Could Baltimore Orioles make a deal for Cole Hamels?

While reading through the always informative yesterday, I came across an interesting tidbit of information. According to George A. King III of the New York Post, the Philadelphia Phillies had scouts in attendance at last weekend’s Baltimore Orioles-New York Yankees series. King goes on to state that many industry insiders see the Orioles as an ideal fit for Phillies’ ace Cole Hamels who is certain to be traded before the July 31 deadline.

The Orioles are seen as an ideal candidate to make a deal for Hamels due to their somewhat suspect starting rotation. Orioles’ starters have posted a 4.21 ERA, good for twentieth in the entire league. That number, of course, is pulled down by the struggling Chris Tillman and Bud Norris, who have combined for a 6.53 ERA this season. Tillman’s command has abandoned him, as he has walked a career-high 4.6 per nine, while Norris is allowing 11.8 hits per nine. Tillman may be turning a corner, however, and has won three starts in a row while limiting hitters to a .227 BAA. Norris, on the other hand, has continued to scuffle since coming off the disabled list.

A recent hot stretch that has seen the Orioles win 11 of 13 games against relatively weak competition has vaulted the team back into contention in the American League East. It was right around this time last year that the Orioles began their surge to the division title, and with no clear favorite in the division, the Orioles may be starting a similar run to the postseason.

With the Tampa Bay Rays return to prominence, fueled by excellent, young arms, and the slugging Toronto Blue Jays to contend with, the Orioles may not be able to pull off a run like last year’s without a trade for a starting pitcher. Furthermore, the Yankees have managed to hang around despite questions in their own rotation and an aging lineup. The Yankees, however, are likely to be hamstrung by the luxury tax in their pursuit to add to their roster at the trade deadline.

The Orioles’ payroll currently sits at approximately $110 million. Looking ahead to next season, the team has only $44 million committed to its 2016 payroll. Do not underestimate the level of flexibility this gives the front office to add a significant portion of Cole Hamels’ guaranteed $83 million over the next three years. The fact that the Orioles have very little money committed to 2016 and beyond could also give them the flexibility to take on one of the Phillies’ unwanted former All-Stars like Ryan Howard or Jonathan Papelbon. When the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the Boston Red Sox, they were also forced to take Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. If that’s the cost of doing business for the Orioles, then so be it.

Other people’s money aside, the only other sticking point in completing a deal for Hamels is the package of prospects that would leave the Orioles’ farm system. The Orioles are heavy on starting pitching talent right now, and could offer the Phillies a substantial cache of young arms. Dylan Bundy has been plagued by various minor ailments since returning from Tommy John surgery, but was drafted by Joe Jordan, now director of player development for the Phillies. That past history could help allay any fears the Phillies have about Bundy’s health. Besides Bundy, the Orioles could very easily offer Hunter Harvey, their 2013 first round pick. Harvey has not pitched yet this season after sustaining a stress fracture in his fibula during spring training, and is now dealing with a flexor mass strain in his throwing elbow. That could be a red flag, but Harvey is expected to be able to pitch later this year. These are the highest upside Orioles’ pitching prospects, but Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson have acquitted themselves well early on in their Major League careers, and could be attractive to the Phillies, although their upside is likely limited to back-of-the-rotation status. Kevin Gausman is another name to keep an eye on as the Orioles continue to establish a role for him on this year’s team.

The Phillies will also likely want a position player prospect to complete a deal. That’s where things get dicey for the Orioles. The Orioles are light on offensive prospects at the moment, having focused on building a stable of arms. Christian Walker and Chance Sisco could possibly be attractive to the Phillies. Walker is nearly Major League ready, and could fill a Ryan Howard-sized hole at first base in the near future. Sisco may also be viewed as expendable by the Orioles considering how well Caleb Joseph fared as the primary starter in Matt Wieters‘ absence. The Orioles could also make a deal similar to the Trea Turner trade, and offer the Phillies Ryan Mountcastle as a player to be named later.

