Cole Hamels has an enormous contract and a pedigree of excellence that makes him attractive to any major league team looking for that ace to push them to a World Series title. The 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP is 114-90 with a 3.30 ERA (ERA+ 124) and is heading for his eighth straight season of at least 30 starts. He is an ace, a #1, or any other term you want to use for a rotation anchor. When the Phillies signed him to a 6-year, $144-million (with an option for 2019) contract in 2012, they were coming off a run of five straight seasons in the playoff. They had just inked Jonathan Papelbon to a long-term deal he wouldn’t get in Boston, and more playoff runs seemed like they were in the offing.
As any even casual baseball fans know, the Phillies have morphed into a middle of the pack team the last few seasons. In 2012 they stumbled to an 81-81 finish, followed it up with two 73 win seasons and at 38-63 will be even worse this season (though they have improbably won nine of ten coming out of the All-Star break). They have gone through two managers, Charlie Manuel and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, and can only be said to be in rebuilding mode right now. Young stars-to-be like 22-year olds Aaron Nola (2014 7th overall pick, 3.29 in his first two major league starts) and Maikel Franco (.280/.338/.488 with 11 homers in 64 games) should be the focus of any coverage of the Phillies, but attention is primarily focused on “when will Hamels be traded?”.
Since Hamels is still owed a minimum of $76.5 million after this season, this attention is deserved due to that aforementioned excellence. Due to a rule designed to protect veterans like Hamels, Phillie fans will no longer have to go through the trade deadline wondering if Hamels will be traded after this season. If Hamels is not traded this week (or in August if a team tries to get him through waivers, which is possible due to that enormous contract) he will start next season with nine years and 143 days of service time. Once he accumulates 29 more days of service time (172 days of time is considered a year) next season, he will pass the threshold under which he has 10 years service time and five with the same team. This means he cannot be traded anywhere without his consent. This would give Hamels even more power to decide where he goes than the 20 teams he can currently veto, though that can always be negotiated away if a veto list team picks up his 2019 option now.
This is not to say that Hamels won’t be traded if he stays put again this year when July 31 (the deadline) has come and gone. The Phillies could hold out for a better deal this winter, though they know that deadline is approaching which could swing the leverage to the other teams in the offseason who know the Phillies have to get something done before all trades can be vetoed. It is even possible that if he gets traded, he could be a candidate for trade again next season if his new team falls on hard times. Mark Teixeira was twice traded at the deadline before he signed with the Yankees (with whom he now has the coveted 10/5 rights), so star players can sometimes be moved multiple times at the deadline.
Given these restrictions, this should be Hamels last trade deadline in Philadelphia, but given Ruben Amaro Jr.’s demands that teams give them prime prospects in addition to picking up Hamels huge salary, it is possible he stays there. He just threw a no-hitter, so maybe Amaro Jr. will not want that to be his Philadelphia swan song. A contract like Hamels will always be in discussion at the deadline in terms of trade, Phillie fans are certainly hoping this is the last time it happens when he is with their team.