All the top-tier starting pitchers are off the market now with James Shields inking a fpur-year deal with the San Diego Padres last week. Teams will now look to the trade market for upgrades to their roster. One name that is still out there, as he was all winter, is Philadelphia Phillies‘ Cole Hamels.
Could the Cubs make a splash and acquire Hamels? It’s not likely, but definitely not out of the question. The Cubs have shown interest in Hamels for a while now. If you don’t recall, the Cubs claimed Hamels in August on waivers. The Cubs were prepared to take on all of the $96 million left on Hamels contract. But the Phillies decided to pull Hamels back and keep him. Now, five months later, Hamels is still a Phillie and still in the trade rumors.
Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro says eight teams have ‘kicked the tires’ on Hamels and four teams made ‘real’ offers. One team that made a offer for Hamels was the Boston Red Sox; however, the offer was Major League player-heavy and not what the Phillies are looking for. The Phillies are looking for a prospect-heavy package. Even though Amaro keeps talking Hamels and there is real interest in his services, Amaro said he expects Hamels to be a Phillie when camp kicks off.
The Cubs have the top farm system, per many media outlets and the Phillies are looking for a top prospect package, so could the Cubs surprise the nation and acquire Hamels? Since Theo Epstein and company has taken over the Cubs front office, the Cubs have not traded top prospects or many for that matter. The Cubs are very deep in their system and can spare prospects for a top of the line pitcher.
Who would the Cubs be getting? Hamels is a 31-year-old left-handed pitcher. In his career, he is 108-83 with a 3.27 earned run average. Last season, Hamels went 9-9 with a 2.46 ERA and gave up 176 hits, 14 homes runs, 59 walks while striking out 198 in 204.2 innings.
Amaro says the team willing to acquire him will have to take on the rest of Hamels’ contract. As we already know, the Cubs have been willing to do this in the past and most likely will still be willing to do so (barring any off-setting contracts). Hamels remanining contract looks like this: $22.5 million in 2015, $22.5 million in 2016, $22.5 million in 2017, $22.5 million in 2018 and a $20 million club option in 2019 with a $6 million buyout.
Hamels also has a limited no-trade cause. Hamels can block trades to 20 teams each year. The Cubs were not on Hamels no-trade list in 2014 and are not on the list in 2015 either, per Cots Baseball Contracts.
The Cubs have the players to make a deal, but will they? Not all prospects work out and are gambles. The Cubs have to be willing to trade their prospects at some time and the time seems right. Hamels is the guy to go all in for. The Cubs pitching in the minors is starting to depth itself up, but the players are years away or back-end starters – aimed for the bullpen.
The Cubs are said to be tapped out on money, but I don’t think so. The Cubs reportedly offered $20 million a year to Shields (three years at $60 million with a vesting option).
The Cubs have five prospects that I would label as untouchable in any trade for Hamels and they are . . .
1) OF Jorge Soler: We saw Soler last season and he sure does look like the real deal. Has great power, good defender and has a cannon of an arm. Soler is the future RF for the Cubs and he will start the season for the big league club, roaming Sammy Sosa‘s former position.
2) 3B Kris Bryant: Bryant is the player all Cubs fans cannot wait to see at Wrigley. He is the Cubs best prospect and a future All-Star. Bryant likely will start the season in Triple-A, but be called up soon after.
3) SS Addison Russell: The Cubs acquired Russell in the July 4th trade last season and the move looks better each and everyday. Russell could be a future All-Star as well, and can play all over the infield. Russell is the Cubs second best prospect.
4) C Kyle Schwarber: I don’t think Schwarber will stick at catcher or ever be a good defender. But I do think his bat will make him overplay his defense and he will be able to last in the outfield. Schwarber was the Cubs first round pick last year and one of the best hitters in the Cubs minor leagues.
5) LHP Jen-Ho Tseng: I know many are you are saying right now, seriously Tseng? But I think Tseng is a stud on the making. Yes, Tseng is very young and still years away. However, every league he has been in, Tseng has put up great stats and climbing up the minors.
