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Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers potential offseason acquisition

Taking a look at lefthander Cole Hamels, a potential offseason trade target for the Rangers

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers potential offseason acquisition:  We've been taking a look at players that the Rangers could potentially target this offseason, with an emphasis on guys who are short-term options with somewhat limited upside.

But maybe we are thinking about this all wrong.  Maybe we should be thinking...go big, or go home.  And if we are looking at big time starting pitching options in the trade market, you'd be hard-pressed to find one bigger than Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels.

And according to Jon Heyman, Hamels could well be on the block this offseason.  With the Phillies coming off a bad season, with an expensive, aging roster and a need to rebuild, Heyman quotes another exec as saying Hamels is the team's "only [valuable] trading chip."  Heyman quotes Phillies exec Pat Gillick as saying the team is a couple of years away from contending, and says that Hamels has been told by the team that they may have to consider dealing him.

Hamels has a 20 team no-trade list, and the most current list had Texas as one of the nine teams that he could be traded to, and although he will submit a new list on November 1, it is certainly possible that Texas will continue to be one of the teams he can be traded to.  In addition, there were reports that, prior to his signing a contract extension with the Phillies during the 2011 season, he was a player that the Rangers intended to make a strong push for in free agency.

So the potential seems to be there for a deal to be made.  As far as Hamels' contract situation goes, he is owed $22.5M per year from 2015 through 2018.  He has a team option for $20 million in 2019, with a $6 million buyout, although that option is guaranteed at $24 million if he has at least 200 innings in 2018, at least 400 innings from 2017-18, and is not on the d.l. with a shoulder or elbow injury at the end of 2018.  2015-18 would be Hamels' age 31-34 seasons, so you're getting his post-prime years, but you're not committing to him into his late-30s.

In terms of performance, Hamels has been very consistent.  From 2008-13, Hamels made at least 31 starts per year, and he made 30 starts in 2014, despite starting the season on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis.  Hamels has thrown at least 200 innings in each of the last five seasons and in six of the last seven, and in the one year he missed the 200 IP mark, 2009, he registered 193.2 IP.  While Hamels' ERA has fluctuated somewhat from year to year, his defense-independent numbers have been nine major league seasons, his high FIP- is 92, his low is 79, and every other one of his seven seasons, he's been between 83 and 87.  Since 2007, he's had an fWAR of no less than 3.5, and no more than 4.6, every year.  Hamels has also had a better than usual BABIP, LOB% and IFFB% through much of his career, hallmarks of a pitcher who will out-perform his peripherals, and indeed, bWAR has graded Hamels out higher than fWAR...Hamels had a 6.6 bWAR in 2011 and in 2014, a 5.4 bWAR in 2010, and 4 other seasons in which he's been worth at least 4 wins.

You'd expect Hamels to decline over the next few seasons, but if you were to trade for him, you'd reasonably expect to be getting a pitcher worth 3-4 wins per season over the next few years, possibly more.  And you'd reasonably expect he's someone who could stay healthy and give you 200 innings per year.  Slotting someone like Hamels between Yu Darvish and Derek Holland would give the Rangers a top three of their rotation that could stack up with just about any other team.

Of course, what is it going to take to get him?  The Phillies have indicated a willingness to absorb salary to get a deal done with some of their veterans, if it improves the return they get.  And the Rangers have the sort of prospects that could get a deal done, and could entice the Phillies to absorb some salary.

So let's say Texas offers Philly their choice of 1) Chi Chi Gonzalez, Jake Thompson or Luke Jackson, 2) Nick Williams or Lewis Brinson, 3) Corey Knebel, Phil Klein, Spencer Patton or Keone Kela, and 4) Luis Sardinas for Cole Hamels, out of favor outfielder Dominic Brown, and $10 million towards Hamels' 2015 salary.  That would put a dent in the Rangers' farm system, but it would get them a TORP under team control for a while, the freedom to make a couple of other moves in 2015 in terms of payroll, and keeps Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro and Nomar Mazara in the farm system.

I think I'd do that deal, which probably means it isn't giving up enough.  But just for grins, let's say you do that trade...that gives you a rotation of Yu, Hamels, Holland, Colby Lewis and one of the Nicks, plus a lineup that looks like this:

Choo -- RF

Elvis -- SS

Fielder -- 1B

Beltre -- 3B

Brown/Choice platoon -- LF

Moreland/Rua platoon -- DH

Leonys -- CF

Chirinos -- C

Odor -- 2B

I think that's a team that could do some things in 2015.