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August 01, 2015

Five things we learned about the Cole Hamels deal

Before Cole Hamels spoke one last time at Citizens Bank Park on Friday afternoon, Ruben Amaro, Jr. talked at length about the blockbuster deal that sent the Phillies’ longtime ace to Texas. Perhaps this was one of the final times that Amaro spoke in an official capacity as general manager of the Phillies as well. We will see on that front.

Five sounds like a nice common number, so here are five takeaways from what Amaro and also Hamels had to say:

1. Houston, we have a problem

USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale first reported that Hamels gave a thumbs down to any potential trade to the Houston Astros. Listening to Amaro and Hamels himself speak, that seems to be precisely what happened.

“Cole earned the right through the contract to decide where he wanted to go,” Amaro said. “Were there other opportunities to get more clubs involved and were others aggressive? Yes they were, there were some clubs that were aggressive. Could we have gotten better deals? I don’t know that, but we did travel down a path even with some clubs that he didn’t have on his list. That’s an important piece of this. He had every right to go where he wanted to as dictated by his contract. He had a limited no-trade clause.”

"I think it's difficult,” Hamels said. “You don't ever want to say no to anybody. I know there's going to be a point in all baseball players’ lives where we're going to fight for that last job, that last year, and you don't want to let an organization down or a city down because you never want to cross them off your list. My wife and I really sat down for a month, and we really pulled the nine teams that we had on our trade list. We asked every question. We had criteria that was pages full of what were the best options for not only my baseball career but for my family.”

One city in Texas was more appealing than another for Hamels, who has more family and friends in the Dallas area.

2. Starting at the top, but depth wins out

You bet the Phillies asked for the Rangers’ consensus top two prospects, Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara.

“The answer to that is probably yes,” Amaro said when asked point blank about those two gentlemen.

In Amaro’s estimation (and I believe this a view generally shared by most prospect evaluators), Texas still had a very deep farm system outside of the top two guys.

“We talked about a variety of different combinations,” Amaro said. “The beauty of that organization is that they have a lot of depth. Could we have continued to hold out for those types of players? Maybe, but would we have gotten the same level of depth and quality? I do not believe so. We had a lot of names that were tossed around, and they have a ton of talent. We haggled and haggled and haggled and got to the point where both sides were very comfortable with the deal that was made.”

3. Prospects are at a premium

Top prospects are being valued like never before. Teams are unwilling to embrace a little risk because they're really looking for the chance to keep an elite talent under their control for a long period of time before hitting free agency. That is why teams like the Rangers are unwilling to part with the Mazaras and Gallos of the world for someone like Hamels. 

“The reality of it is there are going to be a lot of players out there on the free agent market,” Amaro said. “I will tell you this: In this day and age, teams are much more willing to dole out money than prospects. The value of the prospect has increased dramatically. I’ve had to make a personal adjustment on that, to understand that a little bit better, and make the adjustment there. I think we did that with this deal.”

4. Amaro made it seem like he was pretty involved

The general manager certainly was the public face of this trade. There is no disputing that. While the Phillies’ front office structure is still plenty intriguing, Amaro said this trade deadline was handled no differently than anytime since he took over from Pat Gillick in 2008.

“I had Pat Gillick and Andy MacPhail in the room with me, but I’m the GM and we made the deals,” Amaro said. “Clearly, the process by which we do these deals is kind of an all-encompassing process. I’m the point guy, the talking head, whatever you want to call me. The point is this it was no different than from doing a deal for Cliff Lee or anyone else.”

5. Money ain’t a thing

Just like with the Jonathan Papelbon deal a few days prior, the Phillies kicked in some money to get the deal they wanted. Actually, they kicked in a lot of money here. If you look at Matt Harrison as purely a contract and add it to the $9.5 million of Hamels’ deal that they’re also paying, the Phillies shelled out somewhere in the area of $43 million extra to get this trade done.

“Listen, in all these deals the money is an issue,” Amaro said. “This is big money we’re talking about. There’s complications, there’s control. We have to factor in nowadays what the surplus value of the talent that we’re getting back and what they will means not just short-term but long-term for us.”

With the way that the economics of the sport have changed, money isn’t everything anymore. Just look at the 2012-15 Phillies as an example of that. Still, having deep pockets is an advantage if teams are able to utilize their economic power wisely. The Phillies feel like they have done that here.

“We’re in a world where teams are buying talent,” Amaro said. “This is one of the ways we can use our economic muscle to buy talent. I think in a lot of ways, that’s what we did. But we bought talent with talent, and we bought talent with dollars and cents as well. These are things that have to get approved by the ownership group. Pat has to approve. These [deals] are not simple, these are not easy. But based on all of the information that we had, the package that we ended up getting, we used our money wisely there.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann