5:20pm: A team source tells MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan that a trade for Hamels “is not on the board” at time time (Twitter link).
11:39am: The Rangers and Phillies are “having ongoing dialogue” regarding the possibility of a deal that would send lefty Cole Hamels to Texas, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Hamels cannot block a deal to the Rangers pursuant to the current list of teams covered by his limited no-trade clause, Morosi adds in a later tweet.
Texas has received surprisingly solid results from its rotation. And as Morosi notes (Twitter link) the club still expects to receive contributions from rehabbing starters Martin Perez, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland.
While those factors might indicate that the Rangers could sit back and rely on its internal options, there are other indicators favoring a move. The current staff has succeeded in spite of rather uninspiring peripherals. And the injured pitchers still have a ways to go to prove they will be durable and effective.
Per Morosi, the real motivating factor on the Texas side of the equation is the fact that the team “view[s] Hamels as [an] elite upgrade.” Given his contract, the Rangers presumably see Hamels as a current and future asset that could not only give the team a shot this year but pair with Yu Darvish atop the staff for seasons to come. It remains to be seen how much staying power this year’s Rangers club has, but adding Hamels certainly would not be solely a “win-now” move.
As of late April, at least, Philadelphia was reportedly asking for a package headlined by catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nomar Mazara. Both of those prospects were rated among the Rangers’ top five heading into the year by Baseball America. While they would look to be great fits for a Philly organization that is looking to add premium talent, it remains to be seen whether Texas has any appetite to pay that kind of price. (Note that Alfaro may not be a movable asset this point, as he is dealing with a significant ankle injury.)
Needless to say, the Phillies will hope that several other bidders enter the fray to drive up the return. Things are shaping up rather nicely for GM Ruben Amaro Jr., as many of the clubs that seem like a fit remain in contention and in need of an arm. Meanwhile, the other presumed top arm available, Johnny Cueto, is a pure rental who now faces at least some potential health questions.
Hamels has been as strong as ever this year, racking up 94 1/3 innings of 2.96 ERA pitching with 9.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. And the 31-year-old seems ready to move past a seemingly minor hamstring injury to make his next start.
The Hamels contract looks more and more appealing every time you check back: he’s owed the balance of a $22.5MM salary this season, and then has three guaranteed years plus an option for a total guarantee of just $73.5MM. (Hamels’ deal also included a $6MM signing bonus, with an unreported payout schedule, which could still factor into the equation.) Essentially, a team dealing for him now would not only have the benefit of adding a top arm for the rest of this year, but would be making a future commitment that is not much greater than the contract signed last year by James Shields (four years, $75MM). At the start of 2016, Hamels will be a full year younger than was Shields at the start of his deal.