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Cole Hamels Rumors
Cliff Lee‘s season — and possibly his career — is in jeopardy due to a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow, effectively eliminating him as a trade chip for the Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. The Philadelphia GM told ESPN’s Jayson Stark, however, that losing one of his two ace-caliber trade chips won’t change his approach to his healthy ace, Cole Hamels.
“No reason to change it,” said Amaro. “I don’t know what our ‘stance’ on Cole is. Others have ‘stances,’ I guess, for us. I guess other people must think we have a ‘stance.’ Our ‘stance’ is that we’re open-minded. And that hasn’t changed one bit.”
Amaro sees little comparison between the two pitchers, noting that in Lee, the team had a pitcher that was hurt in 2014 and is still hurt now. With Hamels, he finished the season healthy and is healthy now in camp. There’s no “lesson” to be learned from Lee’s situation, said Amaro, because any pitcher can get hurt at any time. “Is there a lesson learned from Yu Darvish?” Amaro rhetorically asked Stark. “All pitchers can get hurt. All players can get hurt. It can happen any time. That has nothing to do with the way we go about our business, (by) planning for a player to get hurt. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Amaro pointed out that other teams’ top pitchers are equally likely to get hurt, which could present new trade opportunities this summer. On whether or not he feels he should have trade Lee when Lee was healthy in 2012 or 2013, the GM said the Phillies were still trying to win at that point. Said Amaro: “I think (team president Pat Gillick) made a statement the other day that we maybe waited one year too long to go into rebuild mode. Maybe we did. But we’ve got to look forward now. We can’t do anything about it now.”
The quotes from Amaro likely shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the GM has already stated this spring that he expects Hamels to open the season with the Phillies, and he has repeatedly stated that he’s under no pressure from ownership to move Hamels.
Left-hander Cliff Lee is disheartened by his recent elbow injury but told reporters, including MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, that he takes solace in knowing that he did everything he possibly could this offseason to prevent a relapse of the injury that ended his 2014 season. Lee is dealing with elbow soreness that he described today as “just what it felt like at the start of when I started feeling it last year.” The Phillies are sending the images from Lee’s ultrasound and MRI to Dr. James Andrews to take a look, and Lee is hoping to hear that it’s merely scar tissue that formed around his old injury, and the pain is normal. However, he’s bracing for surgery that he knows could sideline him for six to eight months. “So basically if I have the surgery this season will be done, possibly my career, I guess,” said Lee.
On that somber note, here are a few more Phillies items…
- Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com was also on hand to speak with Lee and offers an additional quote in which Lee said that Andrews, doctor David Altchek and Phillies team physician all agreed last year that there was something in the vicinity of a 90 percent chance that rest and rehab would heal his elbow as opposed to surgery.
- None of what has transpired with Lee should impact the way the Phillies approach the Cole Hamels situation, opines David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Hamels is five years younger and in his physical prime, and even in a worst-case scenario where he blows out his elbow in the first half, he could be back on the mound after Tommy John with two-plus years of his contract remaining at a below-market rate. Murphy disagrees with assessments that Hamels isn’t worth the package sought by Amaro, positing that there’s no true way to define what a player is worth; rather, that is determined by demand and by the utility that a team projects itself to gain from the added wins Hamels will provide. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. wasn’t able to land the package he sought in a market with top-of-the-rotation alternatives, but Murphy implies that the summer trade market may be a better opportunity for the Phillies to sell. I’m inclined to agree; I don’t buy the notion of some fans that the Phils have botched this situation and should merely take the best offer presented. The potential reward of waiting until July to move Hamels is greater than the more minimal risk that he incurs some kind of significant injury in the interim.
- Also from Zolecki, the Phillies have confirmed that former supplemental-round pick Larry Greene (No. 39 overall in 2011) will not be reporting to camp and does not appear to want to play baseball anymore (as first mentioned on the Phoulballz Phillies blog). Greene, now 22, had a solid enough pro debut at short-season Class-A in 2011, but he never advanced beyond the Class-A South Atlantic League and has a .224/.318/.321 batting line in 989 career plate appearances.
Many players grow up as fans of the game, but once they sign with a pro team, the nature of their fandom changes, FanGraphs’ David Laurila writes. “Once you sign a contract, you have a team of your own,” says Orioles reliever T.J. McFarland, who grew up a fan of the White Sox. “My family still roots for the White Sox, but I went from being a fan to an employee – an actual worker – within the profession.” Of course, the associations they had with veteran players they rooted for as kids don’t just disappear. McFarland says he took pride in playing opposite Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko, and says he found it “surreal” when he faced Derek Jeter. Here’s more from throughout the league.
