the Phillies might not make a ton of sense because of the current state of the team. They are aging, full of bloated contracts and players that are past their prime, and don't have a robust farm system to draw from. They are a crippled barge that ran head-long into an iceberg, and Cole knows this. Staying with the club would be a nice story, but playerd don't care about nice stories.

For the Phillies, it's all about maximizing value out of their players, even when they are walking out the door. Right now, the most value they could get from Hamels – unless he can be re-signed – is for them to trade him. If they play their cards right, they'd get a blue chipper – maybe two – in return, which allows them to rebuild the team that much faster.

Obviously, the best case scenario is the Phillies re-signing Hamels and having him play out his prime years in red pinstripes. But unless they can make that happen at a reasonable price, it might not be worth it in the long run. And I'm not saying that Hamels will get traded (I'd be surprised if if did happen), but if it came to that, it wouldn't be the worst thing for the Phillies.

There is a month to go before the trade deadline, and there is little reason to suggest that these rumors will settle down. Hang on to your hats, Phillies fans, because it could be a bumpy few weeks.

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