MLB Trade Deadline: Why the Philadelphia Phillies Should Trade Cole Hamels

Chris Hummer@chris_hummerAnalyst IJune 13, 2012

MLB Trade Deadline: Why the Philadelphia Phillies Should Trade Cole Hamels

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    The Philadelphia Phillies are in last place in the NL East and aren't likely to re-sign Cole Hamels this offseason. So, why not trade him at the deadline?

    Hamels has been an integral piece in the Phillies' success over the past few seasons, and was the breakout star of their World Series run in 2008.

    But Hamels will be seeking a huge contract this offseason, on par with or greater than the seven figure deals of his teammates Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.

    The Phillies already sport the second-highest payroll in the MLB at $174 million for 2012, and will not be able to add another $20 million to the books in 2013 for Hamels. So why not just deal him at the deadline and get some top flight prospects in return?

    Here are four reasons why dealing Hamels at the trade deadline is the best move Philadelphia in the long run.

The Phillies Are Already Too Far Back in the Divison Race to Claim the NL East

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    Entering Wednesday, the Phillies are 9.5 back of the Washington Nationals. To make matters worse, they occupy the cellar of the division.

    This means that not only will they have to go through the Nationals to win the NL East, but also talented teams like the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves.

    Phillies fans have been eagerly awaiting the return of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. But neither player is near 100 percent, and aren't expected to rejoin the club until July.

    To make matters worse for Philadelphia, the team's ace, Halladay, is not expected to return until late July.

    So in summary, the Phillies are 9.5 games back in the division. They are missing their two best offensive players for another three weeks, and their Cy Young award winner is out until after the All-Star break.

    Doesn't sound like a great recipe for making a playoff run, does it?

    Philadelphia shouldn't hold onto past success as a reason to think they can turn this slow start around. The Phillies are an aging team, and they should look to the future instead of the past as they approach the trade deadline.

The Phillies Can't Afford to Resign Hamels This Offseason

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    If Hamels hits the open market this winter, he will be looking for a $20 million a year deal over at least six years. Talented as he is, he will get it too.

    The Phillies' contract talks with Hamels' agent have stalled, and he is almost guaranteed to reach free agency this offseason.

    When he does, the Phillies will have a hard time matching long-term offers for Hamels' services, because they already have the second-highest 2012 payroll in baseball at $174 million.

    To make matters worse for the team, $127 million of that is already on the books for 2013. For a team that is looking to slash their payroll moving forward, they would have a tough time adding Hamels' potential $20 million a year deal to that total.

    Even if they did manage to pony out the cash for their left-handed World Series MVP, he would be the fourth player on their roster with a $20 million per-year contract. This means they would have $80 million tied up in only four players through 2014, which isn't exactly a smart business plan.

    When Hamels hits the open market, there will be 29 other teams looking to add the stellar lefty to their roster. Teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals both need an extra stud arm to polish out their rotations.

    The Phillies need Hamels for this role too. Only difference is that both of those teams have the money available to entice him with a mega deal that Philadelphia couldn't match.

    So, why not look to trade him now to one of those teams, and get something in return?

They Have the Pitching Depth Behind Him to Offset the Loss of Hamels

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    Whenever a team loses an All-Star it’s a big blow to the roster. Fortunately for the Phillies, they have the pitching depth available to ease the loss of Hamels.

    Actually, Philadelphia would only be losing their third-best starter if they decided to shop Hamels. Lee and Halladay would both still be at the top of the rotation, and would be there through at least 2014.

    Looking solely at the short term, even with the loss of Hamels they would still have one of the better rotations in baseball for the rest of the season.

    Lee and Halladay would anchor any rotation and Joe Blanton and Vance Worley are both solid third and fourth options.

    The Phillies also have a ready-made replacement for Hamels in Kyle Kendrick—the team's former No. 1 prospect. Kendrick is adequately filling in for the injured Halladay at the moment, and could do the same in Hamels spot when Halladay returns.

    The starting staff might not be as dominant without Hamels in the middle of it, but it would still be formidable.  

    And if the team did somehow find a way to get hot, that rotation would still be good enough to carry the team in the push for a wild-card berth.

The Phillies' Farm System Needs the Injection of Talent That Hamels Would Bring

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    Thanks to a number of trades over the past few seasons, the upper level of the Phillies’ farm system has been wiped clean of top-level talent.

    The Phillies' system is ranked as the 25th best in baseball according to ESPN's Keith Law, and is lacking the top-end talent needed to ensure long-term success. Philadelphia has only one player on Law's top 100 prospect list, 22-year-old pitcher Trevor May (No. 76), and the Phillies really need to make a substantial effort to bolster their system.

    The quickest way to do so would be to deal their current assets at the major league level for other team's top-rated prospects. And Hamels is about as an attractive as an option to other franchises as it gets.

    He is a young superstar that could help a team make a playoff push right away. Plus, if the team has the money, they could sign him to a long-term deal moving forward.

    Teams like the New York Yankees and the Dodgers, who will both be looking to add a starter at the deadline to bolster their playoff push, have the top-flight prospects to potentially swing a deal for Hamels. 

    However, the Cardinals could be the most interesting trade destination for Hamels. They have the fourth-rated farm system in baseball according to Law, and would be able to put together a package of three or four top 100 prospects to pry away Hamels from the Phillies. St. Louis also has the financial flexibility with their relatively low payroll to extend him beyond this season.

    Trading Hamels now would allow the Phillies to get three or four top end prospects in return, instead of letting him go as a free agent and just receiving compensation picks.

    A trade of Hamels would help replenish the farm system and set the team up for the future.

    Isn’t the future more important than holding on to the remaining spark of hope for this lost cause of a season?

    Yes it is.