- Earlier today, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that the Yankees had come closer than any other team to acquiring Phillies star Cole Hamels. If that’s true, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes, that might mean the Phillies haven’t come close to dealing Hamels to any team, because the two sides have not had discussions recently and never were near a deal. The Phillies are fans of Yankees prospects Luis Severino and Aaron Judge, but the Yankees likely don’t want to trade Severino in a Hamels deal. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have refused to deal Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart for Hamels. The Rangers are another possibility, but they too appear disinclined to trade their top prospects, including Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro.
- Cliff Lee‘s recent bout of elbow soreness demonstrates the risk the Phillies are taking with Hamels, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. Each time Hamels pitches, he could get injured, causing his trade value to decrease or simply vanish.
- It’s wise to be skeptical of reports suggesting Cuban infielder Hector Olivera will get $70MM or more, FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel writes. That says more about Olivera’s representative Rudy Santin’s use of the media than about Olivera’s actual market. Finding comparables for a Cuban player with no MLB experience is difficult, so it’s hard for the U.S. media to be appropriately skeptical of reported offers for a player like Olivera, McDaniel argues. McDaniel says he would be surprised if Olivera topped $50MM.
Many teams have called on ace Cole Hamels, but so far one club has enticed the Phillies more than the others. Of the teams that have expressed interest in Hamels, the Yankees have come closer than anyone, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Bombers have offered a package of prospects for the 31-year-old that at least has given the Phillies a baseline for future talks.
Trading Hamels, who pitched two strong innings in his spring training debut Friday against the Yankees, would help the Phillies kickstart their rebuilding efforts in earnest. However, they continue to insist that another team should take on the entirety of Hamels’ salary as well as part with top level prospects. Last month, Cafardo wrote that the Phillies seemed willing to wait it out for the right deal, perhaps even taking things up until the trade deadline.
The Red Sox have been heavily connected to Hamels this winter but Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported recently that talks have actually been dormant for weeks. Meanwhile, Cafardo hears that Cliff Lee could actually wind up changing uniforms before Hamels does.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post runs down a list of the teams with obvious trade candidates this spring and notes that executives to whom he spoke most often mentioned the Red Sox as a team to watch. Sherman examines speculative landing spots for Allen Craig, Shane Victorino and Jackie Bradley. He feels that a healthy Victorino would be an idea fit in Seattle in front of Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano (though I don’t imagine Seattle having interest given their platoon acquisition of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano). For Craig, he theorizes that the Angels make some sense, should Josh Hamilton face a lengthy suspension. And the Braves have long fancied Bradley, even before Melvin Upton went down with a foot injury, Sherman adds. Sherman also runs down situations in Los Angeles, San Diego, Toronto, Chicago and Philadelphia.
A bit more from his piece and a few other trade-related notes from around the league…
- As Sherman notes, many out-of-options players will become trade candidates at the end of Spring Training, and he feels that some such candidates could be outfielder David Lough, infielder Eduardo Nunez, lefties Felix Doubront and Brad Hand, and right-handers Jacob Turner, Randall Delgado, Stolmy Pimentel and Jesse Chavez. I’d be a bit surprised to see Chavez moved coming off such a strong season, though it’s certainly possible. Lough, in particular, strikes me as someone who could interest clubs, given his elite defense and his strong numbers against right-handed pitching.
- While each side will privately acknowledge that they’ve been in contact with the other, talks between the Red Sox and Phillies regarding Cole Hamels have been dormant for weeks, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale spoke to Boston GM Ben Cherington and Red Sox pitchers Rick Porcello and Wade Miley about the confidence each has in their current staff.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson tells MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo that it’s “fair to say” there’s been little to no recent trade talk regarding right-hander Dillon Gee and any of the Mets’ other starting pitching options (Twitter link). Gee seems destined to open the season in the bullpen, barring an injury or a spring injury to a rotation member.
- Travis Sawchick of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review takes a look at the spring battle between Vance Worley and Jeff Locke for the Pirates‘ fifth spot in the rotation, noting that neither is a candidate for a bullpen spot, so the loser of the battle could ultimately end up as a trade candidate. Sawchik notes that it’s possible that both could end up breaking camp with the team, should Charlie Morton open the season on the DL (or should the Bucs incur another spring injury), but he predicts that Worley will win the rotation spot if everyone else is healthy.
The Marlins‘ best offer for Francisco Rodriguez was for two years and $10MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. While that was not enough to convince K-Rod to part from the Brewers, it does represent a relatively significant chunk of change that the team could presumably tap into at some point in the future.
