An incalculable amount of ink has been dedicated to the Cole Hamels saga and whether or not Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is asking too much in trade talks, but the GM himself added another layer to the story Tuesday in telling USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the Phillies would pay down some of Hamels’ contract in a trade.
“We are very open-minded,” Amaro told Nightengale. “We’re not afraid to subsidize contracts. We never told a club that we would not absolutely subsidize his contract. That is not a realistic way to do business. If there’s a deal to be made, and we have to subsidize part of it, we’ll do it.”
As recently as Spring Training, reports indicated that the Phillies were looking to add multiple top prospects and get an acquiring club to take on the entirety of Hamels’ four years and $96MM. (His contract also has a $20MM club option that can vest at $24MM based on innings pitched.)
Amaro again took a patient approach when discussing the Hamels situation, noting that it’s understandable if teams want to assess their internal options before making a more drastic move to acquire someone from another organization. “It’s no secret that one team lost an ace and two or three teams have lost very important starters,” said Amaro. “Some teams want to move quickly. Other teams want to ride things out. I think all of us would rather do deals only after exhausting their own internal possibilities and go from there.”
The Cardinals’ recent loss of Adam Wainwright has fueled quite a bit of Hamels-to-St. Louis speculation, and Nightengale also touched base with Cards GM John Mozeliak to discuss Hamels. Mozeliak noted that the team will certainly do its due diligence on trade candidates. Asked if the team could make a deal without including Carlos Martinez, a key member of the 2015 rotation, Mozeliak replied, “There’s probably always a deal worth making.”
Nightengale lists the Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers and Blue Jays as teams that could desperately use Hamels in their rotation. The Blue Jays wouldn’t seem to have the payroll capacity to add Hamels’ contract, but perhaps with enough money being paid down, something could be worked out. And for what it’s worth, Amaro did mention Toronto GM when making a tongue-in-cheek comment about his stress levels regarding the Hamels negotiations, stating: “I guarantee I’ll get more grey hairs from my daughter [taking her driving test] than any trade talks with Mozeliak, Anthopoulos and Cherington.” Nightengale adds that Amaro had talks regarding Hamels with a team as recently as Tuesday morning, and “some desperation” began to creep into those talks.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports took a lengthy look at the market for Hamels earlier today, noting that the Phillies do indeed covet Martinez, though it’s unclear if they’ve formally asked for Martinez in trade negotiations with the Redbirds. Per Heyman, the Phillies are also taken with Jorge Alfaro and Nomar Mazara of the Rangers as well as Luis Severino and Aaron Judge of the Yankees. Despite a brutal month for the Red Sox’ rotation, there’s been no change to their refusal to part with Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart, and the Dodgers similarly won’t part with any of Joc Pederson, Corey Seager or Julio Urias, even with injuries ravaging their own rotation.
One rival exec noted to Heyman that, “A few things have lined up in the Phillies’ favor. There’s a little bit of a crescendo. And now is the time to act.” However, a GM explained to Heyman that he’d be more inclined to part with significant pieces to add someone controllable like Seattle’s Taijuan Walker than an aging star like Hamels. (That comment, for what it’s worth, was made prior to Amaro’s comments to Nightengale about absorbing some of the money on Hamels’ contract.)
It strikes me as unlikely that a deal would come together in the near future, but the early rash of pitching injuries, which grew with tonight’s news that Masahiro Tanaka is lost for at least a month, has likely increased the demand for Hamels. Though Amaro’s refusal to budge has drawn a great deal of criticism, it’s certainly easy to make the claim that he’s in a better spot to trade Hamels than he was late in the offseason.