The Phillies are willing to cover more of the approximately $88.5MM remaining on Cole Hamels’ contract in a possible trade than they were earlier in the season, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports. What hasn’t changed, however, is Philadelphia’s demand for elite prospect talent in exchange for the ace left-hander.
The shift in negotiating stance is not a surprise, as many pundits assumed that the Phils would eventually bend from their initial demand that a team take on all of Hamels’ salary and also part ways with multiple blue-chip prospects. Bending on the salary demand rather than the prospect return makes sense for a wealthy franchise like the Phillies; adding impact minor league talent is of greater import to a rebuilding team than saving money.
In offering to take on a bit more salary, the Phillies may also be widening the Hamels market to medium-payroll teams who previously may have been unable to absorb the southpaw’s contract. This is purely my speculation, but perhaps this description could fit teams like the Royals or Orioles, or maybe even surprise contenders like the Twins or Astros. The amount of salary the Phillies offer to cover, as well, could vary depending on the team, or what prospects they’d be getting back.
Bradford touches on the Red Sox and notes that the Sox and Phillies have been scouting each other’s major and minor league teams, as Boston has been widely linked to Hamels for months now. Salary wasn’t the main obstacle to a Boston/Philly trade, however, but rather the fact that the Sox were refusing to trade the likes of Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart to Philadelphia. While the Red Sox have several other impressive prospects, it remains to be seen if the Phillies would accept a Sox deal without one of those two players, or if the Phils would turn elsewhere to find their desired prospect return.
Ironically, this news of the Phillies slightly lowering their asking price comes at a time when their bargaining position may be better than ever, considering the number of big-name teams looking for pitching help in the wake of injuries to star hurlers. Additionally, the likes of Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir have faced some recent injury problems, which only helps Hamels’ case as possibly both the healthiest and the most accomplished potential trade chip on the pitching market as we approach the July 31 deadline.
Hamels is set to earn roughly $15MM for the remainder of this season, $22.5MM in each of 2016, 2017 and 2018, and the Phillies hold a $20MM club option on his services for 2019 that can be bought out for $6MM (the 2019 option can also vest if Hamels avoids the arm injuries and reaches innings thresholds). Hamels has a 20-team no-trade list, and it has been speculated that he could seek to have his 2019 guaranteed in order to okay a deal to any of those 20 clubs. By this token, the Phillies’ offer to cover more salary could be a way of facilitating some of that extra $14MM for 2019.