Here’s more from the eastern divisions:
- Braves owner Liberty Media continues to provide some interesting insight into the club through its legally-required Securities and Exchange Commission filings, as Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains. In addition to ticking through the accounting for last year’s emergency pickup of Ervin Santana and release of Dan Uggla, the filing documents that the organization has already borrowed about $100MM from credit facilities arranged to help fund its portion of the funding of its new stadium.
- Atlanta’s biggest write-off may be yet to come, as struggling and now injured center fielder Melvin Upton could eventually go the way of Uggla. For now, the team is focused on finding a temporary replacement and getting him back up to speed as soon as possible, as David O’Brien of the AJC reports. One possible fill-in, prospect Todd Cunningham, says that the players in camp “can kind of smell blood in the water,” while Eric Young Jr. called it an “unfortunate situation” but acknowledged that “you’re kidding anybody if you don’t see it as an opportunity.” The most interesting possibility could be Eury Perez, who is just 24 and has a solid track record in the upper minors but never had a real chance with his prior clubs.
- The Phillies have had one of their top advisers, Charlie Kerfeld, watching Red Sox prospects as the clubs continue to eye one another over left-handed pitching, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. There is a sense now that Cliff Lee could be dealt before Cole Hamels, Cafardo adds, though that doesn’t necessarily mean Boston is the inevitable destination.
- As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports, there are no signs of progress on a Hamels deal. The Sox are more likely to be willing to part with players like Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, and Jackie Bradley Jr. in any trade scenarios than they are some of their other top young players, Mastrodonato adds.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon told reporters today, including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, that he was happy to see the news that Francisco Rodriguez had agreed to a two-year deal in Milwaukee. Papelbon described Rodriguez a “talent that needs to be in Major League Baseball.” Asked if he was disappointed that a trade to Milwaukee was seemingly no longer an option, Papelbon said no, but he did have an interesting response when asked if he would be open to playing for the Blue Jays. “Yes, Toronto, interests me — if it interests [GM Ruben Amaro]. I know some of the guys on their coaching staff. They’re a good team. If Ruben can do a deal with them, I’d be interested.” Papelbon said he is more interested in pitching in Toronto than he had been in pitching for Milwaukee, but his ultimate hope is to contend with the Phillies. “My storybook ending here is sneaking into the wild card and getting hot in the playoffs with these Phillies.”
Here are some more Phillies-related items…
- The Red Sox don’t feel any sense of urgency to trade for Cole Hamels, writes CSN New England’s Sean McAdam. While the team’s reported agreement with Yoan Moncada prompted some speculation that Moncada’s presence made it easier for Boston to trade Mookie Betts, McAdam hears that the Sox are still steadfastly refusing to part with either Betts or Blake Swihart. The Phillies, too, are sticking to their guns, requiring that an acquiring team take on the entirety of Hamels’ salary in addition to parting with premium prospects.
- Cliff Lee threw eight minutes of live batting practice yesterday, Salisbury writes, marking the first time he’s thrown to hitters since his injury on July 31. He threw primarily fastballs but did snap off a breaking ball to Ben Revere. Lee could throw to hitters again over the weekend, as he’s been throwing every three days, but he’s not likely to pitch in a game until the second week of the schedule. He’ll have many eyes on him as clubs evaluate Lee’s health to determine whether or not he is a viable trade candidate.
- David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News spoke to Amaro about the team’s pursuit of Moncada and other Cuban talents that have now emerged as regulars, if not stars, at the Major League level. Amaro said that at a certain point, the risk a club takes outweighs the potential reward. “When you know you have an actual major league entity, that’s a known,” said Amaro. “I understand the devaluation as a guy gets older, there’s part of that too, but to me, it’s a risk/reward evaluation process that we go through all the time. Certain clubs have different ways of valuing or putting their dollars into the club and we have a little bit of a different one. Every club is a little bit different.” The Phillies have been involved in the pursuits of Moncada, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler, among others. They did sign Cuban righty Miguel Gonzalez in 2013.
- In a second article, Murphy also looks at the Phillies’ slow entrance to the era of analytics. The Phillies have made some recent hires and are investing more than $1MM in building a computer information system similar to that of the Red Sox, which will serve as a database for scouting reports, medical info and statistical models. Amaro said that while the team has used analytics to its benefit in the past, he’s looking to put more emphasis in the field now and become more creative with their usage of data and statistical trends.
