November 26th 2014 22:11
When Cole Hamels inked his six-year, $144 million extension back in July of 2012, the thought of trading the ace lefthander was the furthest thing from everyone's mind.
The Phillies were in the midst of the most glorious run in their franchise's checkered history, and were awash with cash from MLB's lucrative TV deal and the highest attendance figures in all of baseball. So lavishing a lucrative contract on the youngest of their aces that would keep Hamels in red pinstripes through his prime years was a no brainer, and a move that provided them with with a bona fide ace to anchor their rotation.
Fast forward two-and-a-half years and three losing seasons later, and GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. - who is primarily responsible for the said losing seasons - is now faced with the question of whether to begin the rebuilding process with Hamels as the cornerstone of the foundation, or to jettison the Phils' most valuable trade chip in an effort to accelerate the rebuild by bringing back a slew of young talent.
Let it be said here that the best option for Amaro and Co. is to hang onto their ace lefty, and go about returning the Phillies to a contender with him atop the rotation.
There is said to be a trade market for Hamels, with teams like the Red Sox, Cubs (who put a waiver claim in on him in August) and most recently the Dodgers all having reported interest in acquiring the 30-year old.
And why wouldn't there be? When the other options on the free agent market currently are Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields - all of whom are presumably looking for contracts long in years and heavy in zeroes - Hamels' four years remaining on his deal at $90 million is a relative bargain.
He is also coming off of one of his best statistical seasons, as despite his 9-9 record due to his customary lack of run support he posted a career-best 2.46 ERA, allowing three earned runs or less over his final 23 starts while limiting opponents to 176 hits over 204 innings.
2014 also marked the sixth season in which he has logged 200 innings out of seven, with the outlier coming in 2009 (193 2/3), and he again hit the 30 start mark (30) for the seventh straight season.
So in Hamels, the Phillies have a dependable and durable top-of-the-rotation lefty ace, who has a reasonable salary through the next four seasons (five if the Phils pick up his 2019 option).
My other reasoning for hanging onto Hamels is the repeated failures of Amaro to identify and secure talented prospects when making trades. He has been proficient in dealing away all of the top talent in the Phils' own farm system, but when dealing the likes of Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence, he has yet to produce a player who became a regular on the Major League roster for an extended period of time.
So to think that Amaro will be able to bring back a Joc Pederson from the Dodgers, a Jorge Soler from the Cubs or a Xander Bogaerts and/or Mookie Betts from the Red Sox is a stretch, to say the least.
It's still early in the Hot Stove season and the trade and free agent markets are just heating up, but the Phillies would be wise to hang onto their ace and invest their time and resources elsewhere.
Signing Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas would be a nice start...