Cole Hamels Rumors

Phillies Notes: Sandberg, Timeline, Hamels, Howard

The Phillies’ issues last year were not limited to on-field struggles, skipper Ryne Sandberg told reporters yesterday, including Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. Sandberg said the clubhouse atmosphere was not “conducive to winning,” explaining that there was a “lack of leadership as far as winning a baseball game everyday” and that the club’s “younger players couldn’t be themselves.” He continued: “Sometimes it’s easy to take it for granted, and say, ‘[I] have a veteran club and they know everything and they’ll handle the clubhouse and everything will be fine. I learned that’s not the case.”

  • Needless to say, creating the right setting for the team’s rebuild to thrive will be at or near the top of Sandberg’s responsibilities this year and in the years to come. The organization is not shying away from acknowledging the full rebuilding process that lies ahead, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Interim president Pat Gillick — who says he has no interest in the permanent post — has reiterated a rather distant expected contention timeline. “Yeah, maybe further out,” he said. “Maybe ’18. You need about two or three years.”
  • Gillick also said that he expects interest in the team’s remaining trade chips — featuring, most prominently, lefty Cole Hamels — to pick up in the spring. “It’s funny,” said Gillick. In this game, things change. People are not in the mood to do something, then they go to Spring Training and all of a sudden … they realize they want to be competitive and want to do something.”
  • Another of the team’s obvious remaining veteran trade candidates is first baseman Ryan Howard, whose well-documented struggles and well-funded contract make him a tough sell. MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince argues that the team could do better if it waits to allow the market to develop and given Howard a chance to produce on the field. I tend to agree: Howard not only has little present appeal as a general matter, but there is little demand for his services. It is not difficult to imagine things looking differently if he puts up a solid first half and injuries or poor performance intervene elsewhere, and that potential benefit probably outweighs the meager return that Philadelphia could achieve right now.

Amaro Doesn’t Expect To Trade Cole Hamels

The Cole Hamels saga has been an ongoing storyline throughout the entire offseason, as the rebuilding Phillies have begun to move Major League assets with an eye on bolstering their farm system. However, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he doesn’t expect to trade his ace before Opening Day:

“I think Cole Hamels is going to be in our uniform, frankly. I don’t really foresee him being moved. It is possible because we’re literally keeping our minds and eyes and ears open on every player that we have on our roster. That said, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. And so, if we were to move him, we’re going to have to get some of the best prospects in baseball back.”

While Amaro of course doesn’t completely rule out a trade of Hamels, his comments certainly throw some cold water on recent rumors connecting him to the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers and Cardinals. (Of course, Texas was expected to be out of the picture anyhow following its acquisition of Yovani Gallardo.)

Some will undoubtedly read this as posturing on Amaro’s behalf in order to drive up the potential asking price for Hamels, but there’s little pressure to deal away the 31-year-old ace at this time as opposed to in July. In fact, come July, there could be fewer names available on the trade market. For instance, while many will speculate for the time being that both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are available following the Nationals’ signing of Max Scherzer, that’s not likely to be the case come July.

Indeed, Amaro tells Kaplan that not only does he feel no pressure to move Hamels, but the Phillies’ ownership group would prefer to keep Hamels rather than trade him. Additionally, the GM notes that talks regarding Hamels have not escalated since this past weekend’s activity, which saw Scherzer agree to terms with the Nats and Texas acquire Gallardo.

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com has reported recently that while the Phillies have been seriously entertaining Hamels offers, the situation won’t come down to simply accepting the highest bid. Rather, Amaro has steadfastly held to his demand for a package fronted by a pair of elite young talents, presumably in addition to other, lesser-regarded pieces.

Of course, while further waiting on a Hamels trade increases the likelihood that an injury will sap his trade value, it also decreases the financial cost of Hamels’ contract and could very well create new buyers. Teams that don’t figure to have room or need for Hamels at the moment could find themselves with significant rotation injuries come summer time, and teams that didn’t fancy themselves true contenders could be in the playoff mix at that juncture as well.


Pitching Notes: Hamels, Shields, Scherzer, Strasburg

The Rangers and Phillies had “in-depth trade talks” regarding lefty Cole Hamels before Texas pulled the trigger to add Yovani Gallardo, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. The sticking point in those discussions was money, tweets Morosi’s colleague Ken Rosenthal.

