On Sunday, Cole Hamels had to battle a bit. Coming off an extra day's rest, he struggled with his command, even though he had good stuff. The result though doesn't tell that story.
Cole Hamels went seven innings, giving up five hits, one run, and three walks, striking out five. He got the win, and the Phillies won 3-2 on the day, winning the series. Hamels is now 5-1, with a 2.28 ERA in the early going. His team is 16-9, which should tell you the story of how good he's been. He has 49 K's in 47.1 IP so far, a 1.04 WHIP, and has about a third of his team's wins.
So, just how valuable is Cole? Really.
Really, Philadelphia is one of the few places on Earth where Cole Hamels wouldn't be the ace of his staff. In fact, you can make an argument that he is the ace of this staff. Check out the table below, which features the numbers of each of the Phillies' top four starters over the last calendar year (May 13, 2011 through May 13, 2012). Specifically, check out Hamels' numbers as compared to Roy Halladay: negligible difference in ERA, slightly more strikeouts-per-nine and walks-per-nine, and slightly fewer innings, albeit in one less start. And check out that WHIP (walks+hits/innings).
The one category Hamels hold a decided advantage? He's only 28, giving him at least five years on Lee and seven years on Halladay. Think about that: Hamels could sign a seven-year deal like the ones C.C. Sabathia and Johan Santana signed and be the same age as Halladay is now when he is in the final year of that deal. So keep that in mind when you hear Ruben Amaro Jr. talk about the potential of being a seller at the trade deadline.
Which makes more sense: trading six months of 28-year-old Hamels in exchange for prospects and keeping 33-year-old Lee for at least three more seasons, or trading 3.5 years of Lee for prospects and then re-signing Hamels, who will be younger than Lee is now for the first five years of his next contract.
Here, even easier, again from Murphy:
Player Record ERA K/9 BB/9 WHIP GS IP Cole Hamels 15-8 2.67 8.1 1.8 0.997 31 215.2 Roy Halladay 17-7 2.53 7.5 1.4 1.027 32 238.2 Cliff Lee 15-6 2.02 8.5 1.6 0.955 28 209.1 Vance Worley 12-5 3.19 8.4 3.1 1.288 26 160.2
Now, I do not accept the premise that the Phillies cannot afford to have these three starters and still put together a good offense. The Phillies are sold out nearly every night, and merchandise sales are good. Top that off with an upcoming television deal that will be worth several BILLION dollars, and you can see why this team has the money. Oh, and Mr. Middleton. Yes, he has money like that, and owns the team.
Let's say though that due to the foreseen budget, they can't keep all three. The obvious choice is to trade Cliff Lee, right? I mean, he has a lot of money left, he's also lefty, and he's the third biggest priority of the three. I'm sure some fans will freak and say he can't get dealt again, and to them I'd say, relax. He won't. No team will take enough of his contract to make trading him worth it for the Phillies for at least another year, if not two. If the Phillies found a sucker team who would eat most or all of his deal, they'd still have to get "A List" level prospects for him, which is not easy. So, to be fair, I don't think the Phillies have the ability to move his contract, or get market value back. So, he'll be here.
Which leads me to Doc. I don't think he goes anywhere this summer, because the Phillies do want to win. After this season? Doc will have one year at $20 million, and an option year, in front of him, meaning there's not that ridiculously much of a contract to move. With that out of the way, the market of big market, good organizational teams looking for a starter of his caliber, is high. The Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Rangers, Dodgers, and Angels could all go for a Doc. St. Louis, the home of his good friend Chris Carpenter, may also take interest. These are teams that can eat $20 million to get this level of pitcher, have prospects to give in most cases (the Rangers are stacked, and the Yankees are solid, for instance), and want to contend in a two year window, so probably they would make that move. I believe that with his easier to swallow salary, and better career numbers, Doc leaves us paying less, and getting more, than Cliff does. So, if you accept that the Phillies may have to trade an ace, and I don't, then you should be asking about Doc going, not Cliff, and certainly not letting Cole go.
Just, no matter what, the Phillies cannot let Cole Hamels walk out the door and never come back. Not if you want to watch good baseball in 2015.