Red Sox May Finally Be Getting Serious on Hamels
By Matt Veasey
A number of credible reports have surfaced in the last day or so, saying that the Phillies have again begun scouting the minor league system of the Boston Red Sox for possible trade packages in a Cole Hamels deal.
The increase in Hamels rumors is a direct by-product of serious injuries beginning to strike the pitching rotations of a number of major league contending hopefuls, as well as the poor performance to this point of the Boston starters.
In recent days, the Dodgers lost Brandon McCarthy, the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright, and now the Yankees appear to have lost Masahiro Tanaka. That last injury could prove the most beneficial to the Phils, as it might spur a bidding war between the two AL East rivals for Hamels services.
The Red Sox were content to begin the season with the starting rotation of Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley, and Joe Kelly. But to this point, those five have started the season with just a 6-7 record. Only 8 of their combined 21 starting outings have been Quality Start level.
Boston sincerely believes that it can contend for not only an AL East crown, but also for a World Series title. Their offense would appear, when healthy, to be strong enough and diverse enough to challenge for such lofty goals. But most baseball experts saw their starting rotation as an Achilles heal entering the season.
The Boston hierarchy is finally waking up to that reality as well, though GM Ben Cherington is at least publicly clinging to strands of hope for his current group, expressing as much in an email to the Boston Globe: “We believe if we pitch to our capability we will win games. We’re focused on helping the guys that are here now pitch to their capability.“
“A package built around Margot and one of the Red Sox’ three highly touted pitching prospects…would represent fair value and a significant boost to the Phillies’ chances of putting a competent team on the field before the end of the decade.” ~ David Murphy
In earlier talks, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro apparently shot for the moon, looking to land either top Boston outfield prospect Mookie Betts, or top catching prospect Blake Swihart, but the Red Sox balked at either. Boston is also not likely to part with recently signed Cuban infield prospect Yoan Moncada.
All of that is perhaps understandable. But the fact remains that Boston knows it must come up off at least two quality prospects, and likely a 3rd high-ceiling speculative prospect, in order to land a left-handed talent, experience, contract, and quality person package such as Hamels. At some point, you have to stop saying no, and decide that you want the player that you so desperately need.
So in revisiting the Boston minor league system, I believe that Amaro and the Phillies should begin to zero in on three prospects: pitcher Henry Owens, outfielder Manuel Margot, and 3rd baseman Rafael Devers.
Owens is the must-have in the group. A 22-year old near-ready prospect, the lefty would slot right in with the strong group of pitching arms that the Phils are already cultivating at AA Reading this year. He has a nice three-pitch mix, commands the strike zone, and looks like he will be at least a durable #3 starter, with the possibility of more.
Margot and Devers are potential diamonds in the rough, both very young, but both also very talented. Margot is a 20-year old outfielder who is more of a speed guy than power, but who will have a bit of the latter. A strong defender, he would bolt to the very top of the Phillies outfield prospect list immediately. Devers plays 3rd, where the Phils are already jammed with a Maikel Franco – Cody Asche conundrum, but at just age 18 he could certainly move to the outfield or across to 1st base eventually.
Other names that might interest the Phillies include lefty pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson, righty pitcher Matt Barnes, 2nd basemen Wendell Rijo and Sean Coyle.
Amaro might be tempted to inquire on outfielder Rusney Castillo in talks. But the Cuban is already aged 27, and despite a nice power/speed combo, might not fit into the Phillies stated plans to rebuild for the long-term.
The bottom line is that there is a deal here to be made. For me, a package of Owens, Margot and Devers might be enough. The leverage now provided by a possible Yankees involvement, which could also get very real, very quickly if New York decides to get serious at any point, only increases the possibility of a Phillies-Sox dealing getting done.
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David Murphy at the Philadelphia Daily News reported today that the Phils have dispatched special advisor and former World Series-winning manager Charlie Manuel to scout Boston’s minor league affiliate at Salem. That’s where both Margot and Rijo are currently playing.
Murphy’s take on the situation is close to my own: “A package built around Margot and one of the Red Sox’ three highly touted pitching prospects (Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson) might not pay the immediate dividends Amaro yearns for, but it would represent fair value and a significant boost to the Phillies’ chances of putting a competent team on the field before the end of the decade. Most crucially, it is better than any of the other entrants in the derby – late-comers included – are likely able to do.”
If Amaro can pry loose Margot and two of those arms, or Margot, Owens, and Devers, we just might see this deal get done, and if Boston realizes that it needs to give up such a package to get what they need, that deal might just come together fairly quickly. And who knows, if the Phils are willing to eat big money, you might even see Jonathan Papelbon tossed into such a deal.