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Cole Hamels Rumors
Cole Hamels remains available on the trade market, and as many eight teams have kicked the tires on the ace left-hander, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Asked by Salisbury how many clubs have made offers, Amaro replied, “Real offers? Four.”
Amaro wouldn’t comment on which clubs made those “real” offers, though earlier today it was reported that the Padres made an “aggressive” offer for Hamels prior to signing James Shields. Other teams that have been seriously linked to Hamels include the Cardinals, Rangers and Red Sox. Boston has reportedly balked at Amaro’s insistence on top catching prospect Blake Swihart‘s inclusion in a potential trade package.
Earlier this month, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that “five or six” teams were still trying to swing a trade for Hamels, though the Padres’ signing of Shields may remove them from that race. Padres ownership has said the payroll could land around $100MM, and they’re at roughly $96.5MM right now after adding Shields. However, some reports have indicated that $105MM might be the team’s max limit, so it strikes me as at least plausible — albeit unlikely — that they could attempt to squeeze Hamels into the mix if the Phillies eat some 2015 salary or take a different contract back.
The Phillies are more eager to trade Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon than Hamels, Salisbury writes, and they’re also very willing to trade Cliff Lee. Amaro wouldn’t rule out the possibility of making a trade prior to the onset of Spring Training, Salisbury adds, but moving someone like Lee would likely require him to demonstrate his health in Spring Training. A number of teams have told Amaro they’ll be monitoring the Phillies this spring.
Before agreeing to terms with James Shields, the Padres made an “aggressive offer” to the Phillies for lefty Cole Hamels, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. San Diego had long been said to be pursuing both arms.
Though the precise parameters of the offer are not known, Rosenthal indicates that Philadelphia may not feel that the San Diego system has a sufficiently promising single prospect asset to warrant Hamels. It is not clear whether the Padres have any continued interest in working out a deal, though it seems somewhat unlikely that sufficient payroll flexibility remains.
The Phillies prefer to deal with the Red Sox, per Rosenthal, hoping to land either Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart in return. But Boston has not made such an offer, he adds, making a deal seem unlikely unless the Red Sox “reverse course.”
Let’s round up a few stray notes from the day:
- After avoiding arbitration with Matt Joyce today, the Angels appear set to enter the spring with a MLB payroll of a shade under $145MM, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes. That is about $10MM shy of last year’s starting point, leaving the team with additional luxury tax space (Gonzalez estimates a $174MM payroll for those purposes) that the club will be willing to put towards any needs that become apparent over the course of the season.
- Potentially joining the Halos with interesting summer plans are the Phillies, who are increasingly likely to hold onto ace Cole Hamels, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. reiterated previous statements that he expects Hamels to enter camp with the team, adding that he “expect[s] him to be our Opening Day starter.” The Padres, Rangers, Dodgers, and Cardinals are all said to have been in touch recently on Hamels, but while all are clear of Hamels’s no-trade protection, they also each have good reasons not to be aggressive.
- Hector Olivera‘s representatives have indicated that he will put on his final open showcase this coming Wednesday, Ben Badler of Baseball America tweets. That obviously could be a prelude to an intensification of his market, particularly with Spring Training fast approach. As Badler notes, Olivera is still not a free agent, but is expected to be so declared in short order.
The remaining free agent market is dominated by arms, and pitchers probably also carry the most intrigue in trade as well. Here’s the latest on some important situations percolating around the game:
- The Brewers feel they have ample leverage against the Phillies in trade talks for Jonathan Papelbon, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). Milwaukee believes that it is the primary team with interest, and yesterday’s addition of Chris Perez reduces the urgency to add another late-inning righty.
- Fellow Phillies veteran Cole Hamels should be traded now to maximize his value, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider link). Rival executives tell Olney they believe the Phils should have moved Hamels at last year’s trade deadline, and suggest that the team will have to budge on either the amount of money the team will kick in or the quality of the prospects it will receive. Of course, the Philadelphia brass has understandably rejected the idea in the past that it should lower the ask on Hamels, but it is fair to wonder at what point that attempt to maximize value could harm its own objective.
- The Padres have often been mentioned as a possible destination for the best starters that remain available, and executive chairman Ron Fowler did nothing to dampen the rumors in comments today to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Fowler explained that the club’s payroll could climb above $100MM, saying that “with A.J. [Preller] in the GM seat, things could change quickly” as “he continues to look at options to strengthen the team.” Fowler continued: “The front-loading of the Dodgers’ payment for [Matt] Kemp allowed us to be more aggressive regarding [Justin] Upton and continue to look at other opportunities.”
2:08pm: Though Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said he expects Cole Hamels to open the season with his team, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that five or six clubs are still trying to get their hands on the Philadelphia ace. However, no team has yet come close to making an offer that would entice the Phillies to part with the 31-year-old lefty.
Last month, the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers and Cardinals were reported to be the most aggressive teams pursuing Hamels, but the Rangers may have bowed out of the picture following their acquisition of Yovani Gallardo. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently reported that the Padres have remained in touch on Hamels, though some feel they lack the talent needed to complete the deal.
The Phillies have been said to be asking for two “premium talents” in return for Hamels, likely in addition to other, lesser-regarded assets. Philadelphia has proven its willingness to deal away core veterans — Jimmy Rollins, in particular, was one of the club’s mainstays in its recent run of success — but has understandably set a high asking price for Hamels, who could always be held until the summer or even beyond.
The Padres have considered trading for Brewers shortstop Luis Sardinas, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes (Twitter links). Rosenthal says the two teams have not talked lately, although the Padres’ interest in Sardinas suggests that their busy offseason might not yet be over.
The Brewers acquired Sardinas from the Rangers in the Yovani Gallardo trade, and Padres GM A.J. Preller worked for the Rangers before taking his current position. The Brewers appear relatively set at their middle infield with Scooter Gennett at second and Jean Segura at shortstop, while the Padres have a more unsettled shortstop picture (with their depth chart currently topped by Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes), so a trade involving Sardinas would appear to make sense for both teams.
Sardinas, 21, hit .261/.303/.313 in 125 plate appearances with the Rangers in 2014. His youth might account for some of his offensive troubles, although he’s never hit well above Class A and has never shown much power potential. He has excellent speed and good defensive tools.
The Padres remain in touch with the Phillies regarding Cole Hamels, although Rosenthal notes that some sources feel the Padres don’t have the talent to complete the deal. In mid-January, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported that the Padres were among the key teams pursuing Hamels.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Aroldis Chapman | Atlanta Braves | Baltimore Orioles | Blake Swihart | Boston Red Sox | Christian Vazquez | Cincinnati Reds | Cole Hamels | Craig Kimbrel | Dan Duquette | James Shields | Max Scherzer | Philadelphia Phillies | San Francisco Giants | Shane Victorino | Toronto Blue Jays