Let me start this by stating the obvious, which is that the Phillies first option should be to sign Cole to a six year deal, maybe even a seven year one. You just don't have many 28 year old, left-handed aces. He's 11-4, a three time All-Star in seven years, and a World Series and NLCS MVP who is slowly making himself into the best post-season pitcher of his generation. I'd pay him the money.
In spring training, the reports say the Phillies were willing to meet his $24 million annual value for his deal, but for four years, meaning they offered him four at $96 million, onto his one year at $15 million he had, so he would have had $111 million for five years, taking him through his 32 year old season. A six year offer, rumored right now, at $24 million a year, is a $144 million offer that takes him through his 34 year old season. I'm 100% for that, with even an option for a year seven. This guy brought us a parade, pay him, then figure out the budget.
Let's say he tells the Phillies that he's not interested in signing now, and wants to see his value. Fine, that's baseball. The rumors have an offer coming in the next 72 hours, so we may know that before the weekend. If Hamels is not going to sign during this summer, it stands to reason that he will reach free agency no matter what. If that's the case, the Phillies know he wants to take the best offer, and whatever value his time in Philly has to him, will be equal whether they move him or not. In other words, if he's going to test free agency no matter what, why not move him now, recoup prospects, and then try to sign him in the winter with a deal in the same range as now, if not a little more? If you get the prospects now, that comes at a no-lose point. If you wait and play things out, you're going high stakes. So, if he isn't ready to sign this summer, you move him, risky as it may be, and get a lot back.
How much though? Well, in the perfect world, Hamels fetches five prospects. That's true last winter. That's not true now. Hamels would be a rental piece only, as the team getting him would also know he's going to hit free agency, and under the new CBA, they are entitled to no draft choices if he leaves. Under the old rules, they'd recoup at least two of the guys they traded. Based on this, the only teams who can reasonably consider Hamels are big market-ish teams, with good minor league systems, and a real chance to win the World Series this season. No contenders for a division, no teams with weak systems, and no small markets. I think he definitely gets three good prospects, with at least one great one, plus the rest of his salary paid, possibly four prospects and a couple of great ones.
I've already previewed the Dodgers, Tigers, and Yankees systems in the Victorino piece. About the only thing that's changed on those systems is what is available for Cole, as opposed to Shane. Want Nick Castellanos from Detroit? Yes, he'd be in, assumedly. The Yankees would have to include either Banuelos or Betances, with Bichette, in any Hamels trade. My guess is that Zach Lee of the Dodgers system would be a requirement of the Phillies for Hamels.
I'm going to identify four new teams here, only two of which seem serious to me. Watch the Rangers, and by extension the Angels. Also though, let's look at the Cardinals and Rays, both of whom could decide to buy.
- The Rangers have three super prospects who would be discussed, who the Rangers claim are off limits- SS Jurickson Profar, 3B Mike Olt, and LHP Martin Perez. Any combo of two of them would cinch a deal, with a third and maybe fourth "tier two" body thrown on for kicks. Olt is the shiny, need-based name here, and he's worth it. He plays third, but on the 8th he played right-field for the first time (hint here, they may not want to move him). He is 24, and in AA, and almost big league ready, coming out of UConn. He is hitting .292, with a .977 OPS, 22 homers, 63 RBI's, and 37 extra-base hits.
- While Olt is the name most discussed, Profar is the top prospect down there. He could be packaged with guys outside the top three, but in the top ten, and probably be well worth it, particularly if the Phillies have a plan that opens up shortstop for him in the near future.
- If Olt is not in a deal, and one of the other two big names is, look for 3B Christian Villaneuva to be in it too.
- Forget Trout, or for that matter Trumbo too. Peter Bourjos would be in the deal presumably, but he's not enough to land Hamels, by a long shot.
- My guess is that the Angels would have to offer Jean Segura to even get in the ballgame, but again, he's a shortstop, and the Phillies have one. Also, they don't necessarily have safety with Aybar there. This could be the deal breaker.
- Johnny Hellweg is a "stuff" guy the Phillies may like on the mound.
- I don't see enough to get it done here.
- The good news- you'd almost certainly be able to extract a big league pitcher. Look for a Hellickson type of return. The bad news- why would they bring him in, if they are shopping Shields?
- If they decide to be buyers, they could have willingness to send a Hellickson and B.J. Upton type of package.
- Tim Beckham, a shortstop, is probably the most noticed name on the list to me, in part because he's not on the cusp, and he's not a pitcher. He has a lot of talent though.
- I bring up the Cardinals in part because I think they should seek an ace type of arm. They have a high level 3B Prospect in Zack Cox, but his numbers this year aren't up to top levels. He has a .705 OPS and a .254 average, to go with 7 homers. He's also trapped by David Freese being God in St. Louis.
- The Phillies have had an interest in Jon Jay in the past.
- I would guess the Phillies would seek Carlos Martinez as well.