Phillies Could, and Should, Reunite with Rangers’ Cole Hamels

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On May 12, 2006, fresh-faced Philadelphia Phillies prospect Cole Hamels, a left-handed starting pitcher from San Diego, made his MLB debut in an 8-4 Phillies win against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Hamels did not record one of his nine wins during his 2006 rookie season, but showed the immense promise the rest of his career has played out, going five innings, allowing just a single hit with zero earned runs, and striking out seven.

It was just the start in a memorable Hamels-Phillies relationship that ended when Philly shipped Hamels to the Texas Rangers in 2015, but not before the man they call “Hollywood” earned National League Championship Series and World Series Most Valuable Player honors in 2008, appeared on the NL All-Star Game three times, and threw a no-hitter for the Phils.

Hamels is one of the most beloved pitchers in Phillies franchise history, but since the midway point of 2015, fans at Citizens Bank Park have been deprived of the four-time top-ten finisher in NL Cy Young Award voting. Until, perhaps, the midway point of the 2018 campaign.

According to this tweet from MLB Network‘s J.P. Morosi, a Cole Hamels trade is possible not only this season, but as soon as before the July 13-18 Major League Baseball All-Star break. The Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, and other teams in dire need of starting pitching help have inquired on the 34-year-old southpaw, but for the baseball romantic, no club makes more sense for Hamels than the one that started it all: the Phillies.

When the Rangers nabbed Hamels from Philly on July 31, 2015 — in exchange for Jorge AlfaroAlec AsherJerad EickhoffMatt HarrisonJake Thompson, and Nick Williams — the move was seen as the trade that would send the Phillies’ ongoing rebuild into full spin cycle. Now, as the team is ready to contend (currently in the second Wild Card spot in the NL), bringing Hamels back would be a perfect way to go full circle.

Other than the sentimental value of a Hamels-Phillies reunion, it’s a great idea for the two clubs involved. The Rangers need to blow things up and initiate a long overdue rebuild, and in order to kick things off, grabbing young prospects in exchange for veterans that are useless to the team’s present plans is imperative. Philadelphia has already expressed interest in Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, so maybe the future could be tied into the deal.

The Phillies, however, need that veteran presence and calm, steady companionship of Hamels if they have any shot this year. Philly can afford it, and they have the prospects to make a potential swap work. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranks three Phillies prospects as three of the 100-best in the majors; right-handed pitchers Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina, and outfielder Adam Haseley. In addition, former number-one overall selection Mickey Moniak — ranked fourth in the Phillies system — could be an attainable asset in a trade.

But why would the Phillies do it? Do they need Cole Hamels enough to necessitate a trade like this? Well, Philadelphia ranks 12th in MLB in team ERA (3.87), behind current non-playoff teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Washington Nationals. They are 13th in opponent’s batting average (.244), ninth in quality starts (44), and 13th in opponent’s OPS (.697).

Long story short, they’re a good pitching team that could potentially win a playoff series, but they need that one guy that can get them over the hill. They need the Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros last season, and that guy would be Cole Hamels.

Their rotation consists of ace Aaron Nola, former Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, and youngsters Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, and Zach Eflin. Cole Hamels, when accounting for the four stats featured in this table, would be a quick fix for their rotation and instantly their third-best starter in 2018.

 ERAWIN/LOSSbWARERA+
Aaron Nola2.4810-24.6161
Jake Arrieta3.545-61.0113
Nick Pivetta4.714-71.485
Vince Velasquez4.695-80.885
Zach Eflin3.026-21.9133
Cole Hamels3.614-62.0125

The Phillies are 43-37 and within striking distance (three games) of the Atlanta Braves for the NL East crown. They are on pace to finish with their first winning record since 2011, when they had superstars like Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Chase Utley. What I’m insinuating here is that the Phils have a chance to do something this year that they haven’t had the opportunity for since the early parts of the decade.

To capitalize on their newfound success, and turn the corner on such, acquiring a veteran fan-favorite like Cole Hamels would do the trick.

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