Best Potential Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels

Jason CataniaMLB Lead WriterDecember 10, 2013

Best Potential Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels

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    The Phillies are adding Cliff Lee (pictured) and Cole Hamels to the mix of top starters available this winter.
    The Phillies are adding Cliff Lee (pictured) and Cole Hamels to the mix of top starters available this winter.Chris Gardner/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Phillies rebuild, it would appear, is on.

    Following a lengthy stretch of success during which they won five straight National League East division crowns and the 2008 World Series title, the Phillies have stumbled the past two seasons, falling to .500 in 2012 and 73-89 last year—their worst mark since 2000.

    With many of their key core players from that period now well into their 30s, like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, or dealing with injury issues, like Ryan Howard, the Phillies are a franchise that, in the past year, has gone from teetering on the brink of needing a rebuild to becoming unquestionably desperate for one.

    And so general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is looking to cash in his trade chips.

    Just a few days after reminding everyone that highly paid closer Jonathan Papelbon remains available, the Phillies have made it known that they they are also ready and willing to talk about trading one—or both—of their ace left-handers, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.

    There's reason to wonder whether this approach will stick, though, seeing as how Amaro told Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, "Our goal is to add, not to subtract." There's also the fact that Philadelphia re-signed catcher Carlos Ruiz and brought in outfielder Marlon Byrd already this offseason.

    At the same time, though, there are reports that indicate even young outfielder Domonic Brown might be on the block, as Zolecki noted. While Papelbon doesn't have much trade value at all—$26 million guaranteed through 2015 for a one-inning pitcher will do that—Lee and Hamels fall on the other end of the spectrum.

    As two legitimate No. 1 starters who have continued to perform at or near that level for the past several seasons, either of the two southpaws should be able to net Philadelphia the kind of return the team needs. Should Amaro Jr. decide, once and for all, to go that route.

    Speaking of needs, the Phillies could use a few things.

    Like an impact infielder at either shortstop or third base, where Rollins is getting old and 2013 rookie Cody Asche remains unproven.

    Or an upgrade in the outfield, particularly in center, where Ben Revere is more of a fringy starter who could fit better as a backup.

    Or bullpen arms with upside to help address the late innings, whether Papelbon stays around as the closer or not.

    Or rotation depth, as Lee, Hamels and righty Kyle Kendrick are the only locks for the 2014 five-man at the moment.

    Most of all, though, Philadelphia needs youth, depth and cheaper contracts, especially since so much money is tied up in Howard, Papelbon, Lee and Hamels, among others.

    That's one of the factors to consider in valuing Lee and Hamels on the trade market. For Lee, we're talking about a 35-year-old who is guaranteed $62.5 million through 2015, along with a $27.5 million club option for 2016. Hamels, meanwhile, is a soon-to-be 30-year-old with at least $118.5 million coming his way through 2018, plus a $20 million club option for 2019. In other words, any inquiring team likely will be a contender that can fit an extra $22-25 million into its budget for the next few years.

    While those prices might seem a bit overwhelming, both Lee and Hamels still would be highly sought after given their sustained production and durability. For teams who have been honing in on other top starters who are rumored trade targets, like David Price, Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija, as well as free agents like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Matt Garza, the chance to land a Lee or a Hamels adds a couple more names to a growing list of appealing arms.

    Here, then, is a rundown of the teams that could match up well with the Phillies in a trade for one of their two front-liners.

New York Yankees

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    Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner
    Yankees outfielder Brett GardnerRich Schultz/Getty Images

    The Proposal

    OF Brett Gardner, C Gary Sanchez and LHP Manny Banuelos for Lee

     

    Why It Could Work for the Phillies

    Gardner, who's on the block, would give them the leadoff hitter they lack, but since he's only under team control through 2014, the Phillies would need to land a couple of big-name prospects with upside. Sanchez is the Yankees' No. 1 name on that front, and he could become his new club's catcher of the future (if he can stick behind the dish).

    Banuelos, meanwhile, spent all of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the left-hander was thought to have front-of-the-rotation stuff prior to that injury. Both youngsters could be ready to help the big club by 2015, and if things go south next year, Philly could still swap Gardner for another chip in July.

     

    Why It Could Work for the Yankees

    Maybe you've heard that the Yanks need some pitching. Despite bringing in three big bats in Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, on the pitching side, New York has only re-signed Hiroki Kuroda to team with CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova in the starting rotation.

    Lee, whom the Yankees have long coveted and nearly traded for in 2009, would give them another ace-caliber lefty and prevent a retooled offensive club from starting next year with a thin rotation. This move, though, likely would put an end to the goal of staying under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Jays righty Drew Hutchison
    Jays righty Drew HutchisonAbelimages/Getty Images

    The Proposal

    OF Anthony Gose, RHPs Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez for Hamels

     

    Why It Could Work for the Phillies

    All three of Gose, Hutchison and Sanchez are 23 or younger with several years of team control left. That's exactly the kind of package Amaro Jr. should be trying to pry away from a team that is on the prowl for pitching like Toronto, as Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reports.

