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July 28, 2015

It should be all or nothing in return for Cole Hamels

The Major League Baseball trade deadline is down to its final few days, and most people believe that between now and Friday afternoon the Phillies will make a deal that involves Cole Hamels.

More to the point, most people WANT the Phillies to make a deal involving Hamels.

The reasoning is sound enough. It’s all based on the premise that the Phillies have no chance to be a good enough team to challenge for any sort of postseason play over the next few seasons … so why keep Hamels?

Mind you, this is a logical argument. Especially in a city where both the Sixers and Flyers are getting high grades from fans for a willingness to have some patience and take a step at a time, it is reasonable for fans to expect the Phillies to do the same.

Why not trade Hamels for a premier prospect or two?

The reason is simple. The Phillies have been trying to trade Hamels for a premier prospect or two since the end of last season. During that time, they have not been able to get what they believe Hamels to be worth, and now it’s an even a more risky venture to make a deal.

There is no reason [the Phillies] can't add people to the roster, make some deals that do not involve Hamels, spend some money and – believe it or not, they could be a tough out in the National League East.

On the plus side, you could argue that teams that might have a chance to win, such as the Dodgers and Yankees, would be more willing to give up on a top-notch prospect.

Maybe so, but since the end of last season, the Phillies front office structure, ownership structure, and on-field structure have gone through dramatic changes. The issues involving ownership direction and front office status are still unsettled, so it would be absurd to put such a trade in the hands of people who are still unsure of their status.

The club’s ownership now has a louder voice in John Middleton, but while the voice is louder and his visibility is higher, there is still no proof of his muscle to get things done. There is also a new man on board in Andy MacPhail, but even he still seems to be sharing responsibilities with general manager Ruben Amaro.

Although Amaro certainly appears to be on his way out of the power structure, nothing has been established in terms of long-term plans, and because of that nobody should even be certain about the status of coaches and scouts throughout the organization.

The only certainty around the Phillies is that – despite their horrible record – they remain a big market club with a big wallet. There is no reason the Phillies can not get their top floor ownership and management issues in place, and then use some of that money to buy their way back into a better situation.

True enough, the real road to success will come when the farm system is shored up, and some younger players are on the way, but there is no reason the team can not be competitive along the way.

The term re-tool rather than rebuild was invented for teams such as the Phillies – big market clubs that can afford to keep their heads above water by standing on their wallets while developing future players.

The Phillies are likely to lose the contracts of Chase Utley and Cliff Lee very soon, and if it comes down to it, they might have to swallow the huge chunk of change due to Ryan Howard. In the meantime, there is some hope for the future in players such as Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, and Odubel Herrera.

There is also great hope for J.P. Crawford as a future shortstop and Roman Quinn in the outfield.

The pitching staff, if it is led by Hamels, has a building block in Aaron Nola while Giles should still be counted as a potential closer.

Nobody is saying the Phillies can enter next season as a serious contender for a championship. However, there is no reason they can't add people to the roster, make some deals that do not involve Hamels, spend some money and – believe it or not, they could be a tough out in the National League East. It’s not exactly like there are monsters behind the Washington Nationals, and it won’t be long before the Nats are facing huge contract issues.

Imagine all of those starts that Hamels lived through with zero run support, and the imagine that instead of a deteriorating Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, there were bats such as offseason free agents Jason Heyward or Justin Upton? Search whatever names you want, the point here is that there will be ways to add some pop to the Phillies batting order, and the outlook for the future is not as bleak as some believe.

There is still a very good chance that Hamels is moved by the trade deadline, and if they can get a “can’t miss” every day prospect in the next few days, it might make sense to make the change.

But the bolder and more prudent road might be to hold on to their sure thing, get their house in order at season’s end, and then go about spending their money and using their new eyes to put a team together that an go to next year’s spring training together that can arrive at spring training with a manager, a front office an ownership that does not head north with the embarrassing expectations to finish last.