Here are some more notes on some of the game’s best starters:

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski discussed the signing of Max Scherzer with reporters today, and MLive.com’s James Schmehl has the report. Though agent Scott Boras reached out to the club to indicate Scherzer’s interest in exploring a reunion, Dombrowski said that no negotiations occurred. “We never 100 percent closed the door,” he said, “but we’re very happy with the rotation we have.”
  • Perhaps most importantly, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch never fully re-engaged with the idea of keeping Scherzer for the long-haul after the righty famously turned down a $144MM extension offer, Morosi reports. As Morosi rightly notes, neither side can be faulted for pursuing its interests. In the end, Detroit did not go beyond its comfort zone and Scherzer was able to secure a better contract elsewhere.
  • As for the notion that the Tigers could be in the market for James Shields, easily the best arm left on the open market, Dombrowski again emphasized that he was happy with the in-house options and was not looking to add. When asked specifically whether he wanted to comment on or debunk the Shields rumors, Dombrowski said: “I just did, didn’t I?”
  • Of course, the big question now is whether Scherzer’s move to the Nationals will lead his new club to deal from its impressive rotation. While pending free agents Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister have long been talked about as at least hypothetical candidates to move, the Scherzer signing has led to some suggestions that Stephen Strasburg could be dangled. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs discusses what kind of price tag might accompany the star righty, noting that it would likely be high given not only his immense talent but also his reasonable expected salary over the next two years.
  • We have already covered a good bit of Scherzer analysis (see here and here), but ESPN.com’s Buster Olney also weighed in (Insider subscription required). He argues not only that Scherzer does not represent a significant upgrade over the already-deep group of Nats starters, but also notes that dealing away set-up man Tyler Clippard — and, if it occurs, trading other starters or shortstop Ian Desmond — could create significant issues elsewhere on the roster. All said, the long-term obligations in the Scherzer deal are something of an unnecessary risk, Olney suggests.


Cafardo On Scherzer, Shields, Kimbrel, Chapman

Teams are aware that Max Scherzer and James Shields are excellent pitchers, but many teams don’t have enough money remaining in their budgets to sign them, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Red Sox like both pitchers and don’t have an obvious ace, but they’ve already spent heavily this offseason and have plenty of good starters, one of whom could emerge to lead them. A number of teams, meanwhile, are waiting for Shields’ price to come down. Where Scherzer and Shields land could depend on owners who are willing to step up and sign them, regardless of their teams’ budgets. (The Nationals and another team are reportedly currently involved in the bidding for Scherzer.) In other nuggets from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:

  • The Red Sox are committed to Christian Vazquez being their starting catcher; but, with the development of Blake Swihart, it may not be for long. The Phillies covet Swihart in a potential Cole Hamels trade, but one NL executive wonders whether they would take Vazquez instead.
  • Baseball executives tell Cafardo the Braves may be willing to deal closer Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline, if the club is struggling. The same goes for the Reds and Aroldis Chapman. Cafardo lists the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Tigers as the teams who would most benefit from adding either reliever.
  • The Orioles will not be able to obtain an MLB player as compensation if Dan Duquette joins the Blue Jays, but owner Peter Angelos will seek one or two very good prospects.
  • The Giants scored another quality signing when they came to terms with outfielder Nori Aoki. The Giants had inquired with the Red Sox about their surplus of outfielders, including Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, and Daniel Nava.

NL Notes: Desmond, Hamels, Padres, Ichiro, Rockies

Lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes, who was a 2010 All-Star as a member of the Reds, has officially retired, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Mark Townsend of Yahoo! Sports takes a closer look at the 20-year career of Rhodes, whose last appearance was Game 7 of the 2011 World Series with the Cardinals winning him his only championship ring. Rhodes finishes with a mark of 87-70, 4.08 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and 33 saves in nearly 1,200 innings covering 900 outings (61 starts) for the Orioles, Mariners, A’s, Indians, Phillies, Marlins, Reds, Rangers, and Cardinals while earning nearly $39MM.

Since Rhodes finished his career in the National League, let’s take a look at the latest from the Senior Circuit:

  • One team inquiring about Ian Desmond was told by the Nationals the All-Star shortstop will not be traded, tweets FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. However, Rosenthal adds in a second tweet, Washington GM Mike Rizzo is known to operate in a very direct fashion. If he wants a deal, he pursues it aggressively. If not, he will not waste another team’s time.
  • Phillies AGM Scott Proefrock told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (audio link) the slow developing market for free agents Max Scherzer and James Shields is not affecting Cole Hamels‘ trade market adding “there’s some teams that haven’t been mentioned that are kicking the tires a little bit.” Those teams which have been mentioned are the Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers and Padres.
  • When asked about Hamels, Padres President/CEO Mike Dee spoke in general terms telling Duquette and Bowden (audio link) GM A.J. Preller “is looking to improve the team constantly…if we could add a starter of that All-Star caliber, clearly we would be in on that.” Dee also addressed “the new Padres’ approach” of aggressively being “in the discussion” regarding free agent, amateur, and international talent.
  • Yesterday, we learned the Marlins‘ interest in Ichiro Suzuki is picking up steam. Today, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports the Marlins are open to offering Ichiro a two-year deal.
  • Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post covers the 26 most pressing issues and questions (from A-to-Z) facing the Rockies in 2015. Most center around Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, pitching, and injuries.
  • The Cardinals have announced they will renovate and upgrade a baseball field in the hometown of the late Oscar Taveras, in honor of the 22-year-old outfielder who perished in a car accident last October, writes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold.

Starting Pitcher Notes: Rangers, Scherzer, Shields, Cardinals

The Rangers hope to add another starting pitcher, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. However, the club is out on “big-name free agents” and unlikely to trade for Phillies starter Cole Hamels. The rotation remains unsettled, with Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, and Lisalverto Bonilla currently expected to compete for the fifth starter’s role. Presently, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Ross Detwiler, and Colby Lewis are penciled in for jobs with Matt Harrison an unknown. Here’s more from the pitching marketplace.

  • Max Scherzer and James Shields are in uncharted territory, writes Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times. Of the nine free agent pitchers who have signed nine-figure contracts, only Masahiro Tanaka agreed to terms after January 1st. Teams like to have a working idea of their roster and payroll at this point in the offseason, which is why these big deals are usually reached before the new year. Earlier tonight, we learned the Blue Jays are interested in Shields, and his price may have dropped below $100MM. Meanwhile, Scherzer and agent Scott Boras are trying to beat the $144MM extension offer Scherzer reportedly declined prior to last season.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is talking up the club’s pitching depth, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. That could mean the club will pass on Scherzer and Shields. The club has been loosely connected to Scherzer, but it seems as though Mozeliak is content to stand pat unless ownership intervenes. It may be worth noting that the Cardinals became Matt Holliday‘s eventual home after a similarly quiet spin through free agency.
  • Needless to say, the Cardinals are loathe to trade from their hoard of minor leaguers for Hamels. In my opinion, it makes sense for the club to gauge what they have in Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, and Marco Gonzales before executing a blockbuster trade.

NL East Notes: Hamels, Howard, Desmond, Nationals

The Phillies might value Cole Hamels too highly, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. An executive from another team tells Rosenthal that GM Ruben Amaro is looking to make the “perfect” trade and wonders if Amaro feels he has to make exactly the right deal in order to avoid being fired. The Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers and Padres top the list of teams interested in Hamels, although the Red Sox are not urgently trying to acquire Hamels, trade talks with St. Louis haven’t gone far, and Hamels’ contract could be an issue for Texas and San Diego. Here’s more from the NL East.

  • Amaro says first baseman Ryan Howard is likely to be with the Phillies when Spring Training arrives, Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Amaro has made no secret of the Phillies’ desire to be rid of Howard, whose salary ($60MM through 2016) and poor recent performance have made his contract an albatross.
  • It remains possible that the Mets could acquire shortstop Ian Desmond from the Nationals, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes. Talks between the two sides have not progressed recently, however. The Mets had reportedly discussed a three-team deal involving Desmond and Ben Zobrist with the Nationals and Rays, although Martino writes that the Mets pushed harder to acquire Zobrist rather than Desmond.
  • Nationals fans have reason to be wary of the team’s trade of Tyler Clippard to the Athletics for Yunel Escobar, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes. Losing Clippard further depletes a Washington bullpen that’s already losing Rafael Soriano and Ross Detwiler, and Escobar is potentially a declining player whose arrival might signal that free-agent-to-be Desmond will soon be playing elsewhere.