Ultimately, I believe Cole Hamels ends up in the American League East, and all things considered, the Orioles have to like their chances. A deal between Baltimore and Philadelphia hinges on the Phillies’ level of comfort regarding the future health of Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey. This is a deal that Ruben Amaro must nail for his own future job security, and he may be skittish about the health of the Orioles’ two best prospects. Amaro will have plenty of offers on the table, and health may very well be a deciding factor in determining Hamels’ final destination.

The Orioles, however, should not allow that to stop them from pursuing a deal for Hamels. Their window to contend could be slammed shut very quickly, and the future performance of Bundy, Harvey, and any other prospects traded is extremely hard to predict. Dan Duquette and the Orioles’ front office have been very willing to add to the roster with midseason trades over the past three years. A deal for Hamels would be the ultimate trade as the Orioles look to return to the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

9 Responses

  1. Andy

    That’s too much for the O’s to give up if they assume that kind of salary for Hamels and another overpaid Phiily. If they take on all that money they can only part with one good prospect or maybe two B-grade prospects. I could see the O’s trading away the likes of Bud Norris and/or Wei Yin Chin, both of whom will be free agents this winter, in order to clear some space in the rotation for Gausman if they can get something back of more value than a draft pick next year.

    • flyerzfan12

      And that’s exactly why Howard would never be packaged with Hamels (unless the Phillies ate 90% of Howard’s contract). The goal to trading Hamels is to replenish the farm system, not to dump money. I could see Papelbon packaged with him, but again, the Phils would eat money on his contract to make him more attractive and be worth a decent prospect on his own.

      • Donnie B

        I still think Papelbon goes to the Blue Jays… They just need to solve the $$ considerations to make that deal work. Phillies will eat 90% of Howard’s contract wherever he may end up. O’s would be looking good though if that trade was done..

        1) M. Machado (3B)
        2) C. Parmalee (RF)
        3) A. Jones (CF)
        4) C. Davis (1B)
        5) M. Wieters (C)
        6) R. Howard (DH)
        7) JJ Hardy (SS)
        8) S. Pearce / Snider (LF)
        9) J. Schoop / Flaherty (2B)
        P) Hamels / Tillman / Chen / Jimenez / Norris / Gonzalez

      • flyerzfan12

        Love that lineup and love Machado. The Orioles are a very easy team to root for even if you’re not a fan of their squad.

        I think Papelbon would be perfect for Toronto, but I have trouble taking their interest seriously. It’s been rumored they don’t want to spend much money on a closer or give up prospects for one. That won’t land them Papelbon, Clippard, K-Rod, or Uehara then. Eventually (like Ruben), they’ll have to become realistic and realize they’ll have to give up a decent prospect for a closer or continue to lose the winnable close games. As a Phils fan, I’d love to trade them Paps, but I see them eventually going for K-Rod or Clippard.

    • Donnie B

      They wouldn’t be taking on all the salary, the Phillies already said in public to all that they would assume most if not all of Howard’s contract as well as a good portion of Hamels if it resulted in better prospects in return.

      I agree with the writer here that the Orioles window is now, and getting Cole Hamels would make the O’s a clear favorite to win the AL EAST.

      With Norris, Chen, Wieters, Pearce and Chris Davis all being Free Agents next year, they have a window that is closing quickly… Money won’t be a problem.. but will the Orioles have the guts to give up the needed package to get Hamels?

    • Ed L

      If you think Hamels is overpaid, your not smart enough to comment on the matter

      • Gerald Benton

        I believe he ment Papelbon or Howard. He said Hamels and “another” .

  2. Ed L

    Phillies need POSITION players more then anything. Won’t be searching for pitching

    • Donnie B

      They will want a starter to replace Hamels in the rotation. Gausman would be that player the Phillies would want in any package with the Orioles. Christian Walker and Chance Sisco could possibly be the other players involved.


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