    Gose, a former Phillies second-rounder who was traded for Roy Oswalt, is a flawed player, but he makes for an intriguing gamble. Like Gose, Hutchison could help Philly in 2014 given that he has big-league experience, although he missed most of last year after Tommy John surgery. Sanchez, a hard-throwing righty with a plus breaking ball, is arguably Toronto's top prospect and ready for Double-A as a 21-year-old.

     

    Why It Could Work for the Blue Jays

    While they may be wary of pulling the trigger on another big prospects-for-ace-starter swap after last winter's acquisition of former NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, the Jays are still a talented club. What they lack, though, is a No. 1-type starter—Dickey's more of a No. 2 or 3—and Hamels would be that guy if they could squeeze him into their budget.

    Provided the team can stay healthier than it did a year ago, such a move would put Toronto in the contenders class in the AL East again.

Texas Rangers

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    Rangers righty Neftali Feliz
    Rangers righty Neftali FelizBob Levey/Getty Images

    The Proposal

    SS Luis Sardinas and RHPs Neftali Feliz and Luke Jackson for Lee

     

    Why It Could Work for the Phillies

    Having recovered from Tommy John surgery in time to make it back late last season, Feliz is likely the only familiar name here, and he represents an opportunity to land a young, electric arm that Philly could use either in the bullpen or rotation.

    As for the two prospects, Sardinas is a switch-hitting, contact-making, skilled defensive shortstop with speed who has made it to Double-A at the tender age of 20. He would automatically become Rollins' successor. Jackson, 22, also reached Double-A in 2013, owns a power fastball and projects as a mid-rotation starter.

    The other option the Phillies could try for with Texas? Lefty Martin Perez, who recently signed a team-friendly long-term extension, but that would likely be the main return.

     

    Why It Could Work for the Rangers

    The whole Lee-on-the-Rangers thing worked rather well once before, right? And while Texas may be on the lookout for a bat like Shin-Soo Choo or Nelson Cruz, as T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com notes, adding Lee to a five-man that already includes ace Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Perez would make for a scary bunch of pitching. Plus, Texas certainly has the middle-infield depth to part with Sardinas.

    Because of his age and hefty salary, the Rangers likely wouldn't have to give up as much for Lee, who they know can succeed in Arlington, as they would for Price, whom they've also been linked to.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Angels slugger Mark Trumbo
    Angels slugger Mark TrumboOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    UPDATE: Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 6:32 p.m. ET by Tyler Ruby

    The Angels reportedly have traded Trumbo to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team deal, according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The Halos are getting back two young left-handers in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, so their need for Lee would appear to be mitigated at this point.

    ---End of update---

     

    The Proposal

    1B/OF Mark Trumbo and RHP Garrett Richards for Lee

     

    Why It Could Work for the Phillies

    Trumbo has his problems, making contact and getting on base chief among them, but he's the kind of power bat Amaro Jr. likes and could fit in the outfield—and perhaps handle first base for the lefty-swinging Howard when Philly faces a southpaw.

    Richards, 25, is a former first-rounder who tasted his first real success in the bigs over the second half of 2013, when he posted a 3.59 ERA as a full-time member of the rotation. Both players would contribute to Philly right away.

     

    Why It Could Work for the Angels

    There's been plenty of speculation around Trumbo's availability, per Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, and the Angels are aware that he may be their best chip to upgrade a meager rotation. While the club might hesitate to give up Richards, too, it would make sense for a team with contender envy to get the big-time immediate upgrade to Lee.

    Besides, Lee is expensive, but only for another two years, unlike his rotation mate. Owner Arte Moreno may balk at throwing another monster contract like Hamels' onto an already oversized payroll after the ones for Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton worked out so poorly.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Dodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson
    Dodgers outfield prospect Joc PedersonBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    The Proposal

    OF Joc Pederson and RHP Zach Lee for Hamels

     

    Why It Could Work for the Phillies

    Pederson and Lee are two of the Dodgers' best prospects, and both are in line to make their major-league debuts at some point in 2014.

    Pederson, 21, smacked 22 homers and stole 31 bases while playing center field in Double-A last year, but he may be available given the deep Dodgers outfield. The 22-year-old Lee, L.A.'s top pick in 2010, has a solid repertoire that should make him a quality No. 3 or 4 starter in short order after he sported a 3.22 ERA in 142.2 innings in Double-A.

     

    Why It Could Work for the Dodgers

    That's a lot for the Dodgers to surrender, but they're already in win-now mode, so why not? While Hamels' contract could be a burden for some clubs to carry in a couple of years, the Dodgers wouldn't blink at it. And although they are expected to lock up two-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Hamels would be insurance in case that doesn't happen.

    And in the meantime, just imagine a rotation that consists of three lefties like Hamels, Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, as well as righties Zack Greinke and the recently signed Dan Haren. Yikes.