The Philadelphia Phillies find themselves in a tough position after a slow start. They currently sit in the NL East basement, leading General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to say he might have to consider selling at the trade deadline.
Even though the Phillies aren't happy about their poor play after winning five straight division titles, it's way too early to make selling an option. That's especially true when you consider one of the names being floated around is starting pitcher Cole Hamels.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the Toronto Blue Jays have already contacted the Phillies in hopes of landing Hamels, who will be a free agent at season's end. He states that no deal is imminent, but that talks have taken place.
While losing Hamels without getting anything other than a compensation pick for him is obviously a major concern, waiting until his contract year makes things extremely difficult on Amaro. Since the ace can enter free agency after the year, his open-market value is well below his actual value.
Hamels finished last season with a career-low 2.79 ERA, which ranked sixth in the National League. He's shown even further improvement in 2012. He sports a 2.45 ERA and the peripheral numbers suggest it's sustainable, mostly due to improved strikeout and walk rates.
Trading a superstar like him so early in the season—or at any point, really—would be a sign of surrender for the Phillies. While they envisioned a better start, no team has been able to run away with the division early, leaving Philadelphia just 5.5 games back despite playing well below expectations.
Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are both working their way back from injury and would provide a gigantic boost to a lineup that's been been wildly inconsistent so far. If they can stay healthy, there's no reason the Phillies can't go on an extended hot streak.
They will need Hamels to make that possible, though. The drop-off from him to his replacement would be enormous, because the Blue Jays—or another team that steps up—probably wouldn't be looking to deal any of their top-notch pitchers to get Hamels. They are looking for a deadline-year bargain.
So even though there are some obvious risks involved, the Phillies should keep Hamels. Getting him to re-sign would be the ideal scenario, but at the very least he will help them stay in contention and should give Philadelphia a hometown edge if he does enter free agency.
That's likely better than any package teams would offer for him before the deadline. Ultimately, he's worth more than the Phillies could get right now.