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July 21, 2015

Should Phillies lower demands for Cole Hamels? One national writer thinks so

Before the trade deadline, many national baseball writers will spend some words on the Phillies, baseball’s worst team and most obvious sellers. Specifically, they’ll write about Cole Hamels, who appears to be the most impactful starting pitcher on the trading block.

Well, that is unless David Price is made available, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported will likely happen. While Price is both a little less than two years younger and in the same ballpark in terms of pitching as Hamels, the Tigers ace will be a free agent in the offseason. As a rental, he has less value than a player like Hamels who is under team control through at least the 2017 season. 

Like many national writers, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (one of the absolute best) believes the Phillies need to take the best deal they can for their ace at the deadline. Cut their losses, essentially. For comparison’s sake, Rosenthal suggested the Phillies should look back at what the Tigers sent back to the Tampa Bay Rays last year to acquire Price in the first place.

The three players that the Rays received in return for Price were pitcher Drew Smyly (who has mostly been injured this season), infielder Nick Franklin (hitting .139 for the big club), and shortstop Wily Adames (Top-50 prospect currently, per ESPN and Baseball America). That is very likely not the type of haul the Phillies are asking for. Here is part of Rosenthal’s piece:

Alas, the definition of “fair value” has changed. Prospects are in, high-priced pitchers in their early 30s are out – particularly when such pitchers will be readily available this offseason in free agency, where the cost in talent is no more than a draft pick.

Maybe some team will jump and overpay for Hamels, though it seems unlikely when pitchers such as Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir and perhaps Price also are available in trade -- and when teams turned to other options last offseason rather than meet the Phillies’ price.

Yes, the Phillies could keep Hamels, but his value only will diminish. Making matters even more urgent, the uncertainty of the situation finally might be getting to Hamels, as evidenced by his poor showings in his two most recent starts. He wants to play for a winner, and remaining stuck in purgatory in Philadelphia is not going to improve his outlook.

The Cole Hamels discussion is fascinating from many angles, but here is one question that I personally feel most trade analysis doesn’t ask enough: We all know it’s a risk for the Phillies to hold onto Hamels, but what type of risk is a contender taking by not upgrading their playoff rotation?

The deadline is in ten days, and the Hamels talk is only growing stronger.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann