MLB Trade Rumors: Cole Hamels to the New York Yankees? Boston Red Sox? Philadelphia Phillies? Somewhere else? Rumors around Hamels, the Rangers’ veteran lefthander, will continue to swirl over the All Star Break, and with the trade deadline just 15 days away, one has to think that the Hamels trade talk will be intensifying in the coming days.
The candidates for a Hamels trade would appear to be teams that need rotation help for the playoff push. Hamels isn’t a Cliff Lee, or even a Yu Darvish, a pitcher you are acquiring to help front your rotation in the playoffs. Hamels is probably the fourth starter in the playoffs for most of the 2018 contenders, a guy who would pitch once in a seven game series. But he’s also a veteran who is experienced in handling the playoff stretch runs, and who can help solidify leaky rotations for teams that are fighting to claim a playoff spot, or to clinch the division in order to avoid the vagarities of a one game Wild Card berth.
Part of what puts the Rangers in a difficult spot right now is that Hamels has been fairly mediocre this year. He’s not the top pitcher on the market — in fact, of Jon Heyman’s rankings of the 29 starters on the trading block, Hamels ranks just 14th. Granted, a number of those ahead of Hamels aren’t likely to be dealt...but the unfortunate reality at this point is that Hamels isn’t likely to be the top choice for most contenders, but a consolation prize if they miss out on their top targets. One wouldn’t have expected for Hamels to be the pitcher that contenders reluctantly turn to if they miss out on, say, J.A. Happ, but that’s the reality we are living in.
So the dynamics of the current trade market make it more likely that Hamels is dealt at the end of July, or possibly even in August, as teams turn to him only after missing out on their top targets. On the other hand, as noted above, teams pursuing Hamels are likely going after him largely for the regular season playoff push — waiting until July 31 to deal for him would mean two fewer starts an acquiring team would get from him compared to acquiring him now. Oh, and further complicating things is that Hamels has a 20 team no-trade list, which is going to make teams on the no-trade list less inclined to actively engage, and put the Rangers in a situation where their leverage is reduced.
One episode from this weekend which could potentially accelerate Hamels trade talks is the news that Boston starter Eduardo Rodriguez suffered “serious damage” to his ankle on Saturday, and may not be back before the end of the season. Over The Monster runs down how this impacts the Red Sox, noting that Boston is already missing Drew Pomeranz (who is not exactly lighting it up on a rehab assignment in AAA right now after posting a 6.81 ERA in 8 starts in the majors) and Steven Wright (who has been on the disabled list since late June with a sore knee that is still bothering him). The BoSox have Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and David Price currently fronting their rotation, though Porcello and Price both have ERA+s hovering around the 100 mark. With Rodriguez and Wright out indefinitely and Pomeranz struggling, Boston, protecting a 4.5 game lead over the Yankees, could see Hamels as a viable supplement to their rotation. Hamels can veto a trade to the Red Sox, and Boston’s farm isn’t impressive, but they could be in a position to take on Hamels and his contract if he will approve a trade there while parting with lesser prospects.
Meanwhile, Boston’s rival for the A.L. East title, the New York Yankees, have long seemed to me to be one of the best fits for Hamels. New York is 4.5 games back of Boston, but that gap isn’t insurmountable, and there’s significant value in winning the division and avoiding a Wild Card game rather than having a 50-50 shot of getting bounced before getting to the LDS. Luis Severino has been outstanding for the Yankees so far this season, but their veterans have not. C.C. Sabathia has a 3.51 ERA, but with a 4.53 FIP, while Masahiro Tanaka is posting a 4.54 ERA and a 4.90 FIP while also being something of an injury risk going forward due to his damaged UCL. Sonny Gray has been awful, putting up a 5.46 ERA (albeit with a 4.34 FIP) in 18 starts, and leading to questions about whether he can handle the pressure of pitching in New York. Jordan Montgomery is done for the season, which has led the Yankees to turn to Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga to fortify their rotation. The Yankees are something of the flip side of Boston in terms of a possible trade, as they have a strong farm system with lots of interesting players, but they want to stay below the luxury tax line.
Hamels is going to have appeal to both Boston and New York as a piece to help solidify the rotation, and neither team would likely have concerns about his ability to handle the spotlight of those two media markets, or the pressure of a playoff race. That said, there’s no guarantee he would approve a trade to either team, and its not a given either team would agree to exercise his $20 million 2019 option to facilitate him waiving his no trade clause. From the point of view of a Rangers fan, you’d like to see Happ end up elsewhere, and possibly see these two teams end up both pursuing Hamels.
The team, along with the Yankees, that I’ve said for a while would be the best fit for Hamels is the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew made a splash this offseason in signing Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich, and they’ve been rewarded by being in the middle of the National League playoff race, just 2.5 games back of the Cubs in the N.L. Central and currently claiming the Wild Card 1 spot, though they are just a half game up of the Phillies, 1.5 games up on the Diamondbacks and 3 games up on the Rockies. Milwaukee has been rumored to be aggressively pursuing Manny Machado, but their biggest area of need appears to be the rotation. Jhoulys Chacin and the (currently d.l.’d) Junior Guerra have been their top starters this year, with Chase Anderson putting up a respectable ERA (3.78) but with an ugly 5.27 FIP. Last month the Brewers were said to be expected to “aggressively” pursue starting pitching, and Hamels is the type of veteran with skins on the wall that a younger team like Milwaukee will sometimes target in a playoff push. As with Boston and New York, however, Hamels can veto a deal to the Brewers, and one can reasonably wonder whether Hollywood Hamels wants to head to Wisconsin if there are other options available.
So if the top three options all are subject to Hamels vetoing trades there, where can he be traded without his permission? The nine clubs that are reportedly NOT on his no-trade list are the Houston Astros, the Chicago Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals, the Seattle Mariners, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Atlanta Braves, the Kansas City Royals and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays and Royals are non-contenders (well, the Rays are on the fringes of the race, but aren’t going to be trading for Hamels), the Cardinals and Nationals are on the fringes of the race and likely would not be looking to make a move for Hamels, and the Astros don’t need Hamels. That leaves four teams — the Cubs, the Phillies, the Mariners, and the Braves as possible landing spots where Hamels can’t veto a deal.
Atlanta could conceivably be a fit for Hamels — they are a half-game back in the N.L. East, and like the Brewers, are a young team finding themselves in the playoff race for the first time in a while. Their rotation has not been bad, but its a combination of young pitchers paired with journeyman veterans Brandon McCarthy (on the disabled list) and Anibal Sanchez. Atlanta could see Hamels as a veteran piece that would provide some experience and stability down the stretch, but it seems unlikely they’d pay a significant price for him.
The Cubs are an interesting possibility. At first blush, they’d seem not to be a fit for Hamels, given their depth and the perception they should run away with the N.L. Central. However, for the second year in a row, they find themselves in a tighter battle than expected, up just 2.5 games on Milwaukee in the division. In addition, their two big offseason starting pitching acquisitions have been disappointments — Yu Darvish has been ineffective (4.95 ERA/4.84 FIP) and hurt, and is currently on the disabled list with a triceps issue, while Tyler Chatwood has an ERA and FIP north of 5 and has walked 73 batters in 84 innings. Jed Hoyer said this weekend that the Cubs are looking for rotation help, and even the three rotation members with solid ERAs — Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana — have FIPs in the mid-4s. The Cubs would seem to be a team that would have interest in Hamels, but wouldn’t be making him a priority, and likely wouldn’t be inclined to part with significant talent for him.
The Seattle Mariners...would they go after Cole Hamels? Seattle is in win-now mode, and is well positioned for a playoff berth after a 58-39 first half, despite a -2 run differential. However, they also have Oakland just 3 games back of them in the Wild Card race, and, given they are 5 games back of both Houston for the A.L. West and New York for WC1, they have to be sweating a bit. The rotation hasn’t been great, but the weakest member has been Felix Hernandez, who is currently on the disabled list and who has a 5.13 ERA/4.63 FIP. Seattle isn’t going to bump Hernandez for Cole Hamels. Seattle seems unlikely unless there’s an injury to a starter in the next couple of weeks, but given how aggressive Jerry DiPoto has been in the trade market, and the moves they’ve already made to try to win now, I wouldn’t completely write them off.
Which leaves us with...Philadelphia. The team that originally drafted Hamels, that traded him to Texas in the first place. Heyman, in the piece linked above, says that Hamels would “love to go to the Phillies,” and said on Friday that the Phillies owner “is thought to want to ‘make a splash’ “ at the trade deadline. Hamels would qualify as a “splash,” whether the Phillies land Machado (who they’ve been pursuing heavily) or not, and its the type of move an owner who is actively involved may be more inclined to make than a general manager. Do the Phillies really need Hamels? Not necessarily. Aaron Nola has been great, Jake Arrieta has been good, and Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin have been fine. Barring an injury (Eflin is on the d.l. currently, but just with a blister, and everyone else is healthy), the Phillies don’t NEED Hamels. But on the other hand, if you are the owner of the Phillies, fighting for the division title, trying to make it back to the playoffs after being awful for the last several years, how confident are you on passing on Hamels, on bringing him back home, so that you can roll with Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin?
Philadelphia isn’t the team that needs Hamels the most. One can argue that, of every team I’ve run down on here, they need Hamels the least. But he can’t veto a trade there, and supposedly wants to go back to Philly. There’s an emotional component here. Texas could include one or two of their relievers in the deal — maybe even Jake Diekman, who came over with Hamels from Philly in the original trade — to help fortify a shaky Phillies pen and improve the return. And it makes for a great storyline.
So we’ve gotten to this point, and no definitive answers, so why not do a poll? Where do you think Hamels ends up?
Cast your vote below...
Where does Texas trade Cole Hamels?
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Hamels isn’t traded this season