It’s not at all certain that the Red Sox will trade Jackie Bradley Jr., Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston writes. Bradley struggled in the big leagues last season and the Red Sox have plenty of outfielders, but Bradley has limited experience in the high minors and can be optioned, so the Red Sox could easily just send him to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he would benefit from everyday playing time. Bradley’s outstanding defense distinguishes him from the rest of the Red Sox’ collection of outfielders, and there could be space for him in Boston in 2016, given the potential departure of Shane Victorino and the possibility that Hanley Ramirez could move to first base or DH. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Speaking of Pawtucket, the sale of the PawSox to a group led by Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino will be announced Monday, Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal writes. The deal does not include McCoy Stadium, the PawSox’ longtime home ballpark. The stadium requires extensive work each year, and the Red Sox have suggested that there’s more work to be done there. The sale, then, raises questions about where the team will play. “With the new ownership group expected to be named on Monday, I, along with [the other leaders], look forward to speaking with the group and learning how the City of Pawtucket will continue to be a partner with them in the future,” says Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien.
- The Phillies‘ struggles to find the right return for Cole Hamels have delayed their rebuilding process, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. Hamels, who has said he wants to play for a contender, likely wouldn’t block a trade, but he’s valued his time in Philadelphia. “To make my home in Philly and see what sports really do mean to Philly fans, it’s been nice,” says Hamels. “And being able to go out and represent not only the organization but the city of Philadelphia has been an honor. And I think I’ll remain to do so until I’m told that I can’t.”
- The Mets outrighted reliever Scott Rice in October, but it was still an easy decision for Rice to re-sign a minor-league deal with the team, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes. “There was nowhere else I wanted to go,” says Rice, who first made the Majors as a 31-year-old Met in 2013. Rice’s 2014 season ended early as he had elbow surgery in late July, but he will compete to be the Mets’ second bullpen lefty this spring.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Yankees could actually make a bit of money off of Alex Rodriguez‘s return. The curiosity factor regarding his return is going to generate increased ticket revenue, better TV ratings, and more interest and activity in the Yankees’ brand and licensing, in Cafardo’s estimation. More from today’s column..
- Even though Cole Hamels wants out of Philadelphia, that doesn’t mean the Phillies will rush to make a deal, a team source tells Cafardo. The Phillies don’t have to do anything out of desperation since they’re a big market team with deep pockets and they’re willing to wait for the right deal, perhaps until the trade deadline. Of course, that plan could backfire and the potential return could drop, but a contending team or two in need of a frontline pitcher could drive the price up.
- One GM that was in the hunt for Yoan Moncada but is no longer in the mix said he would bet on the Yankees winning the sweepstakes. “I think their need is great,” said the GM. “They can sell it as the replacement for Robinson Cano. I don’t think anyone wants to pay out that bonus, but he is a special talent and may be the best of the Cuban hitters who have come over.”
- Red Sox manager John Farrell recently said the club will start veteran Shane Victorino in right field if he’s healthy, but Cafardo isn’t buying it. If he is healthy, the Boston Globe scribe expects him to draw interest and be moved.
- Despite rumblings to the contrary, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner says there have been no changes to Larry Lucchino’s role as president and CEO of the Red Sox. “It’s a non-story,” said Werner. “There is no change in his role, nor is there a so-called power struggle. Larry is reporting to John [Henry, the principal owner] and myself, as always.”
While attention remains focused on Cole Hamels, clubs should consider trading for Cliff Lee instead, writes Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.com. Lee’s struggles in 2014 can be chalked up to injury and bad luck, so teams should be willing to take a bet on better performance. Cameron thinks the Phillies should bite the bullet and swallow the entire $25MM owed to Lee this season, leaving an acquiring club to cover the $12.5MM buyout or $27.5MM club option for next season. If the Phillies eat enough money, they should receive at least one notable prospect in exchange for the ace. Lee dealt with a recurring elbow injury last season, so rivals are probably playing wait-and-see.
- The Phillies are easing Lee back into regular action, reports Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. Most pitchers are throwing bullpens every other day, but Lee will work from the mound every third day. His health this spring will determine if he is a salable asset. One consideration to keep in mind – Lee’s partial no-trade list includes many of the clubs most likely to acquire him. Meanwhile, Hamels list appears to name places least likely to contend.
- Hamels wants to play for a winner, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. He is comfortable in Philadelphia and hopes the club can be surprise contenders this season. However, he’s also pragmatic. He understands GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has to address the big picture, which could include dealing him to greener pastures.
- Mets ace Matt Harvey will pitch within the first five games of the season, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPN. Manager Terry Collins says the club won’t skip any of his starts either. It was previously reported that Harvey will be on a strict innings limit, but they’ve backed off that position in the last day.
- The Marlins continue to consider Francisco Rodriguez, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. We recently learned K-Rod is seeking a one-year, $10MM guarantee. The Marlins appear to be interested in a much lower rate.