Phillies Trade Rumors: Cole Hamels Extension Would Mean Hunter Pence Is Toast
In the midst of what is one of the most disappointing scenarios possible in Philadelphia, the Phillies find themselves 14 games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East and may very well find themselves as sellers towards the end of this month if they can't find a way to close the gap—quickly.
Part of what makes this season so surprising is that the always consistent starting rotation has struggled, with Cliff Lee only recently earning his first win of the season and Roy Halladay still not yet back from injury.
Cole Hamels, on the other hand, has taken advantage of his contract-year status and is pitching like a guy looking for a big payday. In 17 starts in the first half of the season, the All-Star posted a 10-4 record with an ERA down around 3.00.
The team's place in the bottom of the standings might indicate that it would want to sell as high as possible on Hamels in order to build up the farm system with some top prospects. But while there have been no shortage of rumors regarding potential destinations for him, the team's push to put together a lucrative contract extension also makes plenty of sense.
By all accounts, the 28-year-old lefty would require a contract similar to the $128 million deal that Matt Cain signed with the San Francisco Giants earlier this year. With more than $68 million already committed to the rotation in 2012, it'd be hard to believe there is any room to open the wallet further, but Joe Blanton's departure would free up $10.5 million.
The Phillies outfield could have a new look next year as well. With Shane Victorino underperforming in the final year of his three-year, $22 million deal, the team could find itself able to re-sign him to a shorter deal at a reduced price compared to the $9.5 million he's making this season. Although, the Phillies could still opt to ship him out this July if they find someone willing to part with the right package.
Another outfielder who could be the odd man out if this push for Hamels works out is Hunter Pence, who is already making more than $10 million as he plays in his arbitration years.
His batting average and power numbers have come down a bit from last year, but he's still on pace for close to a 30-home run, 100-RBI season. And he could bring in around $15 million next year before hitting the open market—something the Phillies may be turned off by if they hand Hamels a $100-plus million payday.
Pence's value on the trade market may be somewhat up in the air this summer, as there are a number of outfielders—like B.J. Upton, Delmon Young, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera and Josh Hamilton—set to hit free agency after the season, meaning teams could opt to hold on to their prospects and fill their gaps in the offseason.
Pence does have a young age and plenty of talent on his side, however. He should be good enough to yield solid prospects in return if the Phillies to opt to part ways prior to the trade deadline.
Moves in any direction shouldn't be expected too soon. Despite rumors that the team would be selling soon, it may wait until right before the deadline to determine where it stands in terms of possible contract extensions and whether or not it will truly be sellers.
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