Now that the Cubs have put “off-limits” on their untouchables, the Cubs and Phillies could work on a trade knowing which players are available in talks.
The Cubs will most likely have to send a starting pitcher to the Phillies. But which one? The Phillies could pick one of C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson and Duane Underwood. All three pitchers will make the Major Leagues at some point if they stay healthy. But with any pitcher, that can happen at any time from now to retirement.
The Phillies need an outfielder and can take one of Albert Almora or Brian McKinney. Both players are Major League type players, but McKinney is more prepared and ready compared to Almora.
Javier Baez is not a prospect anymore, but I would include him in a trade for Hamels. I’ll explain further down. The Phillies also need a catcher and the Cubs have a catcher named Welington Castillo that has no spot on the roster.
With all that said, what offer would I propose to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro?
Why would the Phillies do it?
*Edwards is the Cubs top pitching prospect and if he can stay healthy, he can be a top of the line pitcher. It’s time for the Phillies to get younger and to start building a starting rotation in the minors. That all starts with Edwards’ name. Billy McKinney is a player the Cubs got from Oakland and expected to be a promising player in the majors. The Phillies’ outfield looks old and weak, McKinney brings young to the team to go along with Domonic Brown.
*Baez is not a prospect anymore but at only 22 year of age, he has a lot of potential. Yes, the Phillies may be concerned about Baez’s strikeouts (per Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com) but if it all comes together, Baez is a future All-Star with 40 plus home run per season potential. The Phillies are looking for a catcher and Castillo has no where to play in Chicago, so he makes all the sense in the world for the Phillies. MLB.com reported the Phillies are looking for a SS and a catcher (hence Baez and Castillo).
Why would the Cubs do it?
*The Cubs need another starter to their rotation and Hamels would look great in Cubbie blue. Hamels will be inserted into the starting rotation behind Jon Lester as the two or three, depending on where Jake Arrieta is placed. Hamels would make the Cubs a potential playoff team and World Series contender.
*The Cubs bullpen is short with left-handed pitchers and Hollands would add depth to their weakness. The Cubs don’t know what Tsuyoshi Wada or Felix Doubront will do in their second year pitching with the Cubs. Like all teams will say, depth never hurts a team. Depth just benefits a team.
*The Cubs acquired C.J. Edwards from the Texas Rangers a few years ago in the Matt Garza trade. Edwards was labeled as the ‘prize’ player in the deal. But Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez have something to say about that. Edwards has an injury history and the Cubs depth in starting pitching prospects is starting to grow, so losing Edwards wouldn’t be a big deal and a player willing to lose.
*Brian McKinney has a bright future in the majors but for a team to acquire a good player, they have to give up potential in return. The Cubs have many outfielders in their minors so a McKinney loss would not hurt too badly. Almora has dipped a little bit in the past season, but I’m still an Almora fan. In the last case scenario, Almora can be a great fourth outfielder. Almora is the best defender in the Cubs minors, per Baseball America. I expect Schwarber to move to the outfield at some point and available space is not there so much.
*Baez was the Cubs top prospect at one point and I still have a lot of faith in him. However, the Cubs would be fine if they were to trade him. Out of the Cubs top prospects, he’s the guy I would trade the most. A Baez trade would not hurt the Cubs so much. Russell can come up as a second baseman and until he’s ready, Arismendy Alcantra can take over second base or Tommy la Stella (who they acquired from the Atlanta Braves). Kris Bryant can stay at third base and not move to the outfield. Bryant has said he would like to stay at the hot corner and he has the best arm as an infielder in the Cubs system, per Baseball America.
*The Cubs acquired Miguel Montero from the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Winter Meetings and signed Davis Ross a couple weeks after. Castillo needs to go and the Phillies want a catcher. Match made in heaven!
Even if the trade went down, the Cubs will still have a top farm system and still have a great upcoming team.
Thoughts on the trade proposal, Cubs and Phillies fans? Would you guys do it and do you think the trade is possible and makes sense for both teams?