There has been much discussion about upgrading the Boston Red Sox rotation as a way to fix the team and, hopefully (really?), head towards a playoff berth, in the midst of a disastrous season. The 2015 Red Sox are not good, can we all agree on that? The offense has been shoddy and on-again-off-again. The pitching has been lackluster, to say the best. In comes the discussion of a trade possibility for Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies.
As someone who follows the Red Sox closely, I’ll make it clear from the get go, I say no to this idea. Honestly, I think it would be stupid, downright dumb, to make this move.
First of all, maybe we need to recognize the fact that the 2015 version of the Sox aren’t going to contend for the playoffs. At all. Is that clear?
We sit six-and-a-half games out of first in a weak and dilapidated American League East division at the All-Star break, which is good enough for fifth place. Contending for a spot in this division seems futile and worthless at this point. Particularly with a team that has spent gobs of money on a third baseman who’s quickly becoming past his prime and a left fielder who has barely a clue how to play fly balls off of the Green Monster.
So, the rumors that keep flying are for the Sox to trade with the Philadelphia Phillies for Cole Hamels to upgrade their rotation in an effort to make a playoff push. The problem herein lies with what the Phillies would likely expect in return.
The package I would imagine the Phillies accepting for Hamels would most likely include Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart, and some pitcher from the Sox minor league system. To that, I say, “Hell No!!!!” Let us remember that the Phillies were scouting Swihart back in Spring Training. Plus the fact that they like Betts, as well. Who wouldn’t? Betts is awesome, if not underappreciated.
Back to the point, I don’t want to empty the farm system, or the major league team, for the services of Hamels. So, if I’m in Ben Cherington’s spot, what do I see in this situation and how do I deal with it?
First of all, I see a Cole Hamels who appears to be struggling. In the National League; a place where pitchers should thrive (no offense to Jon Lester).
Speaking of Jon Lester, I see a pitcher with almost the same contractual obligation, dollar-wise, but with almost no more upside (hmmm, maybe Cherington should’ve offered him a more lucrative deal to stay in Boston?!?).
Hamels, by the way, currently owns a 5-7 record, with a 3.63 ERA. Doesn’t sound too bad. Yet, his FIP sits at 3.40, which is a positive indicator, as well as his 3.32 K:BB ratio, but not necessarily his 1.217 WHIP (a bit high, in my humble opion). Another negative, the fact that he’s only gone eight innings three times this season, all in a stretch from May 18th to the 29th.
Another negative is the fact that Hamles is already 31 years old. He is under contractual control until 2018 (with 2019 being an option year — an option he would most certainly want exercised in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause), but his $23.5 million would only, basically, equal Lester’s payout from the Chicago Cubs and be heavily weighted towards the end of his career, with a clear decline in line as he gets older.
So, okay, he would be under contract for the next three, maybe four, years, if the Sox traded for him. Yet, regardless of contractual control, I still think it would be a dumb move to trade for Hamels. This spray chart against right-handed hitters doesn’t bode well for Hamels, particularly in Fenway.
So let us examine why that would be a dumb move, shall we? With Lester as a rare exception, left-handed pitchers don’t fare well, in general, at Fenway Park. Hamels currently owns a 12.5% HR/FB ratio, which would certainly only increase at Fenway, as left-handed pitchers tend to give it up to the Monster. Felix Doubront is a very good example of this. Even when Hamels exhibits a high strikeout rate, (9.49 K/9), his 12.5% HR/FB ranks 15th in the NL. Even more importantly, it ranks 13th in the NL with 100 innings pitched (IP) as a minimum. He’s 9th in the NL in BB/9 at 2.85. Not horrible numbers, but, some of the names better than him on that list are Jimmy Nelson, Mike Fiers, James Shields, Jon Lester (no way?!?), and Alex Wood. As far as the homer-to-fly ball ratio goes, Lester is clearly superior at 10.8%.
Honestly, instead of emptying out the farm system – or even the rookie-level guys at the major league level – I think it would be an egregiously short-sighted move to trade for Cole Hamels on the part of the Red Sox. I would contend that the best move would be to keep developing pitching from within, rather than wasting a bunch of good prospects on a pitcher who is clearly on the downside of his career. However, the Red Sox organization is one that is sometimes forced to make irrational decisions in an effort to win now. With the Fenway faithful breathing down their necks, Ben Cherington and his front office may feel an impetus to make a deal. To do so would be a massive mistake, the type of mistake that has left the Red Sox with such a dearth of talent in the starting rotation in the first place.