NL East Notes: Moncada, Scherzer, Hamels

You can add the Marlins to the long list of teams interested in Yoan Moncada, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports that the Fish are monitoring the Cuban phenom’s market.  Frisaro raises the possibility that the Marlins could see the versatile Moncada as a long-term answer in center field if Marcell Ozuna gets expensive through his arbitration years.  Given the bigger-spending teams also in the hunt for Moncada, however, Frisaro describes Miami as “probably a long shot” to sign him.  Here’s some more from around the NL East…

  • Frisaro also wonders if investing in Moncada makes more sense for the Marlins than signing James Shields.  While the Fish are still interested in Shields, Frisaro flatly denies that the Marlins are in on Max Scherzer, saying “there is zero chance” of that happening.
  • The Rangers have kept in contract with the Phillies about a trade for Cole Hamels, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports, but the biggest obstacle seems to be money.  Texas wants the Phillies to cover some of the $96MM still owed on Hamels’ contract.
  • The Phillies are “unrealistic in their expectations” in what they hope to receive in a Hamels trade, a source tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.  As was reported earlier today, the Phillies have a firm price tag in mind for Hamels and are in no rush to deal the ace left-hander.
  • The Braves are no longer candidates to sign Brandon Beachy, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link).  Atlanta non-tendered Beachy last month but were hopeful of reaching a new deal with the right-hander, who missed all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Beachy was reportedly considering between six offers from interested teams.
  • When the Astros had some late concerns about Evan Gattis‘ back and knee, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link) that during those last few hours, the Braves re-opened talks with the Rangers.  The details with Houston were worked out, of course, and Gattis is now an Astro.
  • The Mets‘ refusal to include Noah Syndergaard as part of a rumored three-team deal was a good call, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post opines, even though the trade would’ve brought Ian Desmond to Citi Field.  Dealing six years of control over Syndergaard for one year of Desmond wouldn’t have made sense, and if the Mets were willing to overpay on the type of extension it would take for Desmond to forego free agency, Davidoff argues that the team should just offer him that big contract next winter when he’s available.
  • Also from Davidoff, he hears from Rockies owner Charlie Monfort that a deal that would bring Troy Tulowitzki to the Mets is “not happening.”
  • In other NL East news from earlier today, the Braves have no intention of trading Craig Kimbrel, we shared some Nationals notes, MLBTR’s Zach Links spoke to Gattis about his trade to the Astros as part of a media conference call.

Rangers, Padres, Cardinals, Red Sox Are “Primary Suitors” For Cole Hamels

The Rangers have joined the Padres, Cardinals, and Red Sox as the four primary teams pursuing Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, according to a report from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Texas has previously been mentioned as having interest, but not much attention has focused on that possible destination.

It is worth noting that Philadelphia is not interested in simply finding the highest bidder. Rather, per the report, the club is holding firm in demanding two premium talents in return and will keep Hamels at least through the summer if it is not satisfied with an offer. Among the possible trade partners, Boston may be “most in the background” at present after its run of pitching acquisitions, Salisbury adds.

Nevertheless, the Phillies do appear to be serious about making a deal. Ruben Amaro Jr. has dedicated significant resources to scouting systems of the clubs he has been in contact with, says Salisbury, who notes that the embattled GM can ill afford a misstep with the organization’s best MLB asset.

Philly is especially interested in adding a young catcher, says Salisbury, who notes that several of the teams most heavily involved on Hamels possess top backstop prospects. The club would likely insist on adding Blake Swihart in a deal with Boston, or Austin Hedges in a deal with San Diego. And, as Salisbury notes, the Rangers also possess a top minor league receiver in Jorge Alfaro along with a nice collection of other heralded young players.


NL West Notes: Hamels, D’Backs, Rockies, Gee, Closers

The Padres are still involved in some chatter involving Phillies ace Cole Hamels, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Prior reports had indicated that a hypothetical deal could include recently-acquired, high-upside outfielder Wil Myers, but Heyman says that recently-discussed trade scenarios have been based around San Diego prospects. That being said, the report stresses that nothing is close and that other clubs are still involved. And, of course, GM A.J. Preller said recently that he does not expect any more truly significant deals.

More from the National League West: