1:53pm: The Phillies have pulled Hamels back off waivers after the two sides were unable to strike a deal, tweets Paul Sulivan of the Chicago Tribune.
FRIDAY, 8:43am: In an updated version of his original article, Wittenmyer writes that the Cubs may prefer to add an ace-caliber starter via free agency this winter. They’ll have multiple options to do so with Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester (whom Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer know well) hitting the open market. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears the same, reporting that the Cubs are “expected to be aggressive” on the free agent market.
THURSDAY: As many have been speculating since Cole Hamels was placed on revocable waivers, the Cubs have indeed been awarded the claim on the Philadelphia ace, Mike Missanelli of ESPN 97.5 in Philadelphia first tweeted. However, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that a deal is almost certainly not going to happen. The Phillies, according to Wittenmyer’s sources, have asked the Cubs for one of their prized young shortstops as the centerpiece to a trade. Because both Starlin Castro and Javier Baez are already on the 40-man roster and would therefore be subject to revocable waivers themselves, Addison Russell (and others) is the likely asking price, according to Wittenmyer.
The two sides will have 48.5 hours from the moment of the claim in order to work out a trade. Any 40-man roster players to change hands in a theoretical deal would also need to clear waivers. If and when the two sides decide that a deal cannot be reached, the Phillies can simply pull Hamels back off waivers. Hamels’ contract does allow him to block trades to 20 teams, but as ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported earlier today, the Cubs are not one of those 20 clubs. So, in the unlikely event that a deal is agreed upon, Hamels would have no say in vetoing the transaction.
While the Cubs have the financial capability to assume the remaining $100MM+ on Hamels’ contract and the prospect depth to acquire nearly any available player via trade, Wittenmyer reports that the team has “no desire” to use both surpluses on a single player.
It’s certainly not outlandish for the Phillies to ask for Russell and other high-end prospects in order to part with Hamels. The Cubs, after all, acquired Russell (along with 2013 first-rounder Billy McKinney and controllable starter Dan Straily) in exchange for a year and a half of Jeff Samardzija’s services and three months of Jason Hammel.
Clearly, Hamels has more long-term value than the combination of the two arms the Cubs sent to Oakland. While his salary is sizable, a $22.5MM annual commitment is actually below-market for a top-of-the-rotation arm, which Hamels clearly is. He’s pitched to a 2.42 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 46.9 percent ground-ball rate in 137 1/3 innings this season. He’s controlled through the 2018 season at that same $22.5MM rate, and his vesting option for the 2019 campaign comes with a $6MM buyout. However, if the Phils truly wish to shop Hamels — and there’s been little to no indication that they do — they’d likely be better suited to wait until the offseason, when all 29 other teams could bid for his services and potentially drive up the price.
For those who are unfamiliar with revocable waivers or post-July 31 trading, check out MLBTR’s primer on August trades.