With the Philadelphia Phillies looking up at the rest of the National League East in the standings, they may make the decision to be sellers at the trade deadline this year. If this is the route they choose to take, then the questions become which players would be willing to move.
One of the players the Phillies may consider dealing this winter is Cole Hamels. He is going to become a free agent after the year, and one agent believes Hamels will be able to get a deal with a higher annual value than CC Sabathia's contract if he hits the open market (via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports).
Buster Olney of ESPN has noted that there are a number of pros and cons to both trading Hamels and to keeping him. Trading away a player of Hamels' caliber would bring back a few elite prospects, but the Phillies would lose almost any chance they had to re-sign him.
There is a way the Phillies could free up some money that they could use to sign Hamels this winter. Joel Sherman of the New York Post has suggested the Phillies could trade Cliff Lee and then choose to build around Hamels.
Lee has $75 million left on his contract for the next three seasons as well as a $27.5 million option with a $12.5 million buyout for the 2016 season. If Lee is dealt, that money could be shifted towards a new contract for Hamels.
There are other benefits of trading Lee. Dealing Lee would allow the Philadelphia Phillies to restock their farm system. The team has a farm system that ranks near the bottom of the MLB, and the prospects acquired in any deal involving Lee would be the type of players who could make an impact in the major leagues sooner rather than later.
What should the Phillies do at the trade deadline this year?
A potential issue arises if the Phillies try to trade Lee. He has a no-trade clause that includes nine teams (via NY Post). This could really limit the teams the Phillies can try to negotiate with, since some big-market clubs that can afford Lee may actually be on the list.
Philadelphia is currently in a situation where they need to get younger. Their average age is 31.5 years old, and they need to focus on keeping their younger players and bringing in new talent.
Trading Lee will allow the Phillies to do this, because they can go all out to offer Hamels the money that he wants. Hamels will be in a position to serve an ace on the Phillies staff for years to come, and he will be a piece to build around.
There is also a chance the Phillies trade Lee and then are unable to sign Hamels. The Los Angeles Dodgers could have Hamels at the top of their list this offseason and may be willing spend whatever it takes to sign him (via Twitter).
Philadelphia should try to sign Hamels to an extension if they deal Lee, because there is a legitimate chance they will lose Hamels if he hits the market. The Phillies would be in a very rough spot if they lost both Lee and Hamels.
Championship teams are ones that are not afraid to take risks. Without risks there are no rewards. If the Phillies want to set themselves up for the future, they should deal Lee and then put all their effort into bringing Hamels back.