As we near the trade deadline, most of the Phillies trade talk seems to be centered around their most prized asset in 30 year old lefty Cole Hamels.
In what has been a pretty dismal season for the Phillies, Hamels has provided some encouragement, going 5-5 with just a 2.72 ERA. Despite minimal offensive support, Cole has managed to post impressive numbers, leading to interested parties such as the Dodgers and maybe even the Cardinals looking into acquiring his services for a playoff run.
Hamels is pitching probably the best season of his nine-season Phillies career, on course to post what would be a lowest ever ERA, home-runs/9 and highest strikeouts/9 since his debut season. In many cases he has had to pitch well to give the Phils even a chance, but his success on the mound should not be ignored.
Since breaking through into the Phillies in 2006, Hamels has been nothing short of fantastic, with a season-high ERA of just 4.32 back in 2009. Several times he has posted ERAs lower than 3.50, including 2007 (3.39), 2008 (3.09), 2010 (3.06), 2011 (2.79) and 2012 (3.05). With 13 complete games for the Phillies and 1634 strikeouts in 263 games, plus a career WHIP of just 1.142, it is really tough to find a more consistent pitcher out there.
This season, batters have hit just .230 against Hamels over the 18 games he has started, which is 30 points below the MLB average of .260 and 8 below his career average of .238. The fact it is so narrowly below his own average says a lot, and factor in a low OBP (.296), low SLG (.349) and a low OPS (.645) and you have statistically one of the top Major League pitchers around.
Hamels’ ability to keep the ball in the yard so far this season is something which is likely attracting the Cardinals and Dodgers, and his HR% of 1.6 is stellar at 1% below the MLB average of 2.6. In addition, the SO% (strikeout percentage) of 25.2% posted by Cole so far is way above the MLB average of 18.4%.
The pitching repertoire that Hamels possesses has allowed him to achieve a consistently high career ground ball percentage of 43.5% (47.5% so far in 2014). With a low-90s fastball, a high-80s cutter, high-70s curveball and low/mid-80s change-up, Cole is able to keep the ball down and remain effective, with great control on each pitch and particular bid on the curveball.
While it may seem like I am trying to sell Hamels here, I really feel the Phillies should hang on to him at all costs. Philadelphia and Amaro Jr. have tried to make it apparent that it would take a very generous offer to snatch him up, and some managers have hinted that the asking price is too high, but so it should be that way.
Pitchers like Cole don’t come along very often; the Phillies have a franchise piece to build around here. Sure, he isn’t the youngest, but there is definitely potential for a few more years yet given the statistics he has put up over the last nine years. Hamels is a top-of-the-rotation guy who will go out and get wins, it’s as simple as that, and the Phils shouldn’t feel pressured into trading just because the fans want Amaro Jr. to “freshen things up a bit”.
However, if the Phillies were to consider trading Hamels, who should they go after from the respective interested teams?
From the Cardinals, who have one of the most stacked farm systems in the Majors, it has to be Stephen Piscotty who is the primary trade target (assuming Oscar Tavares plus top prospects is too much to ask). Piscotty is hitting .293 through 104 games at Triple-A Memphis so far this season, and is expected to break into the MLB next year.
Pitching wise, Rob Kaminskey and Marco Gonzales are the stand outs, with Kaminskey posting a 5-2 record with a 1.50 ERA in 13 starts for Class-A Peoria. Gonzales has some MLB experience this season, but went 0-2 with an ERA over 7 in his three starts for St. Louis. Despite this, he has gone 7-5 in the Minors this season with a 2.36 ERA, and next season he should be fully ready for the MLB.
Joc Pederson and Corey Seager are the obvious choices from the Dodgers, with that being the reported asking for David Price. Pederson, an outfielder, is having a phenomenal season at AAA Albuquerque, hitting .322 through 90 games. Seager is doing amazingly well in Double-A, posting a .375 average through 6 games at AA Chattanooga.
Pitching wise, the Phillies should consider Chris Reed and Julio Urias if looking for a package including some like-for-likes. Reed has posted a 3.37 ERA with a 4-7 record in 21 starts for Chattanooga, while Urias is -1 with a 3.03 ERA through 59.1 innings at A-Adv Rancho.
But, I reiterate, trading Hamels would NOT be in the best interests of the teams in my view.
There are far more suitable trade candidates to get the prospects required to regenerate the farm system, such as Burnett or Cliff Lee, as well as possibly Marlon Byrd or Chase Utley. Hamels must be locked into the rotation for years to come, as biased as it may sound from one of his biggest admirers, but I’m sure Phils fans will recognize just how important he is.
You never know how much you miss ‘em until they’re gone.